March 1, 2023, by UoN School of English

Working full-time, studying part-time and keeping long-term goals in mind

Lots of blogs will tell you about ways to manage your time with conflicting responsibilities, however, what I want to discuss is: 

  • How I identified my ‘why’ which helped to focus my choices.    
  • How I found alternative ways to pursue my long-term goals when plans changed.  

Whilst studying part-time with Nottingham University’s distance learning MA degree in Applied English, I work full-time. I’ll be sharing my experiences, but the steps I have taken are transferable to your own circumstances. 

I was contracted to move to China in 2018 but, due to a severe family emergency, I had to pass up my year teaching adults English in Beijing. My passport with the visa landed heavily on the doormat. I wouldn’t be able to use it. My future looked unclear and I was left with the question, ‘well, what now?’. 

A visa for China stamp

Unable to use: Chinese Visa. 

First, I had to ask myself why I wanted to go to Asia. What aspects of foreign travel and teaching meant the most to me? I needed to find an alternative, but closer to home.  

Foreign travel, for me, is an important opportunity to see how different cultures live and to share alternative perspectives. By studying part-time on the Applied English course at Nottingham, I can engage with international stories. Through taking the module* on ‘Southeast Asian Literature’ I loved learning about the history of these countries by studying texts by Malaysian, Thai, and Cambodian authors.   

World Maps showing locations of Applied English students Applied English (AE) digital map & physical map at AE HQ – the pins show where we are all based. We are welcomed to the course with a Nottingham postcard through the letterbox, and invited to send one back from wherever we are in the world.

The international nature of my fellow MA students – we are all based around the world – means I still engage with multiple perspectives daily. I particularly enjoy hearing how it is to live in places around the globe – for example who knew hummingbirds were a commonplace critter in San Francisco?! 

I realised that teaching was important to me because it combines my drive to help people, to be a life-long learner, and to link up with local communities. Within the Applied English MA, I’m able to explore teaching methodology and discuss curriculum design with my academic tutors – many of whom are pioneers in their fields. Outside of university, I’m a leader with the Girl Guides organisation. Once a week, I help lead sessions on a whole host of topics and I use what I’m learning with my degree to plan and facilitate each term’s activities.  

Kate taking a selfie in Chinatown

In 2018, before I knew how much my life would change, I took a walk around Chinatown in London’s Soho and snapped a selfie with the ornate arch, the kind of photo I might have taken had I been able to go to Beijing. 

Sometimes chasing a long-term goal requires a more creative touch, it isn’t always linear, and good time management is vital to keep all plates spinning. However, remaining motivated with multiple priorities is possible by keeping my ‘why’ close at hand. 

I couldn’t tell you what my life would have looked like had I taken that flight. However, I’m fortunate that, through my MA and experiences at UoN, I still have the chance to chase my dreams.  

An overseas trip isn’t completely off the table either. UoN’s campuses in China and Malaysia would be excellent for a ‘research’ visit… 

– Kate Marks

*Please note: on the Applied English course we take ‘pods’, not modules. For ease of understanding, I have referred to it as a module. However, I would be remiss to call it a module as the credit-bearing aspect of the course is through the submission of a portfolio which can combine the content from a mixture of pods. If you’d like to know more, find out here: Applied English Programme (Online) MA – University of Nottingham 
Posted in Placements and VolunteeringResearchStudent WordsStudy AbroadTips/Advice/GuidanceYear Abroad