Have you ever seen that meme before, of the chicken on stilts, in amongst flamingos, desperately trying to fit in?
Well, that's how I felt for much of my University career. I picked this Russell Group University (University of Birmingham, UK, which was wonderful by the way- I fully recommend) and my first seminar was on Virgil's The Aeneid discussing which translations were closest to the latin original. I couldn't read latin.
As it turned out, only one person on my course could fluently read the ancient language, he was the only one of us to graduate with a First. On that first day, however, 18-year-old me had no idea my inability to read it was not detrimental. Those dark twisted knots knarled through the depths of my stomach and I mentally reprimanded myself for setting such a steep ascent to, what feels like, that life-defining 2:1. Should I have picked a different course? Was I too ambitious?
The ten other students around me already knew the text, the ancient story, and though I felt significantly less educated than my many privately educated peers, I left that seminar absolutely certain of two things.
Firstly, I never wanted to feel that unprepared again. Secondly, I was in love with that goddamn story. This meant that while on the one hand, I felt terribly inept for this course, on the other, I had an amazing opportunity to study a varied course for three whole years.
I really do mean varied too, spanning from Greek archeology, Imperial Egypt, Shakespeare, Modernism and Imagism to Post-Colonial India. I wanted to understand it all and make it until the end, and that was going to take a lot of work.
And it did. Sleepless nights became part of the package, especially as I started out holding down study, two part time jobs, The Tab and an incredible social life. My family never ceased to be shocked at how much I caught up on sleep whenever I went home during the holidays. And to think people do these degrees with kids and jobs they have to support a family with.
Contrary to popular belief, final year really does not have to be devoid of friendships and nights out with pals. Not one bit. In fact, Third Year was by far my favourite at University despite the heavy weight of a dissertation (actually quite academically liberating) and highly credited modules.
I met more friends, partied most and worked my hardest in my final year. I also had the most migraines and there was certainly a physical toll on my body. So while the beauty of study is that you can, if you want, work at the library until 10.30pm, go out 12 and return to the library at 8am, take time to listen to your body.
Still, allow yourself to wallow over your beverage of choice at the local spoons (for non-Brits, that's a chain of affordable pubs here, with a questionable variety of carpets) en route home from the library before they ring the bell for close. Seeing your friends and having some down-time made me focus all the more during my work time.
And I know, I know. As an Arts student I was lucky enough to choose which hours I would make productive because I had less set contact hours per week than, for instance, your average Bsc (Bachelor of Sciences). Nonetheless, I was somebody who started University feeling like the underdog of my cohort and yet through taking control of my self-doubt and putting in the hours, came out of university with a strong 2:1.
If you get yourself onto a university course, college course, internship, apprenticeship and start doubting yourself remember that if you find something you love in what you're doing, you are so much more likely to stick at it.
I had the opportunity to steer my education in choosing my dissertation topic to be on same-sex relationships in ancient Greece and paralleling this to Victorian Literature and it was incredibly rewarding. Moreover, the skills I have learned at University are not just academic but expand both to the social and career based. I gained skills and life lessons in online journalism and social media from my experience at The Tab and the audience and conversations I managed to achieve were invaluable.
Actually knowing the people who have inspired me would also not have been possible without my experience at University. Even if some of them I have learned from in that chapter, and may never cross paths with again, others may become an integral part of my life from here.
For now, I guess this is that moment that everyone warns you follows graduation, where you never really know what's next.
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Originally posted on my blog Bleach on 13th August 2017.