Interview with Jen Smith


This week, we interview Jen Smith, a Masters student pursuing her studies in Philosophy.

Hello Jen, fantastic to meet you. Could you give us a little introduction about yourself?

Hi I’m Jen! I’m 22 and studying an MA by research in Philosophy.

You mentioned you originally did your undergraduate in Australia before having your final term in the University of Exeter. What was it like for you coming over?

Coming over was both incredibly exciting and terrifying.  For me, it was my first time living out of home and while I was fortunate enough to travel with a girl from my home university, I really didn’t know anyone.  However, this soon changed!  I lived at the Printworks with other international students, began working casually at the University and started going to events held by the Sociology and Anthropology society.  I still consider some of my closest friends those who I met on exchange.

Academically, the exchange experience was invaluable.  I got the chance to study a range of different subjects that weren’t available to me back home and also learnt a variety of new ways to approach my studies.

Personally, coming over and living in the UK gave me a great sense of independence and confidence.  I had such a positive experience living and studying in Exeter that it definitely led to me choosing to do my masters here as well.

What would you say are the main differences between the higher education systems of Australia and the UK?

Generally speaking, I think Australian universities are a lot more relaxed.  Not only are wearing shoes to class optional but universities are more accessible and very flexible in terms of degree structure.  For example, I studied a Bachelor of Arts which allowed me to graduate with a double major in Sociology and History and minor in Philosophy.  This was hugely important to me, as I was able to use the flexibility of an Arts degree to select subjects uniquely tailored to my own research interests and gain an interdisciplinary perspective on a variety of different social issues.

While Australian students work hard, perhaps one of the biggest differences for me was British students’ attitudes towards studying – a lot more seems to be expected of you here in terms of the amount of reading you are required to do per module and the constant emphasis on graduating with a 2:1 or above.

Could you tell us more about your experience so far with your MA in Philosophy? 

So far, my experience has been great and I am fortunate enough to have an excellent supervisor.  However, it has also been very demanding.  Due to the fact that my masters is solely research based, I have no classes or general structure to my week so it requires a lot of self-discipline and motivation!

Could you tell us more about your dissertation topic?

I am particularly interested in exploring how normative practices in Western societies shape individual moral perceptions concerning the permissibility of sexual violence towards women.  While there is a strong social and legal consensus that rape is morally wrong, there has been little philosophical research that has sought to articulate the nature of its wrongfulness.  While it seems both obvious and intuitive that rape is morally abhorrent and harmful to both individuals and society, current statistics on rape and sexual violence reveal an inherent contradiction between the grave manner in which rape is perceived culturally and the sheer prevalence with which it occurs.

How do graduate studies compare to undergraduate studies?

So far I have only handed in the first chapter of my thesis, so I don’t feel as though I can make any big comparisons yet! However, so far I think the biggest differences have been learning how to study completely independently and also adapt to working at a higher academic standard.

What are your plans upon graduation? 

I am hoping to secure a PhD position in the next few months and then pursue a career in academia.

Finally, what’s your favourite read in Philosophy?

My favourite read in Philosophy would have to be Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.

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