It’s been a year now since I had my final exhibition at university, and sort of ‘officially’ finished, so I figured I’d have a little ramble about life during university, and life after university. I apologise now, because it will definitely be a ramble… I just needed to put thoughts into words, and well, I hope it helps some of you. The experience is never what you’d expect!
Okay so, the main reason for university: the degree. I have a degree, and I’m happy I have that degree. It has definitely gotten me to interviews and given me something to talk about and to share experiences. With that degree comes costs. And lots of debt. I was one of the unfortunate ones who started the year the costs went up (I did a third year at college, so I was a year late technically!) but I was also fortunate in that each year only cost £7800 rather than the full £9k.
That debt wasn’t the one that worried me though – we all know that most people will not pay off that student debt. My problem was the living costs. My maintenance loan just covered my accommodation (and didn’t even get that far in my third year!) so I basically lived in an overdraft, and I had a part time job. It was crap, I’m not gonna lie. I was doing almost every weekend and struggled to get time off – especially around Christmas. I loved my workmates though, they were amazing. But, on the flip side that job gave me some actual working experience, something which I didn’t have from my university course.
That’s the thing. If you don’t go to college/university, you’ve probably been working full time for a few years, have paid experience and have money to spend. (Maybe?) I’ve always thought that those working straight from school will be better off sooner, but those who do go to university will obviously get more qualifications and should land higher paid jobs in the future. It isn’t always the case, and I think we’re seeing more of that now. I wouldn’t judge anyone for their decisions around education, because that kind of setting is just not for everyone. It was definitely me though.
I’d been in my overdraft right up until I got my second job this year. Now I’m well over it, and not looking back. Once you’re in there, it’s hard to get out. Just keep at it and you’ll do it. My bank is actually switching today, and that overdraft option will be gone forever! (Hopefully) It’s so good to see your balance finally on the right side, and with money to spend!
So yeah, then we get onto experience. When I left university, I struggled finding a job. I was home mid-July, I did 8 weeks expenses paid at an e-commerce company and then managed to get a part time job in November. I found that jobs in shops (for which I had experience for?!) were ignoring my CVs or I was ‘overqualified’, and then those at media companies I was getting the interviews but in the end wasn’t qualified enough for. I actually had quite a few interviews and they all said they liked my CV, but I’m thinking that those with actual marketing degrees had the better chance. It makes total sense. I was at a loss.
My degree isn’t totally related to what I’ve ended up wanting to do. If you choose a course with actual placements, you’re golden, but I wasn’t given the option of taking any professional experience. That was a definite downside to my course. That’s why I’ve been putting so much more effort into my blog over the past 6 months – if you ever wonder whether to put your blog on your CV, my answer is YES! I’m pretty sure that knowledge and passion, as well as me studying to degree level is what got me my current Web Content Assistant job. (which I’m part-time at, alongside the cinema job)
Living independently and having so many experiences. This is what made university for me. At first, I hated being away from my mum, I really did. I missed sitting in the living room with her and watching tv. But I grew to love it. I loved living ‘on my own’ (meaning, with 5 others) and I loved buying my own food, making my own meals and doing whatever I wanted. (meaning, not much) I met some great girls at uni and I still talk to them. Yeah, we had horrible flatmates. We had the dirty ones, we had the crazy ones, we had the smelly ones… Some were pretty awful, but I dunno, I feel like now I can look back and think oh actually, it didn’t ruin the year.
I’ve also travelled to various places whilst at university. Most of them in England/Scotland, but I got myself out to Finland and damn, that was incredible. I wouldn’t have even dreamt about sleeping in a hide waiting to photograph bears if I hadn’t gone to university.
My confidence grew over the three years. I could speak to new people, I managed to do presentations without stuttering my way through (though still kinda quick), I volunteered at different events, I slept outside, I photographed stars, I joined a running club, I produced work that I was actually proud of.
Over the past year, since graduating, the question ‘was university really worth it?’ ran through my head many times. When I was unemployed, with nothing appearing, when I was getting just 10 hours a week at work, when I got knocked back again and again with media jobs. Was each year worth £7800? No, probably not. To be honest, I don’t feel like I learnt that much at university about my subject. What I did learn was about myself, and to me, that makes it all worth it.