Entry From a Third Year Undergrad.
I didn’t plan to come to university.
To be honest, I didn’t want to. It seemed like a costly scam and continuing my honesty, it is (at-least where the government & money is concerned).
I left education in 2018, with a crappy bar tending job in one hand and a spliff in the other. Life was great, within a year of leaving school I’d moved out (into a crappy flat above that crappy bar), made incredible memories with good friends, started new hobbies, ate healthily, and transformed as a person. I was living the life I’d always wanted. The feelings that came with freedom and autonomy were indescribable.
When covid and the lockdowns hit, I was given much time and solitude to reflect in the haze of marijuana I was drowning myself in. I was finally having fun, I finally felt confident and centred. I felt so lucky to be able to live the life I was living. No parents or guardians around to control or influence me. No dependency on anyone else financially or emotionally. I had overcome my childhood traumas and was contributing to society, even if that was in the form of pints of beers and being the personal therapist to the local alcoholics.
So… why was I drowning in questions?
Questions upon questions, all with one common theme, WHY.
I could bore you with all my personal contemplations and conjectures, or I could just tell you what it did to me. The time I spent isolating (not perfectly may I disclaim, even I broke the rules here and there. I was practically living alone! It’s up to you to decide if you want to count the manager and sou chef I was sharing a kitchen and bathroom with), lead to a lot of exploration online. I was deeply exploring history, politics, geography, social movements, and the meaning of intersectionality. I discovered a part of myself I hadn’t connected with in a long time, I found myself left with more questions and a desire to change the world we lived in.
I never put much importance on intelligence. I always admired it, and knew I held it to some degree, but I’d never committed to pursuing it, to hone it. That was when I decided to attend university.
I’d been through the process before. Years ago, I was focused on the arts and wanted to be performer/multi-faceted creative. I’d even been offered an unconditional place for universities’ and conservatoires’ on audition days. However now I was 20, I’d been out of education a couple years and looking into completely different subjects. I still love the arts to this day; they hold so much importance, I believe they can change so much for the better. They gave me a space to explore my questions, but not a space to answer them.
I eventually and what I feel to be inevitably turned to science. The social sciences specifically. The biggest questions I had selfishly focused on humanity and our behaviours. I wanted to learn everything. I understand that the idea of self-teaching and using the internet is incredibly popular in our generation, and I give props to those who have the motivation to educate themselves by themselves. Unfortunately, I was not gifted with this quality, I need a teacher.
I took a leap and went to find one.
I had my limitations of course, I wasn’t rich, I couldn’t leave the country or apply anywhere too fancy (my grades from college were astoundingly average!). Most of my closest friends and family stayed at home and built lives where they were, but I still wanted to go somewhere really nice.
I decided Brighton was really nice. It is really nice.
As lockdown was coming to an end, right after I’d reopened and cleaned the whole bar downstairs, I’d applied and been accepted to study Psychology at Sussex. I’d even been applying for jobs, I wanted to move as soon as possible to be able to explore the city before the next three years of my life were defined by studying and exams. I was asked in for interviews easily, if I have any advice for anyone, it’s to get a job in bars and restaurants, you’ll never be out of a job.
Very quickly, I found myself in a share-house up Dyke Road with a job waitressing in the city centre. I had dived into the deep end - living with strangers, working with strangers, picking up weed from strangers. I felt like a stranger.
But given time… those strangers became close friends with who I now share irreplaceable memories with. Those dealers I met; I no longer use because ultimately, I decided Brighton weed is nothing compared to the stuff found in my hometown (I rarely smoke what Brighton has to offer; I rarely smoke at all now these days).
I’ve found adventure in the stranger within myself, I’ve continued to change and grow in ways I never expected. My brain feels a whole lot bigger… and so does my belly. I must warn you, working in the service industry leads to a lot of nights out, and a lot of alcohol (alongside the studious desire to sit down all day and stare at your computer screen) leads to weight gain, very happy and memorable weight gain! I wouldn’t swap the extra lbs for any of those times.
I’ve spent a lot of my time at university talking to other students. Students of all ages, backgrounds, and subjects. What I’ve found is, everyone’s path through their undergraduate degree is different. Mine for example has been very focused, I’ve made a few good friends and focused on building my experiences in academia. Whereas others I know focused on the social side, not being too worried about expectations of success and focusing on finally being able to escape their hometowns or families and learn more about themselves, alongside learning more about a subject they simply enjoy learning about. I do get a sense though, that when it gets to that final undergraduate year, especially when a dissertation or final project is involved, everyone feels the same sense of fearful anticipation. I feel somewhat equipped from my last two years, they’ve definitely covered the material I need for it, but do I remember it all? I don’t know a student who does. If you’re going to take anything from this, take that every single person is genuinely just figuring it out as they go along. Take a deep breath with me now.
I’m about to start my last year of my undergrad, as much as it hasn’t been perfect, it’s been nonetheless wonderful. My questions aren’t all answered, but I now get to actively participant in figuring them out. That’s what I’m most looking forward too with my dissertation this year, getting an answer to a question I have, even if it’s simple and of undergraduate level.
I’m so proud of myself. I’m proud of how much I’ve learnt from attending university. I’m glad I took things at my own pace; I glad I took the path I did and took my time to decide what I really wanted. I’m glad I took a chance on myself.