University: Is it for everyone? My experience

It's now been 2 years since I finished university, so I've had the time to reflect upon my time there. I went to the University of Sunderland to study Business and Marketing Management and it's definitely given me a mixed emotional experience. I feel like it's a huge cliché to hear how quickly those 3 years go and you may even roll your eyes like I did, but it does. I want to go back.

Why go?
For years, I debated whether uni was the path for me as I was aware of the increasing difficulty of finding employment once finished and I just wanted to crack on with the career bandwagon. I had friends who went off to uni and those that didn't - all happy with their choices. I did my A-Levels at 6th form, an establishment that tooted the uni horn and shaped everyone into believing it was the only option. Then romance blossomed and it sealed my decision for both of us to try and get to into unis within the same area. We went to open days together from Bristol to Newcastle to get the vibes and it gave us the bug. I grew up in Lincolnshire - not really the place for opportunities; apprenticeships weren't really in abundance and I've always wanted to get away to a big city and experience life. Choosing a great city to live in is so important just in case uni doesn't pan out. 

On that basis, after as much revising as I could stand, Sunderland accepted me. Kyle got into Northumbria in Newcastle only 12 miles away which still to this day is my favourite city. 

When you get there
At the beginning, I hated it. I lived in halls with 6 others in a pretty great setting - a shop and bar made for a hella lot of fun. The only thing for me, when I started uni, I was 19 and already done the whole partying and drinking thing - weird to admit, but I think I was over it. Once I started getting hangovers that would cling to me for dear life and never let go, I just stopped enjoying the scene. Now, I guess that decision didn't make me the most popular - I simply shunned it. Did I still wake up with occasional hangover? Of course. It's just the next day I am an unproductive weed of a human, consumed with self hatred. In my experience, I just felt that it was conform or die. I despise 'lad culture' and fake, superficial groups of friends, so it didn't really help. I think it was also that I was still with Kyle and I was in the whole 'spend all my time with him' phase. I did like quite a few people, got on with many and had some great conversations, but whether I clicked with anyone? Probably not until I actually started my course.

Having a boyfriend at uni: if I had a quid for everyone who told me it wouldn't work, that one of us would give in to temptation, I'd be living in a penthouse. I even freaked out a bit and gave into peer pressure and suggested we broke up for a while so we could 'live a little'. An option we both rejected. Just because it didn't work for others doesn't mean your relationship is doomed to fail. We remained strong; 2nd year we moved in together with 6 others in a large house in Newcastle and continued living together after he returned from his study year in Germany. He's my lobster after all.

Do I regret not being a party queen? Not really. I did craic on with everyone and I felt like I was liked, but I couldn't allow myself to fake having a good time. I've always liked time to myself and that's something I could never change. Be true to yourself. Think of all the money you'll save for clothes instead!

Education and lark
What I found with Sunderland is that it has a real college feel. Many of its students are local and I found that many weren't interested in making real friendships - enough so you have someone to sit with during those long winded lectures and seminars, but nothing deeper. I do think maybe that was just my course. Shoutout to my babe I'm still friends with today though. We hit it off straight away. Without him, I would have withered and died. Forever miss our Revs and Wetherspoons dates. 

Socialising and that aside, I really struggled with the nature of our programme - everything was very generalised and only one module throughout the whole 3 years gave us some practical experience. It's something to think about if you're considering uni. Will it really be worth it? I can't say my modules fully equipped us for the real world. Anyone can pick up some core marketing books and read them, but you wouldn't pay £3,900 a year for it? No. That's what I felt it all was: teaching from books and their own egos. (One lecturer had 20% of our mark based upon making a giant poster asking us to praise her module. I added recommendations to mine - it didn't go down well.) I remember being frustrated a lot of the time. I did do well - graduated with a 1st, but it doesn't mean I really gained much. I find it funny how people congratulate you on your degree, but I don't have the expertise I would have if I went out and sought work. It just sounds fancy. (Also don't stress about dissertations - they're a piece of piss once you have your structure).

That said, I would go back in a heartbeat. I'd make the most of all the opportunities available including work experience and extra curricular clubs. It's my biggest life regret. I'm not blaming my relationship (I'm still with him after all), but I was so consumed with wanting to be with Kyle all the time, I didn't put my future first and if I could give you one piece of advise, it's snap up every opportunity to enhance your CV. Go enjoy that year abroad - you won't have that opportunity again. It's fierce out here in the real world, even with experience. 

After graduation
Something I would recommend highly is to not to spend all your money during uni. I waitressed before I went and a few times I was occasionally back home, so I did manage to save a bit and never applied for an overdraft. Just because you have a surplus doesn't mean you should spend it. Did I live like a nun? No. I shopped and went out for meals and cocktails, but I was responsible and I'm thankful I did. If you don't see running back home to mummy and daddy as an option, you'll make it work and I'm proud of that. Why wouldn't you want to continue that independence you had whilst at uni? Cut that cord y'all. No judgement if you do, but just think about it more whilst you're living in the moment. 

I busted my butt and applied for any job going - I only had a month to find a job before I started paying big girl rent and the student loan was running low. I luckily got a job in hospitality, which turned into a managerial position. I didn't even go to my graduation, because of the new opportunity - I couldn't be the new one to ask for a day off just to walk in an expensive rented gown and collect a scroll - I had rent to prioritise. You have to do what you have to do.

If you're thinking about going to uni, weigh up all your options. What's your course going to get you in the future? I know so many people who do something just because they like it, but want nothing to do with that subject for their career. You gotta think long term. Is an apprenticeship more worthwhile? There are so many good'uns out there that I'd love to get my hands on, but can't as I have a degree. You may want to go for the lifestyle, but it might not always be worth it. For me, it increased my confidence ten fold with all the presentations and socialising - I learnt a lot about myself and for that, I'm grateful. 

What are your university experiences? Whether you're about to get cracking or half way through. It's a blur to me now, so let me live vicariously through you. 


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