When university doesn’t go to plan

It’s A-Level exam results day, which means it’s almost that time of year again. A deluge of soon-to-be freshers will fly the nest, spread their wings and (if you believe the stereotype) drink lots of alcohol and make lots of friends. Leaving home for the first time to go live by yourself, in a different town/city/country, whilst learning to live independently AND study is a lot to take on. I mean it’s considered a standard rite of passage for the average teen these days, a natural development to begin a career. (If that’s the path you choose to take of course…)

I pretty much always knew I wanted to go to university. I took A-Level’s in English Literature, Psychology & Art. When it came to 18 and I had to make the decision on which degree path to choose, I had no idea which of the three I wanted to pursue. I enjoyed all of them in different ways, and considering how varied they are, you would have thought one would have swayed me! In the end, I decided I enjoyed Art most, and chose a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design as I wanted to explore the avenues and find my niche before commiting to a degree. Fast forward a year and I’d chosen Textile Design. I had a couple of friends from my course going to the same university as me, and by complete fluke (or fate?) my boyfriend ended up being put in the same halls as me. With the set-up I had, and choosing a university only 30 minutes from home, I thought everything would be perfect. That I’d have the experience that we all are fed from the moment we start our UCAS application…

Now, I’m not going to sugar coat this, but I struggled. Textile Design required a basic timetable of close to 9-5 every day. Now for a first-year student that’s pretty intense. Whenever I told anyone else my timetable they’d look at me and laugh, probably because they thought I was exaggerating. I really wasn’t. I had a fab time in ‘lesson’ time, designing and being creative, and everything was great during uni hours. It was out of my timetable that I had a problem. I had plenty of friends but one of my biggest problems was that most of them lived at home still, or lived in different halls. I basically had class-time-only friends. In all fairness I know a lot of them probably didn’t know, or realise, that I would go back to my halls, go into my room and just sit there by myself. Sit there and aimlessly try to find a TV programme to pass the time. I didn’t hit it off with my flatmates, we were all very different, and accidentally living with your boyfriend of, at the time, 9 months, is pretty intense for a nineteen-year-old. I would go home sometimes, for just a couple of hours of an evening, just for some respite. I’d be exhausted and miserable, but I enjoyed my course. I finished my first year with a 2.1. I was super happy to finish, have some time at home, and start second year with a fresh start.

This is a far cry from what you hear about uni from the majority of people. I don’t know if I was the exception to the rule, or whether people just don’t speak about their bad experiences. If I’m being honest I probably wasn’t as open with the people I was friends with as I would be now. I think if people know how you’re feeling, or if you are isolated, the majority won’t stand there and laugh at you, as I was afraid of. I was also not confident enough, at the time, to help alleviate my loneliness and go and join a society on my own. I’m sure if I’d have looked in to it more, I would have found something, but hindsight is 20/20.

My uni path took a very different turn here, and the fresh start I had in mind for my second year took a very different turn. I wasn’t well that summer. I had to drop out of my degree (albeit two years later, after two attempts of starting my second year). I tried and tried, but sometimes that’s not enough. I was disappointed by this, but I don’t think anyone should feel bad, or any less of themselves, if they find out that uni isn’t for them. Whatever reason this may be for. I also don’t think everyone is the same. Not everybody performs well in an academic setting. Not every career path is moulded via a degree. I know plenty of people who have done completely different jobs from their uni degree. I also know people whose degree classification was never asked when they got their job. So whether it ends up not being for you, or you don’t get the grades you want, don’t feel disheartened. A university degree doesn’t define you, and equally it doesn’t change who you are. It may feel like it’s what you should be doing, but whatever you want to do is what you should be doing. You do you!

If you truly want a certain career, degree, or anything else for that matter, you’ll find your own way to it.


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