Wednesday, 12 September 2012

University... To Go or Not To Go?

I can not BELIEVE how long ago my last post was! Two years is a long time... I've now finished university, and I have to say it was truly the best experience of my life, and certainly the most rewarding!

 I'd like to say the best bit was the actual part I was paying for - the degree - but that's probably at the bottom of the list. The best parts are the friends, living on your own, being independent and responsible for yourself, the laughs, going out even though you have a 9am lecture the next day (and only regretting it in the morning when you have to bolt out of lecture to chuck up in the toilets, which one of my house-mates did), the random house parties, the late night decisions... in fact just thinking about it makes me want to time travel right back to the very beginning, so I can experience it all over again!

There has, however, been a serious disturbance to the amount of young'uns planning on attending university and experiencing the... ah, experience, for themselves. I'm talking, obviously, about the rise in fees. I was one of the last few people who managed to avoid the sudden, huge rise in fees, and it's got me thinking about whether I would have gone to university 3 years ago if the price had been this high...

Honestly, I don't think going purely for the degree is worth it. For a start, you're not exactly going to 'stand out' in the professional world - everyone has one nowadays, it's more experience that companies are looking for, which you have to get whether or not you have a degree.

Secondly, there's the very high chance that, like me, you'll go into uni with your mind very specifically set on an idea, and come out with a completely different one. Going into university, I wanted to be a TV presenter; coming out, a radio presenter. Now, I'm not even 100% what I want to do. My degree is in media/media writing, so probably I should stay in that field - but I know there's a chance I'll find something outside of the media that appeals to me. I do have uni to thank for realising that TV presenting is something I don't want to do - I was so sure it was the perfect career for me, until I experienced it and realised it felt COMPLETELY different to how I thought it would. Without experiencing it there, I would have surely struggled fruitlessly to get into the area, then fought tooth and nail to get the opportunity in the real world, only to realise possibly years later it wasn't something I was interested in. And without uni, I would never have experienced radio presenting, something I really enjoyed and did alongside my studies at the universities radio station. What's more, I gained experience in other things that really appealed to me, such as journalism, and I was able to expand on that by doing other things besides my studies, such as writing for the student magazine, to help expand my CV. All that was right on my doorstep; I literally had to ask, and I was able to do it. Getting experience like that is far more tiresome, time consuming and difficult in 'the real world'.

By far the most important uni experience to me was living without parents or guardians for the first time. Going to uni is like little iddy biddy baby steps to coming into 'the real world' (every time I write that, I read it in a spooky voice in my head...), rather than shoe horning yourself into it. You have to pay bills and rent, you have to keep on top of your loans and overdrafts, you have to handle your finances well (otherwise you can't afford food for the last month or so of uni - come on, admit it, we've all made this mistake!). What's more, you can come and go as you please, you have to do your own food shopping (exciting for the first, what, three shops, then you end up going hungry for a week because you can't be bothered to go), you can stay out all night, do whatever you please... it's the perfect opportunity to discover yourself as an adult.

Though living alone was surely the most important bit of uni, the best part had to be the people. It's not a lie when they say you meet some of your closest friends at uni - I know I've met some people I will always keep in contact with. Sure, I met people I'd rather forget too, and I probably had some of the biggest arguments of my life at uni, but it really shrinks into significance when you think of the great people you've met. Lifelong friends, particularly when they have the same professional interests as you, will always benefit your life in some way or other, even if it's just having someone along for the ride with you.

So, back to the question at hand... WOULD I go to uni with the current raised prices?

I believe I would. It really is an experience that can't be missed; I learnt a heck of a lot about myself in those three short years, which I believe is an irreplaceable experience and one that will benefit me for the rest of my life. I met people I couldn't now imagine my life without. I gained experience and a fancy smancy degree in an area of personal interest, making it more enjoyable than school (I still shudder whenever anyone mentions trig...). I learnt how to take care of myself. I'm in a lot of debt despite having the cheaper fees, but a small part of me says... so what? You only life once. Having a degree will help you achieve that well-paying job that should hopefully help you pay it back sooner rather than later anyway. And lots of people are in debt because of uni. I really would do it all over again if I could. They say it's one of the best experiences of your life, and after having done it all myself, it's pretty easy to see why.

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