10 years ago this September marks the day I packed up my belongings and embarked on a thing called University. I set off on the 2 hour drive towards a sea side town that I would call home for the next 3 years (which actually became 5). Going to University is a huge step, at my school we were all encouraged to apply and head off on this unknown adventure. We were promised it would be the best time of our lives, we would meet life long friends alongside the experience of living away from home. But what really was it like? To mark this milestone I thought I would share my experiences for anyone else that might be currently weighing up their options.
Picking the Right Place – if you are planning the change it all starts with picking where to go. Do you want to stay at home? Go far away? Follow a course or friends? For me it was all about the course. Wanting to get into VFX/Computer Animation there weren’t many courses to pick. The courses I liked the look off I headed to their Open Days so I could get more of a feel for the location and vibe of the campus. Following each visit I kept a note of my first impressions, what I liked or didn’t like, that I could refer back to down the line. In the end, there was two University’s I liked. One that was right in town and one that had the best course. My heart said town, my head said course and in the end my head won and I went for the University that had the best and most established course.
Your Course – now here I am saying the course picked the University for me, but what do you do if you hate the course? This is what exactly happened to me. I was on a tech heavy degree and felt out of my depth. By the time it came round to Easter in the first year I knew I couldn’t continue. Was this an easy choice? No, but at the end of the day it was right for me and in hindsight became a blessing. From struggling in the math lectures I went down the route of dyslexia testing and embarked on another course hunt. By this point I was settled in the town, had friends and a place to live so knew I didn’t want to leave. In the end I finished out the first year but come September I was back in that Freshers group ready to start a different degree.
Relationships – leaving your group of friends and family is scary. You are pushed out from all your comfort zones completely into the unknown. As I followed the course I went to a University where I didn’t know a single person. Naturally this caused for a few nervous butterflies but it meant I was forced to meet new people and be more confident. Don’t get me wrong there were tears before moving but in the end everything was okay. One element that was a big help was engaging on ‘Fresher Forums’ back in the world of MySpace so I could speak to future course mates ahead of the first day. In terms of friends from home, one best friend was up north so we sent letters and another was doing a working gap year so the visits were frequent. Yes those three years you change dramatically as a person but those real friends from school will be there no matter once. Even if they aren’t it’s true what they say, you will make life long friends at University.
What’s next? – when you get to wear the ugly cap and get handed your degree in writing, what do you do next? Work? Travel? Panic?? For me I was luckily enough to meet some pretty great people on the second course I transferred to, one even became a business partner. We worked together to set something up which I juggled alongside a Masters Degree. Getting a job is tough and in my naivety I thought a piece of paper saying I could ‘produce’ would get me a ‘producer’ role. Although it didn’t I learnt more about what I didn’t want to do post studies and again met some pretty great people. Once my Masters wrapped up the business was still chugging along so we moved it to London to head back home. I guess you could say the rest was history but boy am I glad I bit the bullet and decided to switch up degrees after my first year!
So should you go? – that’s the real question right. With University fees on the rise and cost of living following the same trend, should you embark on a degree? For me it was a fantastic experience I will never forget. Yes I may not be using all those lecture hours on a daily basis but I do still have the friends and that to me is priceless. University gave me my confidence and pushed me into places I would have never pushed myself. You learn a lotta life skills at University that are transferable skills I use day to day. But just remember it’s your decision, not anyone else’s and whether you have a degree or not, you can always fight your way through that career door.