How University Changed Our Lives – An afterthought by the Class of 2020

University is the creme de la creme of the education hierarchy. It’s three, or four or seven years of striving for greatness in an institution designed to equip you with the baggage you need to make your way through your field of interest.

But what it actually entails on the inside… well, I’ll let these 10 final year and newly graduated students from all over the world tell you.

*names have been left out to keep everyone’s privacy

‘How University Changed my life…’

“University itself is not a golden ticket to success, respect and self-worth. I have had to repeat this mantra to myself a lot over the weeks post my final exams.

Whilst university has set me up with life-long friends, enviable friday night escapades, and a cavalcade of legal trivia, it has also imposed exhaustive traditional expectations upon me. Expectations to always do my best; to constantly seek for opportunities; and at the same time to perfectly balance study, work and social hours. This is the reality only barely hinted at in campus tours and open days. The learning that one does at university is not tantamount to a successful career, but more so your own personal growth.

After attending university, I now see that law school was just the beginning, a teaser before the real hard work starts.”
~ S

“The three years of university passed so quickly. Even though it was rushed in the end, I think I learned and experienced all that I needed to, at least for this period of my life. I graduate university with a wider understanding of the world and its people.

I’ve made friends from different walks of life, who also have had different experiences that they brought to university with them. I entered thinking that it would be a straight line from getting a degree and then going into a job that matched that degree but evidently it doesn’t work that way and it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s an experience of independence and freedom and questions that I will not take for granted and stories that I will forever tell later on in life.”
~ M

“I started university in 2017 and moving from the quiet of Cornwall to busy London was a huge change for me but I was really excited to get away from home. Although I was really excited, I struggled with home sickness during my first semester. Luckily I’m very fortunate to have friends and family around the city but it definitely took a lot for me to admit that I was unhappy and to ask for help.

I spent the majority of my time at university with the women’s rugby team and it was al the girls there who definitely made my university experience as good as it was. All of these things, the good and the bad moments have helped me grow from an 18 year old fresher straight from school in Cornwall to a (hopefully!) more mature 21 year old law graduate.

My future outside of university is far from certain yet, but I have been working throughout lockdown and I’m applying for more vacation schemes and training contracts for legal work in the city.”
~ A

“University has changed my life by essentially just changing who I am as a person. I have changed so much since being at university, as I’ve become more mature, confident, and self-assured.

I am a lot more comfortable in who I allow into my life, and I would definitely say that the friends I hold closest to my heart now are much stronger friendships than ones I’ve had previously, and I’m less afraid to ask for what I need in friendships.

I think essentially I know who I am and what I need from people, and I know what I have to offer, and this understanding of myself means that I treat myself better, and hopefully I treat others better too! I’m studying English literature, and I’m hoping to study a Masters in Victorian literature after I graduate, but who knows.”
~ J

“I can best describe my university journey as a really fast roller coaster. I feel that so much has happened and that the time has absolutely flown by. I honestly don’t know where I’d be in my mental growth if I didn’t go to university.

It has opened my mind to a whole world of cultures, topics and people. I’ve had lonely depressing times, meaningful relationships and amazing friendships. My time at university has probably been the best time of my life and the most growth I’ve done as a person.

However, now that I’m done, I kind of feel lost, I have no idea where my life is going, the adult world is actually a scary place, and figuring out my next step is difficult and frightening. It’s the next chapter and having to go out into the world and meet the next group of people on your journey is not something I look forward to.” 
~ B

“Do I think I made the most of my time at uni? Hahaha – don’t make me laugh. I spent the majority of my first year the ‘do not leave your room, do not talk to anyone, do not pass go’ kind of depressed. I’d imagined the whole movie-montage ideal experience where I’d find the perfect group of friends and study for hours every night and blah blah blah, you know the rest.

In reality, like I mentioned, I’d been a recluse for a good chunk of it and I actually can’t recall starting an essay earlier than a day or two before the deadline. I know this all sounds terrible, but looking back at who I was before I started uni, I’m sort of amazed at how much I’ve changed.

Studying Global Health was incredible – my parents keep telling me how they think uni ‘radicalised’ me, but it was actually the first place I felt able to express my opinions without judgement and learn things that I thought actually mattered.  I’ve just accepted an offer to do a master’s in International Relations – something I thought I hated in high school, but realised I loved during my undergrad.

And the one time I actually managed to convince myself to go out for once during my first year, I met someone who’d become one of the best friends I’ve ever made. After that, I started to realise the more social you are, the more friends you make – weird, right? 

I’m really excited to start my masters – I’m viewing it as a sort of re-do of uni, where I can be more confident, social, studious (still debating this one) and make the most of the one year of higher education I have left, but I’m certain that I wouldn’t be able to do all that without the great experiences I’ve had over the last 3 years.”
~ C

“I moved to Europe to study when I was 20 years old. I’ve always wanted to move away from home, so I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to. Being the fun, single and curious girl I was at the time, it was easy for me to make a lot friends in the 1st year. Since everyone found themselves lonely in this new place, everyone was seeking to make friends and we were relying on each other to feel more at home.

The first year consisted of many birthday dinners, group dinners, end of credit week dinners, you name it. We always found something to celebrate! However, this all changed by the 3rd year. Maybe it’s because school got more serious or maybe it’s because everyone started to just keep to themselves, including me. A birthday that was once a reason to party turned into a simple Facebook message.

Now as a 25 year old, I am happy to have had those memories from the first few years of school but also glad that each year that passed by, I grew up in more ways than one. School is extremely hard, but everyone knows that. Although I missed out on many family events including birthdays, weddings and many births in my family, I am so so grateful for my university life.

Uni has taught me that the yummy cocktails at the end of the week, tastes much much better after all your tests have been successful. Through the years I’ve learnt to be grateful for every accomplishment, no matter how small. While uni teaches you about independence, adulting, bla bla..for me uni is where I learnt to rely on myself and to calm myself down when my anxieties came creeping in. I learned so much about who I am as a person. I learnt to be at peace with myself if I opted to take a nap or do a face mask instead of diving straight into a textbook when I got home from school. Someone once told me that uni is the hardest thing you’ll ever go through, and I believe that.

If I can survive these 6 years of university, I can handle anything.” 
~ A

Let’s rewind back to July 2017. I’d just received my IB results and now my summer could truly begin, safe in the knowledge that my place at university was guaranteed: I’d made my offer.

Looking back now, and ahead to my final year, I definitely think that university helped me to develop as a person. Over the last three years I’ve learnt so much about myself, my strengths, and weaknesses; I feel much more resilient now than I did three years ago. Also, learning such a wide spread of modules has helped me to understand the sort of career I’m interested in.

Ultimately, university introduced me to a totally different lifestyle where I really feel that I learned to become more independent and self-reliant. I believe that my university experience has given me the mindset and skills that I know I’ll need for the future!
~ S

“Three years ago, I left my small island and travelled to a city I knew very little about, except for the fact that they have a reputable football team and the people have strong accents.

I remember arriving in Liverpool with my mother, feeling scared and nervous but there was also a tingle of excitement. I was no longer in my comfort zone, surrounded by the safety of my family but rather I had to learn how to survive on my own. This allowed me to grow as an individual, emotionally and intellectually. I’ve met people from all over the world and I have made friends for life as well as incredible memories.

It wasn’t always easy, I can recall the numerous times where I felt lonely, depressed and defeated (the English weather didn’t help haha). However, those bad moments are only a part of my experience and to some extent they were worth it as I now have a love for football and the scouse accent… oh and a degree of course!”
~ Z

As I write this, I’ve just finished watching the online graduation celebration videos for the Class of 2020. I’ll be honest in that I cried because I was so overwhelmed by how fast the 3 years of my degree passed, and how many emotions and life lessons filled those three flighty years. It was incredibly difficult in many ways but also inevitably rewarding, in that it made me stronger, braver and more prepared to step my foot into the world I want to live in.

University was everything I dreamed of and nothing like I dreamed of. But it wasn’t just being in university which was the experience, but also being at university and everything that comes with the freedom, independence and responsibility, it goes with.

Now that I have my degree, I know I’m proud of myself, but that being said, I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. And that’s okay too.

I took every day one step at a time and as I walk away now with lifelong friends, textbooks I have no idea what to do with now, and experience in saying ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do and scream ‘YES’ to the things I do want to do, I trust that everything is going to turn out just the way it’s meant to.
~ V

Congratulations to all the graduating classes of 2020.

Have you got a university experience that you’d like to share under this post OR write a full post about? Send in your stories to vanillavadzofficial@gmail.com

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