University and students, on the whole, are depicted in many different ways in various forms of media.
In many English papers, they go to similar extremes on both ends of the scale, one week making out that students are binge-drinking party animals who need to control themselves, and the next saying we are the only generation set to be worse off than our parents….
So where is the middle ground?
Well, funnily enough, the middle ground tends to be found in the reality of life at University.
There will indeed be the odd party, and there will undoubtedly be a number of students who don’t take it as seriously as they should.
But, for the majority of us, University is exactly what people try and prepare us for: a rite of passage.
In many ways, University delays your journey into adulthood. If you leave school at 16 or 18 and find a job, there is the potential to get your own place, buy a nice car, and find a long-term partner before many of us who carry on to higher education even finish our degrees!
So whilst at University, in one sense, it almost seems like those who left school before us are overtaking us in terms of the journey to our eventual careers and ‘real lives’ if you will! And it makes you feel like you almost need to catch up with these friends when you leave…..
Now, this can go one of two ways. It can, to continue the film reference theme, send you into a Dustin Hoffman style soul searching a la The Graduate, or it can make you step back and look at all you learn and achieve whilst at University.
And, though the first is tempting, in my mind, the second is significantly more productive.
For example, whilst at University, though living in shared accommodation, you do learn a lot of the key things to look for when house hunting. You learn the importance of paying bills and rent on time, finding good providers for gas, electricity, water and wi-fi, and maintaining a high standard of cleanliness in your accommodation to please your landlord.
Yes, the majority of these are paid for by Student Finance (if you are an international student, this does not apply 😦 ), but when working and living in your own place, you will still be receiving money from one source, which you will have to manage efficiently and transfer accordingly to a landlord or letting agency. The experience at University will teach you how to budget, and how strict you have to be with your budget, in order to meet the payments you need to make.
From a working perspective as well, you become far more aware of meeting deadlines.
Yes, whilst at school, there were homework and exams that had certain dates to be in by and that you had to attend, respectively, but at University, where you are in charge of managing your own workload in all of your separate modules, both in and out of lectures, it gives a far greater level of appreciation to what has to be done to meet deadlines with the highest level of work possible… a skill that will undoubtedly serve you well in the workplace in the years to come.
And finally, potentially the most important of all…. how to deal with people.
In lectures, part-time jobs, accommodation, sports teams, and various other situations at University, you will be faced with all kinds of different personalities. Some of these you will bond with, and find agreeable with your own, and others you will want to run so far away from… you couldn’t even see them when looking through the world’s biggest telescope with binoculars attached on the end.
But you learn to accept that this is part of life. Either in your job, your housing situation, or any of the other places named above. You learn to take a more relaxed approach to those you don’t like, and excel when working with those you do.
Yet again, another key life skill that will last you through the ages.
So whilst at University, we all have the odd moment where we feel slightly inadequate. Like things are moving far slower than we would like them to, and that we just want to get up and out and start getting things done.
Sometimes, I am particularly guilty of over-thinking and feeling like I am almost falling behind on occasions whilst at University, despite all the jobs and other roles I take on.
I feel like the outside world is moving all around me, and I am not quite as involved with it and adult as I would like to be at this point in life.
But then I take a step back… look at all I have learnt whilst I have been at University, not just about work and my chosen subject area, but about life and people in general, and realise all I have accomplished since I have been here and feel pretty damn good.
And for those who are prospective students reading this, I am sure that one day you will have one of these moments… and hopefully you will have done all you can to feel the same :-).
‘You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure….But don’t worry, you will someday!’