A week has passed since sitting my final exam, picking up my dissertation grade and the summer ball (complete with the dramatic goodbyes that came with it). I can hardly believe I’m typing this; but I’ve officially finished university.
Amidst the unpacking, job searching and re-adjusting to living at home once again (no more deciding my own eating schedule or impromptu Taylor Swift dance parties in my bedroom – oh wait, those still happen…), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the 3-year whirlwind that has been my university degree.
As predictable as it may be to harp on about how formative university has been in shaping me as an individual; it’s difficult for me to put its influence into words any other way. Getting a First for my dissertation and holding it in my hands was perhaps the most resounding testament to how far I’ve come.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right about now, thinking I’m just one of those people who gets good grades. But rewind to A Levels and you’ll find a very different story. I never really had my sights set on university…I quite frankly couldn’t see life beyond my GCSEs & A Levels – and it didn’t bother me. I was quite content coasting along. My grades weren’t terrible as such, but they were average at best. I was vigorously passionate for my subjects (French & English Lit particularly) but always felt disheartened by my grades. Maybe it was my exam technique. Maybe it was the way A Levels were. Maybe I spent too much time learning the entire libretto of Phantom of the Opera (I had a very discerning taste back then). Who knows. All I knew was that when I found myself sat in my first uni lecture I wanted to change that.
Whilst I’m proud of my academic achievements, I’m still a firm believer that grades aren’t everything and that some of life’s most important lessons exist beyond the classroom walls. And this is where I feel I learnt the most from my university experience. Wanting to succeed academically along with adapting to living in a new city really pushed me in the following ways:
Independence: Perhaps most prominently was how self-sufficient uni encouraged me to be. Everything from budgeting to cleaning, to food shopping and paying rent were all things I had to ensure I was on top of. I had to factor in things like getting around without a car and making sure I had enough change to do laundry. All things I definitely took for granted before.
Self-Discipline: This was something I had very little of pre-uni, and I was quite conscious of that. So when I started living on my own I was petrified of seemingly everything; of oversleeping, of missing deadlines, of sudden bankruptcy, of becoming permanently ill due to unhealthy eating, of someone breaking into my room, of – God forbid – one of my housemates using my kitchen utensils….yup. Paranoid was the word. I lived in constant fear of impending disaster throughout first year and was somewhat regimental in my habits because of it. You’ll be pleased to know I calmed down and relaxed during my 2nd and 3rd years, but I did keep some habits like getting myself into bed early (no matter how irresistible the temptation to marathon Parks & Rec all night) and planning my meals in advance.
Opportunity: Ironically, probably my most memorable time at uni was the time I spent studying abroad. Living & studying in France was everything I didn’t know I’d wanted or needed up until that point, and it wasn’t really until afterwards that I realised just how rare opportunities like that are. Aside from that, I’ve got to do some pretty cool things at uni; being a backing dancer for a drag queen as an opening act for Neon Jungle, going out in fancy dress (Princess Jasmine, Greek goddesses and prom zombie to name a few) and getting to know people from all over the world.
Though there were times in first year where I was unsure I’d made the right decision by coming to uni, I’ve never looked back since and am so happy with the experience I’ve had.
Of course, I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm – I’d love to hear your stories! If you’ve just finished like me, first of all congratulations! Secondly; looking back, how do you feel about your university experience? If you’re hoping to go to uni what are you most looking forward to?