So it’s officially been over 6 months since I graduated from university. I studied BSc Geography at the University of East Anglia and graduated with a First Class Honours. It was a big deal for me – I feel like so much had happened over those 3 years at university, and there were big changes in my life.
I always said university was right for me, and I still stand by that, but I felt like now I’ve had that period of time out of university, and in the *real world* it was time for some reflection. Was university all it lived up to be?
I chose to go to university because it was something I always saw myself doing. Sixth form rolled around and I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to be in 10 years time. The idea of university terrified me, but also excited me. It gave me 3 extra years in education, something I’ve always said I’ve loved, and 3 extra years to buy some time and decide what my career would be. I chose to study Geography – my brother had just graduated from his own 3 year Geography course and loved it, and was now a teacher. At this stage I wasn’t particular passionate about anything, or so I thought I wasn’t, so Geography seemed like a safe choice. I enjoyed it enough to know I could study only that for 3 years.
I chose to go to UEA, only down the road from my hometown Ipswich because I liked the campus. Truthfully, when I started looking at universities I wanted to be a significant distance from home – If I wanted to do uni properly I wanted to be far from home and in a big city. I looked at Nottingham, Southampton, Reading and Birmingham, and I ended up in Norwich. I really wanted to hate Norwich when I looked – I had my heart on a big city far away, but on visiting the campus it just felt right – and the unconditional offer solidified my choice.
No. It was bloody hard. I’d imagined I’d go to uni and I’d be a little socialite partying every night, with hundreds of new friends and that just wasn’t the case. Back in first year I was a shy girl and I struggled massively in making new friends. Of course, I did manage to make friends through my course and playing netball, but I never felt like I belonged in a group. I almost expected to make new besties at uni and be joined at the hip – but that never happened either.
I also got massively homesick when I was away. Jamie and I hadn’t made any real plans when we got to uni, apart from I’d see him every few weeks. But we failed with that on the first weekend when I asked him to come and visit. From there, we saw each other pretty much every weekend throughout university.
I was always conscious of being that girl that went home every weekend, but I realise now that so what? That’s what worked for me. I don’t regret any of it in the slightest – Jamie and I will have been together 5 years this year and every weekend I spent with him I treasured.
Despite all this, I’m still glad I did it. 18-year-old Lucy wasn’t ready for the real world. She still had so many life skills to learn and growing up to do. And university allowed me to do that.
It was hard, but it also gave me the strength and confidence I have today. And it also gave me some best friends, and some incredible memories to look back on. Am I ever going to be dressed as a princess, half-cut with eggs cracked on my head again? Probably not. Am I ever going to be able to experience a ‘boozy bus’ or the yearly competition-wide sports day Derby day again? No. Will I ever decorate my very own wheel-barrow, dress up in fancy dress to match and spend the whole day in the sunshine drinking? Nope.
University was the first, and probably only time, I got to live independently. I cooked for myself, cleaned for myself – nobody was responsible for me but me. I learnt so many life skills, but the biggest thing for me was I learnt so much about myself. I feel like University gave me the time and space to understand who I was as a person, and to be proud of that.
So many people think of university as solely a chance to get a degree – but it’s so much more than that. Truthfully, my degree is the least important thing to come out of those 3 years. It’s true – you don’t need to go to university, especially in this day and age, but I don’t regret going. There were times where I doubted why I had done it, had I wasted 3 years of my life, and not to mention the £27k I had paid to be there, as well as the cost of renting and living? Admittedly it wasn’t the cheapest way to learn the things I did, but I loved it. And I’d do it all over again given the chance.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on University. Did you go? Why was it for you? Why was it not for you?