There are a few differences between American grad schools and British. For example here a master's degree takes one year - one. At the university I worked for recently a master's took between 2 years and 5 depending on how generous the loan officer was and how bad the economy in the real world was looking.
Here essays are Very Serious Things Indeed which not only decide your immediate fate (fail and you're bounced) but are externally assessed somehow by some apparently very fierce and humourless body which has draconian rules that mean that word counts and due dates are not decided by the instructor but are imposed on a department-wide basis. Which means that rather than having a generous spread of a week or a week and a half for due dates there is a Day of Doom when absolutely everything is due, no passing go, no £200. (or £169 depending on your exchange rate on the day).
My program is really well organized and has timetables online and all sorts of good things to let you know where to be and what to read and exactly when to panic and even pin-points the moment when ALL IS LOST (at least I assume so. I haven't reached that... yet). I am a very good, well-trained lemming so the moment my timetable was populated I had it copied into two locations by hand and had it in three different electronic devices (it's NOT A SICKNESS . . . but it may be a disorder). And I have, ever since, been faithfully attending class, reading ALMOST all of the reading [oh. my. GOD do NOT list out 'suggested reading' to a perfectionist. I will lose sleep, skip meals and possibly slit the throats of otherwise innocent post-grads who checked out a book before I got to it] and planning as well as possible for the first Essay of Doom deadline which, for those playing at home, is next Wednesday at 12:00 noon.
And, I'll admit, I've been feeling a weency bit overwhelmed. Other students are expressing the same feelings so I didn't think I was outside the bell-curve, but, you know, I found myself this weekend facing three major essays, an important presentation and a critical review PLUS the bog standard 300-800 pages per class per week reading. Daunted is a good word I think. I was daunted.
So! Way back in week two I was chatting to a very nice woman who mentioned her course load - 2 core modules and a skills. Ah, said I, with that sort of sadistic thrill that comes when you know you're going to tell someone something that will totally screw up their hold on sanity*, that sounds odd to me because I have THREE core modules and a skills section. I'd get with the admin folks on that, said I (smugly but helpfully), you need to get that sorted right away.
Anyone want to predict where this is going?
Yes, well it turns out that HER schedule was perfectly fine and normal, thank you very much, while I, ME, I, have been for some unknown reason, given A WHOLE EXTRA CLASS. As in all term so far, reading, essay prep AND pedestrian every-day panic, I have been giving 20% TOO MUCH.
I have informed my advisor who took several minutes to wrap his head around the problem. I have emailed the admin in charge who has yet to get back to me. I have contemplated the fact that maybe, just maybe, I do NOT have to write that essay on whether or not post-processualism actually had anything of value to offer to the world, and I have faced up to the slight disappointment that all that angst and bother will, in the end, NOT get me one single positive point forward in this degree.
I am comforting myself with the recognition that I figured this all out before the first essay was due. Which, I admit is a poor, sad, cold concept to cuddle against yourself when you still have two major essays to write, a presentation to give, a critical anaylisis to produce...
... and a stonking cold which has just reached that point when you think to yourself, as you sniff prodigeously and reach for a tissue, yeah, that Mickey Mouse, he was totally a post-processualist.
*sympathetic and caring of course, but mildly sadistic too.