I chose to come to university mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. That sounds like a bad way to make such an important decision, but I had no idea what job I wanted to do – besides, the idea of getting a job terrified me. There were no apprenticeships in anything that would suit me. There were, however, degrees that would suit me. I figured, if I do a degree I enjoy, then surely that will lead me into a career I enjoy.
So, whether it was the best choice or not, I went to uni.
And let me tell you something: I am so glad I did. Sure, there are some things that haven’t gone as I’d hoped and things that I wasn’t expecting to be problems (more on that in another post), but on the whole, university has so far been a fabulously beneficial experience for me.
For starters, remember how I said the idea of getting a job terrified me? Well, so did the idea of leaving home and going to uni. But the thing is that, at uni, everyone is the new kid. You’re shoved together in your halls and your lectures, and nobody knows each other and everybody is probably just as terrified as you are, whether they show it or not. It’s a new start, a new experience, surrounded by new people.
That’s several advantages in one. In school, you have a limited number of friends: of all the people of your age in your local area and who are in some of the same classes as you, you have to find the most agreeable ones. At uni, though, there are people from all walks of life, and in both classes and societies, you all end up classified by interests. Whether it’s a mutual passion for your degree subject or for a certain hobby, these are people you actually have something in common with. These are people you can be yourself with. And because they’re new people and it’s a new start, you can feel free to be whoever you want to be. I, for example, took this new start as the perfect chance to turn vegetarian.
Speaking of feeling free, leaving home to go to university gives you a whole new sense of independence. You get to come and go as you please. You get to make whatever food you like at whatever time you like. You can spend time with whoever you want for as long as you want. For me, this has taught me things about myself I didn’t even know. I have discovered that I love experimenting with food and trying new things, even though I’ve always been quite a picky eater. I’ve also realised that I have a tendency to try and do things on my own, without asking for help – and consequently, that this isn’t always a good thing, and that it can feel good (and totally not as scary as I thought it would be!) to share my thoughts, plans and ideas with others.
I see uni as a stepping stone to adult life: you’ve moved out of your parents’ house, but you’re not living on your own yet. You have to cook and clean for yourself, but you’re with other people who are also learning how to do that. You have to budget your money and your time, but you have the support of the uni – personal tutors, advisers, and other welfare staff – to fall back on if you need help. It’s a safe space to learn to be independent and grow your confidence so that you’re ready for the adult world.
On top of that, there’s an awful lot of opportunities that university has to offer. Be it internships, research projects, semesters abroad – there’s more chance for CV improvement than just your degree. Plus, it’s an absolute confidence booster. When I signed up to be on the committee of the Creative Writing Society last year, I wanted to help, in some way, to improve a society that I saw so much potential in. But I was terrified of adding extra responsibilities to my studies; I just wanted to do something small. Now, though, I’m taking almost complete responsibility for the anthology we’re putting together, and I’m helping to organise the writer’s retreat weekend we have planned. I’ve made phone calls, I’ve promoted the society to strangers, and I’ve even led some of our writing sessions – which means talking to an entire group of people at once. It’s more responsibility than I imagined I would have, but it’s showing me what I am actually capable of when I push myself out of my comfort zone!
All this independence and confidence boosting has ultimately shown me that the Big Wide World is not as scary as it sounds. Thanks to my involvement with the Creative Writing Society, I have an idea for what career I want to go into after I get my degree. And more impressively, considering how scary I found it before, I’m actually looking forward to life after university.
But university isn’t all positives, and its pressures are another reason why I’m looking forward to leaving. And if you’re reading this while wondering whether university is for you, you’ll need the full picture – not just the benefits – before you decide. So, here is my post on the cons of university life.