As most people got their A-level results this week I thought I’d write about my very own experience and opinions on going to University.
I hated school while I was there so going to sixth form didn’t interest me in the slightest. I’ve always been more creative than academic so couldn’t wait to go to college and do something vocational. I had my heart set on becoming a theatrical make up artist but at the last minute I decided to study graphic design.
It pains me to think how shy I was back in 2008 when I started college. That aside college was fun and the teachers were brilliant. It was nice to experience education in a different setting other than school. College was soo chill.
I’m pretty sure I only went to university as my college teacher was shocked when I told him I didn’t want to go. He said “Why would you not want to go to Uni? It’s the best thing ever. I even went twice!”. And to be honest that pretty much sold it to me. The more I thought about it I wasn’t ready to start working for the rest of my life. 3 years of uni began to sound like a fabulous plan.
If you’ve never been away from home before, going to university can be a massive shock to the system. I remember my mum driving me down with all my stuff in the car from Oxford to Southampton and I started crying. Mostly because I realised I’d forgotten my TV and printer (how was I going to get by?!), but also because ‘what the hell was happening!’
After studying Graphic Design at college I chose to study Fashion Graphics at uni. I loved fashion and combined with my knowledge of graphics it just made sense at the time. Except this Fashion Graphics course at Southampton Solent was so niche, it was the only one in the country. I envisaged myself to graduate with a 1st, live in New York and end up like Emily Blunt in the Devil Wears Prada. LOL. Bless me at 18.
When I started my first term at Southmpton Solent University back in 2010, I was told that 1 in 4 people drop out…. As you can imagine that didn’t give me much hope. From my experience I’d say 1/3 of the 12 people in my flat left in the first year and also half of my class of originally 20.
Basically I spent my first year getting absolutely smashed on rose wine and sleeping until 2pm. I think I missed a whole unit on photography. I didn’t join any societies or make any other friends outside of my small flat circle. Not being able to cook didn’t help. I lived off pot noodles and Chicago town microwave pizzas, so of course went up 3 dress sizes. Suffering with SAD at the time just about topped it off. I began to get really homesick and became depressed.
Luckily I made 3 good friends who also lived in my flat. I know a big reason for people dropping out of uni is due to the lack of friends. It can be so hard to start friendships when you’re thrown together with random people, especially if you don’t have much in common or are a generally shy and introverted person. At the end of our first year 2 of my only 3 friends dropped out of Solent. Although I was feeling down towards the end, the first year of uni was one of the best years of my life. Our fun year of being drunk and silly together had ended. I was so gutted my friends were leaving but Uni just wasn’t for them.
My second year of uni was an absolute mess. 3 of us moved into a shared house (not including my boyfriend at the time, who lived in my room despite paying for his own flat somewhere else). I smoked my way through the year, barely getting out of bed and Jeremy Kyle soon became my best friend. I found a free dog on Gumtree and adopted him – this will cheer me up and get me motivated I thought. Turns out one my house mates fell in love with the dog. He also dropped out of uni half way through his second year and took the dog with him.
In my 2nd year I also found out my mum had breast cancer and I had my first panic attack. I started working at Urban Outfitters in a brand new store but was advised to leave before it even opened as I was too stressed out with life. I was so close to dropping out but the thought of being an even bigger failure than I was already feeling doomed on me.
The thought of finishing my uni course was like the light at the end of the tunnel. I could do this.
Things started looking brighter when little Meow came into my life. She was a stray and often slept in my back garden. I started feeding her then she basically moved in. My boyfriend and I then moved into a small flat for our third and last year and took Meow with us.
Then guess what, my boyfriend dropped out of uni too and got a job in a call centre. It was going to be tough doing it alone but I had one year left and my eyes were on the finish line.
Another half a year of feeling depressed I tried my best to get out of bed and actually go into Uni. I used to HATE doing presentations on my work and felt like I was lacking in everything that everyone else had. My work was good but I couldn’t stop comparing. The majority of the girls in my class spent their summers in “amazingly sounding” internships at the head offices of some big named fashion brands. They all sat there with their shiny mac books presenting their amazing work. Then there was me with my Sony Vaio scraping money together under my desk, wondering if I could afford a sausage roll for lunch. Disinterested or what? (or maybe just addicted to food)
I think also being shy, people often thought I was a stuck up bitch. When in reality I lacked confidence and just didn’t know what to say when I needed help and support.
Aside from Uni, I made some lovely new friends while working part time for river island. These girls started inviting me on nights out. They were in their second year and still full of party spirit. It was a breath of fresh air to feel like a happy fresher again. Then I realised how important it was to have friends. Just being invited out and feeling like I was apart of something. That people wanted me around and wanted to get to know me – that felt great.
Third year was nearly over. I finished my dissertation which I actually really enjoyed writing and handed in my final major projection. I was free!!!
It’s now 2018, five years on since I graduated. Have I ever had a job in fashion graphics? No.
Of course I’ve thought about it, what a waste of 3 years otherwise. For studying such a niche course there was really only one place I needed to live to get a job. That place being London. After I finished Uni all I wanted to do was move back to Oxford. Back at home with my family and friends – which is exactly what I did.
I fell into a temporary role working in housing and what I despised at first, I soon fell in love with. As much as I will always love fashion, art and graphics I’m still unsure if that’s a career path I want to go down. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet so who knows, I could be wrong. However helping those less fortunate, although sometimes challenging, is ever so rewarding. I’m not the same person I was when I began uni, 8 years ago.
So to summarise what I’ve written today I don’t regret going to university but I wish I went with a different mindset. I wouldn’t want to go back now that I’m 26 (although never say never!), I just have other things on my mind. However I remember when I was 24 (graduated at 21), thinking I wish I could start uni now. Start now with this more confident and eager to learn head that’s on my shoulders.
I think I would have preferred to have actually got a job after college. Then I could have saved up money while I was still living at home and gone off travelling. Although when I finished college in 2010, Instagram hadn’t even blown up yet so travel envy wasn’t a thing. It’s funny how your dreams and ambitions can change with age and of course influence.
My first bit of advice would be don’t go to uni unless you are truly sure of what you want after you finish. If you’re not in the right head space to learn and put the effort in it’s a waste of education. Uni is however a massive life experience. You get to do things you’ve never done before and those are life lessons and part of growing up. The girls in my class that had great work actually went on to work in places like Burberry and Asos. My course wasn’t shit or a waste of time but I should have been a better pupil. If I remember rightly these girls in my class were around 21 when they started uni and I was 18…
So my second bit of advice would be to wait until you’re a little bit older to go to uni. Don’t go straight from college or sixth form. You’re still a baby at 18 – go to work, go travelling, go and find out what makes you, you. Then go to uni and learn.