My REAL Thoughts on University & How to Make the Most of it
Grab a cup of tea, you’re in for a long one! Seeing everyone graduating recently made me think back to my graduation a whole 3 years ago now. I can’t even describe how quickly that 3 years has gone by or to be honest, how quickly the 3 years at university went by either. It’s a topic I’ve never really touched upon since I actually graduated when I wrote a no doubt cringe-worthy post back in 2014 which you can have a little laugh at here if you fancy. I’m sat here doing a job that my degree has in no way shape or form helped me get and like so many of us, I’m in a whole lotta debt. So what did I really think of university? Was it really worth it?! And how can you really make the most of it? Let’s start with the basics. I went to Newcastle University to study English Language way back in 2011. Prior to that, I went to sixth form college in Leeds where it didn’t even cross my mind to not go to uni. Like why would I not go?! I 100% didn’t think little old me was ready to enter the grown up 9-5 working world and I most definitely needed at least another 3 years to decide what I actually wanted to do with my life. Pretty much all of my friends at the time went to university too and well it was just what you did right? Back then I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go to university. I mean, 3 years of non-stop partying, what more could you want? Well despite the debt of course, I could understand why people wouldn’t want to go for that reason. Luckily, I was the year group who JUST missed the fee increase. Thank. The. Lord. Not that it’s not left me with a crazy amount of debt but we’ll go into that later.
Why Newcastle? I knew I wanted to go to Newcastle University. I’m not even sure why. I just always had it in my head that that’s where I wanted to go. I went to visit other universities including Nottingham, Manchester, York and Leeds but I just didn’t get the same feeling that I did when I visited Newcastle University. Of course, it’s a very good university and I thought a degree from Newcastle would look pretty damn good but despite that, I liked the campus and I loved the city. It wasn’t too far from Leeds where I’m from so I thought I could nip home and see family whenever and it had good nightlife which of course, is an important factor when you’re 18…None of my friends went to Newcastle University. I knew the odd person from my sixth form but I didn’t know them well if you get me. The sort of people you might say hey to but that’s it. But I thought that’s what it’s all about. I wanted to meet new people and make new friends and not stick with people I already knew. Even though it scares the life out of me, change excites me too.
Advice on choosing a university: I would 100% recommend Newcastle as the perfect place to spend 3 years. The nightlife really was amazing and so cheap too, the shopping is so good and a great way to blow the student loan and there’s loads of great places to eat and drink. However, this might not be for everyone so make sure you visit the city you’re thinking of going to university in, make sure you like it and that you can see yourself spending years there. Also check out where the campus is in relation to the city centre. I liked how Newcastle University was right in the centre of town so in between lectures you could pass the time in shops or go get something to eat.
Halls. I remember spending ages deciding which halls I wanted to be in as I thought it was an important part of the experience. I didn’t get a single one of my choices and ended up in one of the accommodations further out. I remember pulling into the car park and being guided to the block where my room was. I was so excited but absolutely petrified too. My room was pretty big and the flat was a decent size and I was just sharing with 5 other people. I remember my parents leaving and I suddenly felt SO alone. Of course, we just got drunk those first couple of weeks and it kinda all didn’t feel real and as if I was just here for a holiday. After freshers was when reality hit. I’d never felt so alone before. The 3 guys in my flat were very different to the sort I’d been friends with before. One used to sit outside his door and play guitar during the night and I know there’s nothing wrong with that but my god, it just felt so weird to me. And the girls were also very different. I tried but they just didn’t seem the friendliest of people and didn’t really make any effort. I used to ring my friends from home ALL the time and we used to just sit on the phone for hours and I was so grateful to hear a friendly voice. Most stayed in Leeds and I remember wishing so many times I could change my decision. Despite feeling totally stupid writing this now, I used to sit in my room and feel SO homesick which is completely stupid considering I was just an hour and a half away from my home town and not half way round the world. Luckily, I did make friends with other people in my accommodation on a night out and without some of these people I think I would have dropped out. Long story short, I ended up moving halls to one right near the university with other people I knew. Things got a bit better but if I’m honest I still never felt 100% happy in halls. I loved the freedom, the nights out, living with friends but I missed my own space and home comforts during first year.
Second/third year: Things were definitely better in second and third year when you could live with people you actually chose to and in a proper house rather than halls. I lived with 6 other girls in second year and 2 other girls in third year. We lived in Jesmond which I’d 100% recommend if you go to university in Newcastle.
Advice on accommodation: If you’re torn between living at home or moving out, despite my not so amazing experience in halls, I’d still 100% say to move out. Looking back I would have done it so differently and gone out of my way to make more of an effort with people. I think moving out teaches you so many things and makes you grow up as you’re actually forced to look after yourself after years of having your parents do everything for you. If you are put in halls with people that aren’t really your cup of tea, give them a chance. Try to get to know them and make the effort with every single person you meet because you might just get on. Try and remember you can go home at ANY time. Looking back now, I’m like how the hell did I feel homesick and it makes me laugh but it was my first time living away from home, I was young and felt like I had no one when I was used to been surrounded by people.
University course. English was always a subject I’d been good at. I loved writing and it was a natural choice to choose English to study at university. What a mistake. It was nothing and I mean NOTHING like it was at high school or sixth form. It was more like Science than English and I think everyone on my course got a huge shock. I remember sat their learning about our vocal cords and thinking, why am I here? Can you believe we actually did a module on Mandarin too? It was hard, really hard and I don’t remember speaking to one person who thought it was easy or enjoyed it. ‘I do English’, ‘oh right so you just read books and shit’ erm no. God I wish we read books and shit. One of the reasons I chose English was because I didn’t want to be refined to a particular career because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. If I picked chemistry (not that I ever could have done that haha), I thought I would have had to go down that career route but I thought English would open me up to a variety of different careers so I am glad I chose it for that aspect.
Advice on choosing a course: I personally think 18 is far too young to decide what you want to do with your life which makes choosing a degree extremely difficult. At 24 I know very few people who are actually doing a job related to their degree. I’m sure there are so many that are but so many aren’t either so it’s not the end of the world if half way through your course you think you’ve chosen the wrong subject to study. It’s still a degree at the end of the day and has hopefully filled you with some knowledge that will come in useful one day. Personally, I’m still waiting to use my knowledge on syntax… Definitely research your course and decide if it’s right for you. I don’t think I looked into mine properly, I just went with the fact I enjoyed it at school and assumed I would enjoy it at uni too. Looking back, maybe I should have done something to do with fashion because that’s where my real love lies but I am also very proud to have an English degree.
Friendships They say you’ll meet your friends for life at university and for some that may be the case. For me, not so much. I still keep in touch with a few people but everyone lives all over the country and people have busy lives and well, it’s hard to keep in touch. My course was a bit difficult for making friends. It felt like everyone just stuck with the same people who they’d met in their halls. We were only in for like 10 hours a week which again, makes it incredibly difficult to make friends because you barely see each other like you did at school where you spent every minute of every day with friends. I almost wished I was in university more so I could have spent more time with people. I had some really good friendships over the 3 years and it’s sad looking back because we’ve all kind of gone our different ways. There was a few I thought would be friends for life but I guess it doesn’t always work that way and perhaps there’s a reason they don’t make it to your future. I miss the nights out and the big pre drinks together and all watching TV together on an evening and always having someone there whenever you fancied a girly natter.
Advice on making friends: Looking back, I should definitely have done more to make more friends. I guess you kind of just wait for someone else to make the effort with you which shouldn’t be the case. I’d say to always be friendly, smile at everyone and if someone is sat by themselves, go and speak to them because they might just be feeling lonely. Go to socials even if they sound boring, join as many clubs as you can and do everything possible to get out and meet people. I remember joining netball and cheerleading during freshers week, both of which I failed to turn up to because I was too hungover to care and I really should have gone and met new people.
Debt Yawn. So yeah, I’m in a lot of debt that’s gaining interest as we speak. I love those random reminders you get in the post too, telling you exactly how much money you now owe. They really make my day. Not once do I remember being told how much interest my loan was going to be gaining. I actually thought it was interest free would you believe…I should probably care more about my debt but I don’t really right now. Most young people have it and well, it’s not affected my ridiculous shopping habits so I’m pushing it to the back of my mind for the time being. I do completely understand why this would put someone off going to university. Ideally, I wouldn’t have any debt and of course, I envy anyone who hasn’t but it’s not top on my list of worries and it doesn’t make a huge dent in my wage so so be it for the time being.
Advice on money: Despite being an absolute shopping addict, I’m actually quite good with money and always have been even during my time at university. I will admit that the majority of my money went on alcohol and I used to buy the cheapest food so I could fund a bottle of vodka but we all did it right? Tesco basic vodka was the way forward back then…Try and keep track of your money so you don’t spend it all in the first week meaning you can’t enjoy yourself for the rest of the month and try NOT to go into your overdraft or have an account that doesn’t allow an overdraft. My bank account didn’t allow for an overdraft which meant I couldn’t get myself into any more debt thank god but I know a lot of people who were very deep into their overdraft so although you want to have a good time, be a little bit careful too.
Grades When you’re feeling lonely and you’re also hating your course, it’s not ideal. I’m one of those people who won’t ever give up. If I’m struggling with something, I will still try and do it because I’m scared of failure. I never ever want to fail at something. I revised as much as I could through the hangovers and probably should have revised harder but oh well.
Advice on grades: Don’t stress over it, ask for help if you need it and don’t get too worked up if you’re not doing as well as you thought you would be. It’s different to school and a lot harder. Don’t fail when you don’t need to though. You see so many clever people failing because nights out get the better of them. My boyfriend is one of those people who even says now he should have actually turned up to his lectures instead of drinking all day and he might have done better. After all, you are paying a lot of money for university and you do want to come out with a half decent grade at the end of it.
So, was it worth it?
One of my biggest fears in life is looking back and regretting things and I do regret not making the most of university. I think it took me a while to adjust to university life and I missed my family and friends from home and struggled being out of my comfort zone. Now, I think that’s totally pathetic and I wish I’d stopped worrying and caring so much about things and just sat back and enjoyed it more. I kind of spent 3 years wanting it to be over and then the following 3 years wishing I could go back and do it all over again. Would I recommend university? Yes and no. Since going to university I can completely understand why it isn’t for everyone. There’s people I know who didn’t go to uni and they are doing so so well for themselves proving it doesn’t take a degree to get you somewhere. However, despite the negatives I’ve discussed, I AM glad I did it. It taught me so much and as cheesy as it sounds, made me who I am today and has left with me some amazing memories I’ll never forget. I met people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life and it gave me more confidence and independence but I do wish I’d done it a bit differently. My number one advice if you’re going to university is to just enjoy it because it goes by so quickly and before you know it you’ll be in the real adult world worrying about rent and careers and wondering why you didn’t make the most of those 3 years of freedom.
I hope this post has helped you if you’re going to university soon or if you’ve already been, maybe you can relate to it in some way. I always find personal posts super hard to publish but they are my favourite ones to write so I am going to try and do more of them in the hope to help people. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with all my posts x