Exciting times! You have been accepted to the MSc Software Development: International Systems or the Graduate Diploma Multilingual Software Development and Translation Technology and are rearing to go. Maybe you are fresh out of your undergraduate degree or maybe it’s been a few years since you have been involved in formalised learning. Whichever it is, here are some ideas that could help you not only cope with the workload, but also get the most out of the programme.
Know what you want to get out of it
Speaking of getting the most out of it, what is it you want to achieve by undertaking this programme? Maybe your focus is on deepening your knowledge in a specific area, getting credentials in order to get promoted into a specific role, switching careers, making contacts in the industry or getting into academia. All those and many others are good reasons, and knowing what your goals are helps with focusing on what is important.
Establish priorities in what to study and read
These are demanding programmes and you will receive a lot of material and opportunities to learn. It can be tempting to try and do everything perfectly and thereby get behind on the material. It is generally a good idea to look at everything available to you and consider your goals, as well as what you need to do in order to receive your degree. Check the programme outline, module outlines and when in doubt ask your lecturers or course director. Use this to decide which content you should go through right now and which can wait until a future date.
Do a little every day
To stay on top of things and also build good habits for writing your dissertation towards the end (for the MSc), it is ideal to do at least a little work for the programme every day. Maybe you can read a page or two during your commute, mentally outline an essay in the shower or have a lecture recording running while doing the washing up? This won’t replace focused longer periods of work, but it helps with remaining immersed in the topics and also slowly chips away at the overall pile of tasks. You should also aim to work on your programming exercises a little bit every day, rather than leaving it all to one day of the week.
Make use of having access to other students
One of the great aspects of these programmes is the wide diversity of students participating on all levels: different cultures; experience levels; specialities etc. Try and make use of that by socialising, but also by asking questions and opinions, providing your own thoughts, participating in discussions and being helpful.
Make use of resources available to you
While you will receive material to work through, don’t forget all the other resources available to you. The Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick to which you have access via your student ID has a good number of e-books you can borrow remotely, there are industry magazines and academic journals, websites, industry and standardization bodies with publications, blogs and so on. This will be especially important when it comes to preparing presentations, essays, reports and your dissertation.
Be in charge of your learning experience
During the programme you will likely encounter areas you find more difficult to understand or areas you want to know more about. Cultivating a curious mindset and trying to explore topics on your own is a step towards making the most of what you learn. The internet is full of possibilities, as are libraries and other practitioners in the industry. If you do come across something interesting, don’t forget to share!
In tertiary education, where the expectation is that you are self-motivated and engaged, it is easy to disappear and fall behind. To avoid this, make use of the range of options to stay in touch with lecturers and other students, to engage with the material and to get help as well as share your own findings and ideas. From emails, forums, webinars, individual sessions or face to face meetings – there are many possibilities. This doesn’t have to be a big deal, often showing up to the lectures or labs and checking for new content will keep you ticking along nicely. Should you fall behind on content or miss deadlines, it is important that you reach out to the lecturer(s) as quickly as possible, or if you run into bigger issues, to the course director.
Share your strengths and weaknesses
As mentioned before, this is a diverse programme and sometimes it can seem a bit daunting if others seem to have a better grasp of a specific area. However, while you might be aware of your weaknesses, don’t forget your strengths. Inevitably, you will have a perspective on the topics that is unique to you and worthwhile sharing with other students and lecturers, and even just by asking questions you will open up discussions, make others aware of a topic they hadn’t even considered or show the lecturers which areas need to be covered again to clarify misunderstandings.
Think ahead to the exams and deadlines but don’t panic
In some modules you will need to take a written exam at UL, in others you have larger assignments throughout and at the end of the semester. While there is no need to panic, it is good to keep that exam in mind while working through the material during the semester. Will you be able to study based on the notes you are generating? Are you able to share and exchange notes with other students? Even if you only make sure you have all the resources in place when it’s time to start revising, that is a great advantage.
Think ahead to the dissertation but don’t panic
Please note: Graduate Diploma students will not write a dissertation
Similarly to the exams, the dissertation will need to be completed in order to get the MSc degree. While there is no need to worry too much about the dissertation early in the programme, it is a good idea to have a look out for potential topics as you go along. Modules or topics you find particularly interesting or a question you had that hasn’t been answered yet are good directions to look into further. You might also want to give some thought to the questions of how you will organise yourself, where to find material, and when and how you will be able to do your research and writing.
Try to apply what you learn
Remember that what you are learning is relevant to your day-to-day work and your past experiences. By connecting what you learn with your own professional life, you might notice that you understand things a little better, or do things a little differently. This sense of achievement in itself can be immensely satisfying.
Enjoy being part of this
Maybe your main motivation for studying with us isn’t having fun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. In a way, you are embarking on an intensive immersion in the world of localisation and software development, together with other people with similar interests. While it is important to have goals and be focused, don’t forget to smell the roses on the way.