Published: 06 July 2021

Mastering your studies in structural engineering

Leilah Nakamaanya, who’s studying for an MSc in Structural Engineering, gives us her thoughts on life as a postgraduate student at Surrey.

“You need to get on it from the go,” says Leilah. “Semesters are not as long as they seem and, similarly, deadlines are never far away. With every tutorial and lecture, the workload piles up fast, so you need a plan to deal with it from the start.”

And that’s not the only advice Leilah has for potential postgraduate students… 

Your first weeks

“You’re going to be busy once the course starts. You’ll be getting to know the lecturers, understanding how the University system operates and receiving lots of work for your modules. Assignment deadlines will be coming up, too. Basically, there’s a lot of learning.

“Organise yourself, make a plan, work with a schedule and try to take it one step at a time. It’ll all fall into place if you’ve done these things. Leaving work to the last minute is not an option during the course.

“Additionally, your coursework and dissertation will be much easier if you select modules and a dissertation topic you’re fascinated by. That selection process is a key factor to get right.”

Your workload

“The workload is pretty constant and intense throughout the course. The timetable is well structured and there’s time given between the lectures. This can be utilised to read lecture notes, watch lecture videos and complete assignments.

“The lecturers also go above and beyond to ensure we get all the support we need.”

The course

“Many people complete the undergraduate course before going straight into the masters course. Despite this fact, Surrey builds up the MSc modules from basic principles before advancing to more complex masters-level details. This gives you the chance to refresh your knowledge before heading into the more demanding parts of the programme.

“This is useful if you’ve finished your undergraduate degree a few years ago and have been working in industry, like myself. It gives one the chance to get back up to speed.

“I also really like the way the content is geared towards industry. At Surrey, everything is structured towards helping you confidently climb the next rung on the career ladder, a goal which I believe I’ve achieved. It will offer you a step-up when it comes to securing work.”

Facilities and equipment 

“Everything that was needed for the course is provided and the different departments are quick to respond if you need something.

“The IT Department and the staff at the Library were all quick to answer and assist with any requirements.”

Additional advice 

“I’d re-emphasise that you need to be ready to hit the ground running. Also make the effort to make friends with your fellow students. Considering the limited physical classes during the pandemic, I went out of the way to do this by emailing a few students, and it paid off. We were all in the same boat, new to the University and looking to get to know our coursemates, and we found ways to support one another.

“Finally, enjoy the University and everything it has to offer. The campus is such a beautiful environment to learn in, Surrey Sports Park is amazing, and the various societies and clubs are great fun. A year goes very quickly. Structure your time so you can enjoy every second of it.”

Learn more about postgraduate study in our Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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