I’ve just graduated from university with First Class Honours in English Literature. Outside is the big bad world of work. What am I doing with my degree? I’m continuing with it; beginning postgraduate studies. So what is it about the university environment that is so appealing and important to students around the world, regardless of what job you might get at the end of it?
I went into university with some level of confidence, but that was nothing in comparison to what I have gained since I’ve been there. I can quite openly say, now, that I am probably as confident as I am ever going to get. University throws you into a situation where you are forced to communicate; you are put in a flat with 4-7 other people that you’ve never met before, your seminars are filled with strangers you’ve never seen, from all over the country, and sometimes from across the globe, and at some point you’re going to have to talk to them.
So you start university. You meet these strangers. You talk with them. You make friends with some of them. And your confidence noticeably grows. Ever remember standing in front of the class for a presentation, hands shaking so much the script you’re holding won’t stay still? That was me in first year, this year I don’t think I even got nervous, at least no more nervous than I would for an exam or written assessment. You then take this confidence, you use it, and you find yourself much more comfortable in even the most nerve-racking of moments.
Remember all those strangers you have to live and work with? Well, they don’t remain strangers for long. Freshers Week is a wonderful invention that means you meet everyone and get to find out who you get along with; it does half the work for you. The first person I met at university was a guy I’d never met before. His parents were helping him move in to our flat at the same time as mine were. Waiting for our welcome talk we got to talking, learnt each other’s names and a little about each other. I’ve now lived with him three years and will be living with him again next year. That’s just one example, but he is not my only friend, nor my only housemate, and we have continued to get on throughout the last three years and, I except, will continue to do so. University is where you make the friends you will keep for the rest of your life.
Societies and clubs are fun, and incredibly varied. There really is something out there for everyone. I’m talking about the fact that during your Freshers Fair you can find the football stall next to the baking society’s stall, which in turn is next to the sky-diving stall, which will be next to the Harry Potter stall, and it just goes on and on; anything and everything.
It’s another way to meet new people and try new things; try a sport you’ve never done before, travel from one end of the country to the other to compete in competitions (usually getting a 4 am wake-up call), go out on socials that could be anything from a pub crawl to laser quest to film night… the possibilities are endless. No, quite literally, endless, if there isn’t a society that matches what you want to do, you can create your own.
4) ‘Fun Times’
There’s plenty about. Get your bunch of friends and go out; go to the beach, to the Lake District (or equivalent mountainous area), go clubbing, go shopping, or stay in and watch an entire marathon of Disney films all night while eating food that’s bad for you. You’re a student, you’ve got to work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself in-between. A student’s job is to a) work, and b) try new things. If you want a piñata for your twenty-first birthday, then why not? (No seriously, we actually did have a piñata for my friends twenty-first). Not everything has to cost money either. If you have a bus pass, see how far it will take you and go for a walk at the other end, or find a park and have a good kick-a-bout. University is fun, it’s social, and there will always be plenty to do.
5) Learning Something You Love
This is where we get a little wishy-washy. You’ve got your confidence, your friends, your societies, and your ‘down-time’, now what about the work? Here’s the absolute clincher: you get to choose what you do. I cannot emphasise enough how this is the reason university is so enjoyable. You can complain about that 3,000 word essay that’s due in next week and is only half finished, or the fact that you’ve got to get up early on a Monday, but at the end of the day you are choosing to be at university and you are choosing to study your subject. Whatever you choose, be it Sciences, or English, or Archaeology, or whatever else there is, be it obscure or something you started in Primary School, you will have, more than likely, have chosen it because you enjoyed doing it in the first place.
Sometimes it’s about the jobs you specifically want to do after you leave, but that still doesn’t mean you’ve chosen something you don’t like. It’s hard to complain about the fact that you have to read a book over the weekend when the reason you went to university in the first place was because you loved reading. No matter what the complaint might be, big or small, I would hope you’ve chosen something you enjoy, and if you have, you’ll fall in love all over again, so all that hard work is actually worth something more than just a certificate at the end. You’ll be inspired by lectures and seminars, you’ll want to do that assignment because it means you’ll get to explore something you’re interested in, in more depth, you’ll try to explain Quantum Physics to your completely unscientific housemate, or the meaning of Shakespeare’s plays to a friend studying Maths.
Learning is inspiring, it’s what’s brought you to university in the first place, but learning something you love is even better. The life experience is a bonus. The job can wait a little longer.