University is massive. It’s the decision that defines who you become. We make most of our best friends at uni and there used to be this stat flying around my friendship group that a third of people meet their future husband and wife at university.
It teaches us how to become adults. Like, not serious adults who buy furniture and get cats and toy with the idea of opening ISAs, but like semi grown-ups. Those three years are some of the most life-changing three years you’ll encounter in your entire life.
You learn how to make money last long periods (yeah OK, I sort of failed massively at that one and racked up a LOT of debt, my bad), you learn how to pull nighters, how to make fancy dress costumes out of nothing, how to untag on Facebook, how to liase with strangers, how to do weekly food shops on £15 a week, how to make insanely genius 3am snacks whilst drunk. University is a game changer in many ways.
For me university wasn’t really a decision. It was just something that was going to happen. I was clever, I got good GCSEs, slightly more mediocre A-levels, and I had ambition, I wanted to be somebody.
If I’m honest maybe I was a little blase about the whole process. I didn’t exhaust myself trying to be the best version of myself academically to secure myself a spot at the best university for Journalism, heck I didn’t even make it to any open days, and something must have gone seriously wrong when applying for halls – because I didn’t get in.
I treated university as a given, something I was entitled to because everyone was going. It was the thing you did back in 2008 and it very much still feels like it is that way. But I was too busy skipping English classes in favour of McDonald’s cruises for McFlurries and free cheeseburgers to care about the next step up in my education.
So yeah, I arrived in Kingston with accomodation about two miles outside of town, living with two guys I knew from sixth form who had ended up there via clearing. I hadn’t saved a penny of my summer job earnings in a call centre (because I was living for new going out dresses every SINGLE week, LOL) and my student loan came through over a month late. I was so unready, so rushed, so not ready to give up my life and my youth and my fun at home.
Because it’s a big step up isn’t it? One minute you’re having to find someone to buy alcohol for you and the next you’re living on your own, away from home, with very little idea of how the real world actually works. You’re totally in control of whether you save enough money for your water bill or skip all your lectures to drink cider in the SU, you suddenly have to make all the choices and decisions yourself.
St Mary’s University in Twickenham (which is about half an hour out of London Waterloo) have launched a new set of videos involving former and current students to help give new prospective students an idea of what life on campus is really like by asking them why that wanted to ‘Be Part Of It’.
I mean yes, I *should* have just gone to all the university open days but to be honest I couldn’t bear the idea of missing a day’s wages from my weekend job at JJB Sports (this isn’t a joke – and yes I wore trackies and no I wasn’t a chav), but these sort of videos would have been exactly what I’d needed. My way of finding out about the university without having to road trip my life away to find out.
University was, without a doubt, one of the best things I ever did, but not necessarily because I went to the right university – but because it changed me as a person, and because my having that degree qualification on my CV helped my get internships which lead to graduate jobs.
I had a horrendous time of it to begin with, my entire first year was a write off and I’m amazed I even passed into second year. I cried. All. The. Time. I took teary train rides to visit my friends up and down the country nearly every weekend (which basically bankrupt me) and I missed so many lectures. I made hardly any friends because I was so far away from all the Fresher action and I even rang my Dad two months in and told him I was leaving and transferring to another university. His response? ‘No you’re not. We’ve spent too much money on your rent for you to leave’. And in that moment I hated him, I hated that he was making me stay. But it got better, and 102 per cent staying was the right decision for me.
I hugely regret that I didn’t take it more seriously before I was in the car up to Surrey with a car packed with photo albums and IKEA crockery, but then that’s life. You’re so, so, so young and inexperienced at life when you make these gigantic decisions.
So yeah, St Mary’s have got it spot on with these videos. Spot on with making life less scary and daunting for today’s future graduates. Because when you’re spending the £27,000 on three-year university fees that kids do today, you need to make sure you’re doing everything right. You need to feel comfortable with your decision about where you’re going to be spending your best growing-up years and what you’ll be studying. It’s vital.
Oh and just FYI? I once went to a St Mary’s house party and it was insane. Like insanely amazing and we got home and drew detailed diagrams of the party to stick on our kitchen wall for us to always remember. So yeah, that.
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