I thought I’d try a different sort of post today, and join all the chatter about university now that a new year is starting. I’ve decided to share my honest thoughts about my time at university, as I have mixed feelings overall.
Firstly I always like to remind myself of the real positives, and the list of things I came away with:
- A first class degree in Linguistics
- A boyfriend I’m still with after 9 years
- Much more self confidence
- A bit of life experience
- Memories of socialising in loads of different bars and restaurants – we wanted to see everything Manchester had to offer and really got into the spirit of the city
All the above is really great and I don’t regret my time at university for all of those reasons, but my honest overall opinions about university are more mixed…
Choosing a course
I really do think that in today’s environment and with the costs being so high these days you should try to pick a course that will help you in the career path you want. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and picked a degree that kept doors open for me and a subject I was interested in, and although this has finally taken somewhere I’m happy with, it did take me a while. From experience I would say it would be far more beneficial if your course fits into your long term plan if you are lucky enough to have one. (I wish I’d had one!)
Is it even necessary to go to university?
University is definitely not for everyone and you shouldn’t force yourself into it, as it’s a real commitment of your time and money. I know people who knew what they wanted to be and got there without the university route. I don’t think my school knew all of the options that were out there, and if they did, they didn’t advise us of them. Personally I was always going to go to university, but it’s not the best path for everyone and it’s certainly not the only one.
Those friends for life that they say you’ll make…
They don’t happen for everyone. I am still with the partner I met when I was at uni (we met outside university but during my time there), but other than him I’m not really in contact with any of my university friends. I’m “Facebook friends” with a couple of them, but we never chat or anything. Even though we have 3 years of living together in common, I think in the end we didn’t really like each other all that much. I’m not sad about this… if I want to remember what I got out of university in their place I refer to the list at the top of the page.
You get out what you put in
That’s the key. Those great facilities that universities boast about, their vast range of social clubs, the amazing location near all these amazing eateries and bars – they don’t mean a thing if you don’t get involved. I did get involved – I joined one society, went to all sorts of places in and around Manchester, made use of the library, really got into my course…. But I also remember the time I looked round the university before I applied and thought how amazing the language learning centre was, and declared I would learn Russian while I was at there. I also remember the Fresher’s Fair when I put my name down for about 5 other societies. I didn’t end up doing these things. My advice is to make the most of your first year for trying out everything your university has to offer that interests you. Then by the time your workload increases in the second year you’ll have picked out the things you’d love to continue with and the ones you aren’t bothered about. But also, don’t get behind with reading for your course even in the first year. Everything feels so optional at uni because you don’t have anyone chasing you, but as I say – you get out what you put in, academically speaking as well as socially.
Getting a job afterwards
Some people thought about this much more than I did and much earlier – and they were right to. I love where my career is now, but I think it was a mistake to finish uni without a clue what I was going to do next. I’d probably have gotten where I am much sooner if I’d had more direction and a running start. On the other hand – if you really don’t know what you want to do, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll figure it out eventually, as I did.
I don’t want to put a dampener on university for current or new students – you should definitely start out full of excitement and enthusiasm, and make the most of it while you’re there. My thoughts are retrospective and based on the career path I’ve taken. What do all of you other graduates think? Did you love it, hate it, or have mixed feelings about your time at university?