It’s Blue Monday today and I’m beginning to feel the pressure of maintaining a positive mindset. What started off as a promising morning (the sun was shining for once) has quickly turned into a cloudy, cold and miserable afternoon. I went to my first lecture of the semester and, to be honest, I wish I hadn’t bothered to move out of bed. The introductory lectures are always the worst – they pretty much tell you exactly what you already know or is otherwise stated in the course guide. However, despite the slow start, I do mostly enjoy life at University.
As I’m still in the newborn stages of my blog, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on a ‘get to know me’ basis. So as most of you may already know, I study English Literature at University in Aberdeen. As January is the first month of receiving letters of response from your University applications I couldn’t think of a better time to write this post. If you’re considering going to University, changing your degree, or even thinking about a gap year, this post might give you some pointers on what to consider…or not, ill let you decide.
How did I decide what to study?
Stupid question. I still have no idea what I’m doing. However, my mind had already been made up about going to University. Well, I didn’t necessarily decide, it was always sort of a given. You’re pushed to make a career choice at a ridiculously young age by your school, your parents, and even your closest friends. At 17 I hardly even knew how to open a bank account, never mind choose a career. But hey, there I was, quickly approaching my personal statement deadline. I had probably changed my mind at least ten different times within the space of a few months, how many times was I likely to change my mind at University in four years? Well I can confirm I have deliberated a change of degree at least twice, and I haven’t even completed my second year yet. I even went to a meeting with my tutor about it. First it was Law, then Midwifery – not even remotely similar.
In the final month before submitting my personal statement I was deliberating between Fashion Management, Journalism, and, well obviously English. I have always been extremely into anything fashion related and a career in the fashion industry would have been, and still is, a dream. But it was a dream that seemed too final and so far away. Working towards that kind of career would have taken a lot of commitment, with A LOT of competition (which I was more than willing to work for). However, when it came down to it, I still wasn’t certain on my decision and it seemed too early to commit to such a career with so little experience.
I was also afraid of letting people down. When you ask someone what they study at University and they tell you Medicine, or Law, I see a crowd of approving nods. When someone responds with Fine Art, or Fashion Design I hear a murmur of ‘um’s’ and ‘ah’s’. Ridiculous, right? Creative students put so much effort into their degrees with a serious lack of respect. If it’s what you want to do, do it.
My decision to study English actually stemmed from an old teacher I had in secondary school. I remember the classes he taught like they were yesterday, in fact, they are probably the only classes I remember. English quickly became my favourite subject and I wasn’t too bad at it either. Albeit, I’m not the best writer ever (how many mistakes have I made so far?) but I enjoyed it. It seemed like the most promising option – it teaches you a discipline which most jobs require and it is broad enough that I can take it on to do whatever I wish when I complete my degree. Whether that be teaching, journalism, or something completely different. The most important thing is that I enjoy doing it, even if I don’t have a set career at the end it.
How did I decide where to study?
The thought of moving away at the age of seventeen scared me far too much. Realistically, I’ve leaned on my parents more than I should and it’s stopped me from, ‘flying from the nest’, shall we say. When I was four, I even told my mum I was never moving out and if I had to I would move next door. This was probably a comforting idea to hear from a four year old – at least your child adores you, right? Not so comforting to hear from a seventeen year old with financial attachments. Rest assured, I won’t have any debt at the end of my degree. However, I’ve missed out on making new friends. Going into a whole new setting without knowing anyone is intimidating in itself, let alone when everyone else has already mingled in halls of residence. Okay, not everyone, but a lot of groups are already formed. In the first few weeks of lectures you will find at least one chair gap between every other person…it’s odd. All of these people in one room, studying the exact same degree, and likely to share similar interests, are all refusing to sit within two metres of one another. I’ve done it myself. We are so detached from society that we are literally becoming afraid of normal social conduct. Anyway, my point is, if you struggle to make friends then your best bet is to throw yourself in at the deep end. Move out, get into debt, and make the most out of it; you’ll most likely only be there once. If you can’t afford to move away, then I would advise joining societies and clubs. They also force you to socialise and your University experience will be a lot more enjoyable.
Did I consider a gap year?
I definitely took a gap year into consideration and almost went ahead with one. Again, the pressure of following social expectations overwhelmed me. I left it up to fate; if I got an unconditional offer then I would go, if I didn’t then I would take a gap year. Ideally, I should have taken one, applied for jobs, gained work experience, and thought more about my career choices. If I had still ended up applying to Aberdeen to do English then at least I would have been more convinced I was doing the right thing. Everyone kept saying to me “Beth, it’s one less year earning your own money”. That’s shit, ignore it. Who knows if I’ll even have a job at the end of my degree? If you’re not 99.9% set on your career then I would advise a gap year. In retrospect, it isn’t a long time, but I’ve grown a lot since the start of my course and I’ve learned so many new things that I wish I knew before applying to my degree.
Is there anything I would change?
If I could change a few things about my university experience, it would firstly consist of a gap year, possibly moving out into halls, and joining more societies. Overall, I also believe everything happens for a reason. If I had moved out, I wouldn’t have gotten my puppy, I would be a thousands of pounds of debt, and I would be living away from my boyfriend (not that this should make a difference, but it is nice being able to go to University AND see my family and friends all the time). I get homesick really easy – hell, I can be sitting in a restaurant ten miles down the road and start to feel a pressing sense of unease…I don’t know, I can’t explain it either. What I’m trying to say is, I may not have coped moving far from my family and maybe studying at home while I figure it all out is for the best.
If any of you are going through some of the same dilemmas then I hope this post gave you some things to consider. Try to ignore any external pressure and only commit to what you love. Of course, it’s great to listen to advice, but be aware of who the advice is coming from – not everyone has your best interests at heart. Oh, and maybe University just isn’t for you. I mean, who wants to pay £9,000 a year for 6 hours of lectures a week on a ‘teach yourself’ basis? There are so many other options out there, therefore, whatever you decide…good luck!