Studying at the CWS

We've gathered together some students' experiences so that you can get a feel for what it's really like to study here at York. The selection of testimonies come from students from different interdisciplinary backgrounds and stages of life. 

Emma (MA student)

'Studying for the MA Women’s Studies was genuinely a life-changing experience for me. With an English Literature degree, I initially intended to complete an MA in English at York but having been captivated by feminist theory as an undergraduate, the Women’s Studies programme caught my eye.

From the moment I attended the welcome day, I knew I had made the right choice – but I was still not prepared for just how much this course was going to challenge me intellectually, politically and emotionally.

My MA thesis on women at the Rowntree confectionery factory became a PhD project and I am now working as a lecturer in History at La Trobe University, Australia – saved from what would have no doubt been a failed career in law!

Women’s and Gender History remains core to all my teaching and research, and I am on the editorial team of the Women’s History Magazine. I can’t speak highly enough of the course, and of the staff, on the MA and have very fond memories of good friends made during that year.'

Lotika (MA and later, PhD student)

'Make the most of your time at this great centre - the more you put in the more you'll get out of it (and the sky's the limit for that)!'

Daniel (MA student)

'I found doing the MA in the Centre for Women's Studies a fantastic experience from start to finish; it allowed me to develop my critical thinking skills and pursue my academic interests in a really supportive multidisciplinary environment.
It provided me with an excellent foundation for both doctoral study and my postdoctoral research, and I continue to recommend the course to those of my own students who might benefit from taking it.'

Ailish (MA student)

"The Centre for Women’s Studies is nurturing and inspiring. I have found the MA Humanities course life-changing. I was encouraged to be as creative as possible, and have written plays and made zines as well as conducting research. The MA web room is perfect as a quiet working space, the course modules are both varied and interesting, and the staff and students are lovely. This course has been the hardest thing I have ever done. It has also been the best."

Bridget (MA and later, PhD student)

'The CWS department is very friendly and warm. I remember coming in on my first day of my MA and the tutors had made an effort to learn our names beforehand. This made me feel like I was valued and I felt very welcome.

A real effort was made to get students to interact and get to know each other during our early seminars and there was a particular focus on appreciating that people had come from different countries and cultures, so that people did not feel left behind. Being part of the discussions during the MA core modules really helped me gain confidence in my abilities, providing a space to explore my ideas in a supportive environment. We were also encouraged to listen to others and develop our debating skills.

The atmosphere in the department is very social, there is usually someone to chat to and have a cup of tea with in the common room, and this makes a huge difference to your university experience. All these things definitely contributed to my choice to continue in the CWS and do my PhD here.

I would advise incoming students to not be anxious about coming and to just make sure you enjoy it. The work is hard, but it is hugely stimulating and you will feel really supported throughout your MA or PhD.' 

Joan (MA student)

'My name is Joan Baker and I have just completed my MA in Women’s Studies having taken the course part-time over 2 years. I joined as a mature student, I was born in 1941, and my first degree was with the Open University (distance learning). When I came to the Centre for Women’s Studies not only was I considerably older than everyone else, (both students and staff!), it was the first time I had studied at a University. Perhaps this made me more apprehensive than most, but there was no need - I have had such a good time.

My research subject was intergenerational relationships; I interviewed women over the age of 70 about their memories of, and their relationship with, their grandmothers and I was fortunate to be told some fascinating stories. I was well supported throughout my dissertation, and during the whole course.

Being a part-time student was so enjoyable; I met friendly and open-minded women, took part in activities and events at the Centre and in the process learned a great deal about myself.

If there are any mature students out there considering an MA at the Centre for Women’s Studies, my advice is “don’t hesitate, just do it”. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.'

Helen (MA student)

'For me the MA in Women's Studies was a crash course in finding out there is more than one way to think, to know and to be. The MA's disciplinary plurality, its intellectual openness and the chance to question the disconnections between thinking and action are very much with me today in my research, teaching and activism.'

Patrycja (MA and later, PhD student)

'This is the most amazing and challenging course are you are going to undertake, both intellectually and personally!'

Sarah (MA student)

'The MA in Women's Studies was, for me, a very unique experience because it impacted not only my academic life, but also my personal life. It allowed me to reflect on myself as a woman and better understand how much had been done by the feminist movement to ensure that I could have what are now considered basic freedoms.

It also exposed me to aspects of popular culture that I hadn't noticed before such as independent films, the Riot Grrrl punk scene, and later led me to write my dissertation on women in video games. It is an awesome course and I would recommend it to anyone.'

Andrea (MA student)

'You could say I am the “odd American” because I didn't sign up for the MA Programme at CWS with any specific career goals in mind, or even future plans to pursue a PhD. I went to graduate school because I needed a big change; I needed to remove myself from familiar surroundings and practices in order to transform my way of thinking. The goal was not to satisfy my career opportunities – the goal was to radicalize my thinking. I went to York to immerse myself in new topics and act like a sponge, soaking up a wealth of research and information. What I soon realized is that “soaking up” research is only a small piece of the experience. I learned that the goal of the MA is not to regurgitate research that has already been done; the goal is to push the boundaries of what has already been said and thought before. And I was surrounded by people who would inspire me to do just that – think critically, experiment, set new standards, challenge oneself, take risks.

I felt ignited.

I felt inspired to push the boundaries of presentation as well as thought, and with the encouragement of fellow enthusiastic students and one highly supportive advisor, I created the first digital dissertations in the department, coded entirely in HTML.

Keep questioning. Keep experimenting. Do not limit oneself to convention. These are lessons that stayed with me long after I received my degree.'