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Friday, 27 February 2015

What's the Point of University?

This is a question that I can't answer in the eyes of someone else, but I can answer for my own perspective.  If you are considering doing this, I would highly recommend it.  Not only have I got a degree, the whole experience has changed my life.  

I went to University late in life.  I had a terrible time in school, I was anxious, frightened of everything and even ended up on atni-depressants at the age of 14.  I had panic attacks, mood swings, and I also caught tonsilitus at least once per month, which would then spread into my blood stream and cause my legs and ankles to swell and bruise. 

At 16, I left school with a couple of qualifications but nothing worthwhile.  I did some AEB basic tests, CLAIT and IBT II when I was 15-16 as I worked within a small unit of people who tried to integrate people back into school.  I knew I had to do something. After school I went to college part time just to get my English GCSE.   

I started working in an office and I completed an NVQ level 2 in Business Administration.  I maintained administrative roles for over ten years and I completed several courses eventually leading to a level 3 NVQ, and then the opportunity to complete an assessing qualification and PTLLS, but I wanted more.  The problem was, although I had experience and felt confident in my work role, I felt less confident about my academic abilities and intelligence.  

Progressing in my administration role was a possibility at one point but I knew it wasn't what I wanted.  I pondered for a while on what to do, and I went on a short Creative Writing Course ran through a local University.  I decided that I wanted to do a challenging academic course that would see if I was clever enough for University and chose an access course in my local college that would give me the most options as I had no clue what to do.  I started that course and found that I was good at Sociology, History, Psychology, but my strongest subject was English.  I must admit I was surprised as I had always found Maths was my strong point.  

I applied for a full time degree in English and Creative Writing early in 2011, and got accepted.  I was thrilled and frightened - all these people, younger than me, probably brighter than me.  I had never been a people person, and found it challenging to make friends.  I didn't even know if my writing was good enough to be studying creative writing!

I had to talk myself into attending at first, and I would sit at the back whilst everyone else made friends.  Like a child I would wait for people to talk to me first.  I enjoyed the challenges, the topics, the assessments and I found the more I went, the more comfortable I felt in this world.  The Lecturer's inspired me (well at least most of them) and I wanted to be like them.  I had a child two weeks after starting, but that didn't stop me completing my studies as I loved it.  The first semester was difficult as I got used to University life, but in the second semester I found it easier to make friends and I must say that I have made several friends-for-life, and I am so pleased that these talented people know me, as so many have achieved so much.  I started to build confidence - I knew what I wanted, and I knew I was going to take it.  

Second year was the hardest year of my life.  The  jump in level and a child that didn't sleep made me feel like I was out of my depth, but I wanted this so I persevered.  University friends were very supportive, offering to read through my assignments and help, I couldn't ask for anything else.  

I knew in third year that I really had to step-up and put the time in, no time for slacking.  Even though this was the toughest year of my life in light of personal circumstances, I worked harder.  I got a 2:1 degree and I couldn't be happier!  A story of mine was also chosen to be printed in a collection of short stories published by lecturers of the University.

So for me, University gave me opportunities, a chance to make connections, to make friends, to be recognised as an academic, to have my work published.  It helped me to develop as a person and build confidence in my own ability.  I have formed strong friendship bonds and I am not afraid to talk to new people and introduce myself.  It turned me into a stronger person who knows what she wants.  

I thought that having a degree was just a dream, and yet when I achieved this, I knew that wasn't enough, I wasn't ready to leave as I had only just begun.  With the support of my mother, I have been able to sign up to the MA and I have just finished my first semester.  This is part time though so I have 18 months left.  This has brought further opportunities as the University has launched its own publishing house and I applied to be a voluntary member of the Copywriting Team, which actually lead to me becoming the Team Leader.  I feel like the sky is the limit for me!

Although I haven't decided my definitive career path I know I either want to lecture in English and maybe creative writing, or work in a writing, editing or publishing role, it doesn't matter because I have options.  University has given me the tools I need to become the person I want to be.  There's still work to be done but I'm getting there and I would certainly recommend a degree, and the University experience as a whole.

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