What University Really Taught Me

by - August 19, 2020

Girl sitting in a cafe

If everything went according to plan, on the 21st July, I would have walked across a stage collecting my degree. On my feet would have been a pair of Jimmy Choo’s I had been saving up for, for this exact moment. However, no part of 2020 has gone according to plan and instead I spent the day as any other day. 

It’s been three years since I moved to Portsmouth to start my Journalism degree and it feels absolutely surreal to say I made it to the end. I haven't shared my whole journey online but you can see highlights on Instagram and Twitter (@aoifecaitrionax). In my first year of university, I felt very lonely and I struggled to make friends. Like anyone, I signed up to almost every society I had a remote interest in. First year is all about trial and error so don't be afraid to make mistakes. 


Second year came along and I was stuck living in a house that lived on drama and animosity. It wasn't very fun or healthy but I learnt a lot about myself during that time. The main one being how to stand up for myself. Academically and career wise, I was starting to get ahead and had articles printed in local news websites. When final year came around, I promised myself that this would be a year I could be proud of. And I am. Despite the ups and downs, which as a uni student you will know, I have met some amazing people who are now my friends and made memories that will stick with me for life. 


Aside from the academic side to university, there are plenty of important lessons to learn outside of lectures and seminars. So here’s what university really taught me and what I wish I knew before starting:


Use your time wisely. And by that, nothing is waiting around for you. At university, you have a lot of time on your hands when you’re not in lectures, seminars or working. Use that spare time productively. I spent a lot of time in my first year blogging and making videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, I slowed down in second year and lost motivation in third year. I regret not believing in myself more and sticking to it. I really recommend using your spare time productively by taking up a new skill, hobby, or searching for internships and grad schemes. 


Do something you’re passionate about. University is a lot more fun when you’re passionate about the subject you’re studying. I wrote essays on feminism, did presentations on the fashion industry and put together video packages which I had a lot of fun doing. I really enjoyed the work and the skills I was learning with it. There were a few late and stressful nights but I wouldn’t change a thing because I was still doing something I loved. I've spoken to my friends and other people about it who all agreed that you should be studying something you're passionate about and interested in. It will be a greater experience and you'll enjoy it more.


Make the most out of the University services. There are so many services that universities offer these days and I'm pretty sure, you're not even aware of half of them. I struggled a lot when I moved back home for lockdown and my anxiety was at an all time high. My lecturer recommended that I reach out to the wellbeing team to get some additional support. To be honest, I don't know if I would have finished university without the support and weekly session from a councillor. Most universities also offer academic support with essays or career support. We pay a lot of money attending university so we may as well take advantage of what it offers.


Neon light against flower wall

(Money management) How to have fun on a low budget. Regardless of whether you have the maximum grant or the lowest grant, we all struggle with our money at some point. In your first year, you make bad money decisions and by final year, you’ve decided to go vegan because it’s cheaper and save all your money instead. Social life is a big part of university. Clubbing at uni has never been my scene but I still went out for lunches, dinners, day trips and everywhere else with my friends. This all adds up. However, by the end of the whole experience you've learnt how to have fun on a low budget.


It's not a race but it's not a marathon either. Your grades are not everything at univeristy. Sure, they're important because you need to pass to move up a year and you want a good degree classification. But, they're not the be all and end all. Lecturers are looking for how you engage with the content. My highest scoring essays were down to referencing different scholars and sharing ideas and theories. You're not in a race with anyone because you're not competing with them. Getting a degree is something you do for yourself and a personal journey. 


Good luck! And if you've already been, what did you learn at university?


Love, Aoife xo 

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