A week ago, I donned my (uncomfortable) cap and gown and finally confirmed that three years of reading, writing essays and fretting about every minute was finally over.
I won’t lie to you, I’ve delayed writing this post because, whilst I’ve been celebrating completing my degree and beginning post grad life, I’m struggling to believe it’s over. Just like that.
Before I go into post grad meltdown, I’m going to share my uni experience with you.
It all started three years ago
In 2016, after surviving secondary school and somehow getting the grades I needed (anyone who knows me will know A-Level history was a nightmare for me and, I’m pretty sure, could’ve been the reason I didn’t get to uni), my time at Liverpool John Moores University began.
It was a strange thing. Up until that point, I’d gone through my education with my twin sister, so (even though she was only a street away at University of Liverpool) university marked the first time I was on my own, which was exciting and terrifying all at once.
Of course, I got into my work full swing. Soon, I was reading plenty of books every week, trying to write to academic standards and actually enjoying myself.
Despite finding the best group of friends in my final year of school, school itself was one of the worst times of my life. I hated how people treated me at times, I struggled with maths and I cried a lot. It was good to see, as I got into my first year, that all those annoying things about school hadn’t stuck around for uni.
I realised things about friendships
I was lucky in a way. Only a few of my friends chose to leave home and head to universities outside of Liverpool, so the friendship group I’d built up over the years stayed intact.
That being said, going to uni made me realise just how hard you have to work at friendships. As I hadn’t left home like most people on my course, I didn’t see making friends as a necessary part of my uni experience, so as people made lasting friendships and friends from home posted pictures of their new friends, I felt weird and isolated.
Except I realised two things as my time at uni crept on. 1. People are obviously going to show their best bits of uni (there’s no point in them posting about how much they hate Slaggy Sandra for not doing the dishes, really) 2. Just because I don’t see or talk to my friends as much, it doesn’t mean they like me or I like them any less.
Looking back for this post, though, I do wish I’d branched out a little bit. I made a few friends, but more “friends” in the sense I knew they’d sign me into lectures if I needed or they’d sit with me in lectures and seminars then we’d part ways until the next week of lectures. I suppose the good in this is the fact that I know I’ve got to work harder and be more present in my friendships.
It wasn’t all great
The small amount of research I’d done before uni was completely overshadowed by the books and movies I’d read and seen over the years. The picture of uni that painted was all parties, no work and having the best time of your adolescent life.
I didn’t go to parties a great deal. I went out a few times but, after a while, my social calendar dried up because everyone soon realised work had to be done. Society makes students out to be constantly drunk or hungover, not really focused and not really caring about their subject or career. That’s not true.
As much as I would’ve loved to party my nights away, I realised that I actually wanted to do well and- honestly- I preferred getting my essays done and chilling than going out and fretting about them over a Berocca and a hangover.
They don’t really ever speak about how stressful uni is, either. It’s all about “snowflakes” and “they won’t know true stress until they get into the workplace”. You’re not only carving out an identity, you’re balancing your personal life with uni life and attempting to produce work that lives up. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress and I cried a lot more than I thought I would over essays and reading and uni life.
It wasn’t always the great time I’d been led to believe. Sometimes I had those moments where I thought I’m not cut out for this, I can’t do this. Of course, I stuck it out and- eventually- I proved that annoying part of me that said I couldn’t was wrong!
Writing my dissertation was harder than I thought
I always knew I’d have to write 8,000 words at some point so the actual prospect of writing my dissertation wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was how hard all the writing, redrafting, referencing was.
Of course, by sheer miracle (and several library trips), I eventually completed my dissertation “An exploration of female madness in Jane Eyre and The Woman in White”.
I think, looking back on it, I would’ve done a few things differently. I would’ve planned better, consulted my advisor more and gone over the word count (understandable when my feedback was full of “this needs to be explained more”). That being said, I was happy with my mark in the end…and I was glad to see the back of it!
I don’t know what I’m doing afterwards
A common question you get asked in (and outside of) uni is “What are you going to do next?”. I didn’t know the answer before uni and, honestly, I don’t know now.
The only thing I do know is that I don’t want to be a teacher. Even though it’s the “common” thing for English grads to do, I’ve never seen the appeal and, frankly, I don’t think I’d be very good!
The goal, for now, is to get started on my novel. It’s something I’ve said I’d do for a while and, considering I have time on my hands, this is probably the best time to start.
Obviously, I’ll have to get a ‘real’ job because – as the many writers and journalists I’ve encountered during my degree have said- (for most of us) “writing doesn’t pay the bills”. So, after my holidays (I’m headed to Florida next week and Portugal after that with the girls), I’m going to get into looking for jobs, writing and finding more to do than relaxing and boxset binging.
I’m worried about the future, I’m not going to lie, but I’m just going to take every day as it comes.
University wasn’t everything I imagined. I didn’t come out with a handsome boyfriend who reads (priorities, eh?), or loads of edgy friends who write poetry. Instead, I came out with a first class degree, a group of friends who didn’t abandon me despite our busy lives, and more confidence in myself and my ability than before.