Master of none

Trying to make it through my Master’s degree.

Calyn Pillay
4 min readApr 22, 2020
Undergraduate Graduation in 2017. Master’s Graduation 2021 pending.

The change of 2019

Last year I worked at a civic tech non-governmental organisation. I was really excited and grateful to have the opportunity to work in a nexus of solving ordinary problems with models brought in from tech organisations. However, towards the end of 2019, I realised I couldn’t get the mentorship I needed to develop new and existing skills. So I began looking into alternative opportunities.

Recurringly over the last 10 years, I have wanted to be a practising clinical medicine physician. As I began thinking about what my next path would be, I came back around to this idea. I have an undergraduate (Politics & International Relations) and an honours degree (Transitional Justice) both in the Social Sciences, therefore, I began looking from transdisciplinary health programs. These are the ones I found:

I applied for all the above programs and encouragingly I heard back from UCT and Witswatersrand with offers. Deciding between the programs was tough and I spent a lot of time with my nose deep in the handbooks of each faculty. Ultimately, after enjoying the subject matter of the bioethics journals more, I chose the Bioethics and Health Law program.

The struggle is ‘too real’

I am now two tests and one assignment into this Master’s program and I have been struggling. These are the things I have found particularly challenging:

  • I have no confidence in writing in this field. While I spent four years writing in the politics and transitional justice fields — there are some transferable skills — largely, however, writing in philosophy is new to me.
  • Having no background in the health topics means I spend a lot of time deciding what to read, reading and grappling with putting these pieces of information together.

Things I have done in the last couple of weeks to work on these issues:

  • Had a skype session with a professor over my first assignment,
  • Started reading textbooks on my iPad to make reading them easier and more accessible,
  • Switched to Notion in order to maximize my organisation,
  • Read and took notes on Pearson’s How to Assignments and Essay guide,
  • Focussed on meta-habits like yoga, mindfulness, journaling, reading and eating healthy to ensure I have the physical and mental ability to cope.

Results after 1 month?

And yet I find my self still struggling with the issue of lack of confidence and being flustered with all the new information I have to take in. With another assignment in front of me due on the 4th of May 2020, I know I want (need to)to struggle less. I definitely want to start enjoying this process.

But how?

I don’t know. Well, at least not yet, but I am determined to figure it out. In addition, I want to write and reflect on this process. Here are somethings I’m currently doing:

If you’re reading this and you have any suggestions on things I might try (books, hacks, etc) please comment below.



Calyn Pillay

is a MSc Med (Bioethics & HealthLaw) candidate at Wits. Interested in Effective altruism, Human Rights and Parity.