Large group of college graduates tossing their caps into the air
Life Lessons

Lessons I Learned at University – 10 Years On

Rewritten from 21 January 2019 – formerly Lessons I Learned at University

When I first wrote this post in 2019, it’s safe to say that I was pretty bitter. Of all the universities in England, I had personal beef with the University of Northampton thanks to a pretty negative three years and subsequent bout of severe depression that followed. If you’ve followed my blog from the start, you’ll know that I really didn’t enjoy my time at university. Well, there were parts that I did enjoy – like going out for cocktails with my friend and the 90p vodka-cokes in MoMo’s. Not to mention my yearly trip to Paperchase. Generally though, I struggled a hell of a lot.

This year marks 10 years since I graduated with my psychology degree. A degree that I’ve barely used other than to diagnose myself with virtually every single disorder in the DSM-IV (if you know, you know). I’ll be honest, I’m still pretty bitter about the whole thing. It still feels like Northampton Uni took a massive crap on my academic career (long story short, through lack of accreditation, my degree is essentially useless), and I’m not sure that’s something I’ll ever be okay with – I mean, it was three years of my life down the toilet. But as I approach 10 years since my graduation (and that makes me feel old AF), I wanted to take a look back over those initial lessons I learned. How has my opinion changed? Do I still feel that way? What have I learned? I guess we’ll find out.

Pinterest graphic - Lessons I Learned at University - 10 Years On

Group Work is the Be All and End All

Whatever university you go to, the chances are you’ll be hit with endless group work. The main argument they always put forward would be “in the real world at work you’ll have to work as part of a team with people you don’t like” – yes babes, that’s retail in a nutshell – however, you forgot a key part of the ‘real world’ and that’s the fact you’re being paid. If you’re working with people you can’t stand, at least you’ll get a paycheck at the end of the day to make it all worthwhile. There’s something VERY wrong about paying to be somewhere yet having to rely on your peers to earn your grades. That’s especially the case when there’s that one person – there’s always one – who never shows up to meetings, never pulls the weight and swoops in at the last minute to take the credit. 

I never agreed with getting graded as a group. How is it okay to get a relatively decent grade when you’ve schlepped your ass off for weeks, yet the slacker of the group gets the exact same grade for doing sweet FA? 

Happy ending though, I’ve had multiple incidents in the ‘real world’ working as part of a team, and I haven’t killed anyone.

I Have Very Little Patience

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very short temper. I was never a very patient person, but since wasting three years of my life to a useless degree, I have even less of it. In particular, there were two types of people that would instantly destroy any ounce of patience I had on a given day.

First of all, we’ve got the people who constantly ask questions in lectures. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about asking a question. I get you want to learn, but at the end of the day, there were the poor buggers like me that had to catch a bus at the end of this lecture. That’s what emails are for. Email your tutor and you’ve got a whole bank of questions answered IN ACTUAL WRITING. 

Secondly, you’ve got those people that LOVE to chip in with their experiences in every single lecture. I’m sure that the anecdote from your gap year and how it significantly contributed towards your personal growth and spiritual journey is fascinating, but again, I have a bus to catch to get me out of this hell-hole.

Getting a Job Doesn’t Hurt

I cruised through my first year of university using my student loan and my overdraft, but when you’re so far into said overdraft that your next loan payment gets you up to a nice sturdy zero, you realise that it’s not the best way to be living. At the start of my second year, I got myself a job, and it made such a difference. It meant that my husband and I could stop buying the ‘basic’ branded food in Morrisons (we used to play the yellow game – how many of their basics products could we get in our trolley?), and we actually started to save a bit. I made some great friends and began what would eventually be a seven year career in optics. There were many great memories including discounts on my ridiculously high-prescription glasses and a night out which ended with me spending a good few hours in the A&E of Northampton General Hospital following a copious amount of wine, shots and vodka (to the NHS, I’m so sorry I wasted your time and puked everywhere, I was just excited that I seemed to finally have friends). 

Plus, when it came towards the end of our third year, and I had no hope of getting a job relevant to my degree, it meant I could transfer to another store nearer home, meaning that letting agents were actually willing to rent properties to us.

I Probably Should Have Gone Into Halls

In the long-run, I have no regrets for the way things panned out with me and my husband. We moved in together and spent three years in our shitty little flat which will always be our very first home together. However, there is a part of me that thinks that if I had gone into halls, I probably wouldn’t have the mental health issues I have today. Living in halls means that you’re forced to deal with the likes of freshers’ flu, shared spaces, and just generally dirty people. On the other hand though, it might have made me ten times worse and I could be wishing that my OCD was only as bad as it is at the moment.

Mental health aside, I feel like living in halls probably would have helped me make friends quicker. After all those crappy ‘induction’ days, by the time I officially started my course, everyone was already in their friendship groups from their halls, and as a result I majorly struggled to make a connection with anyone. Thankfully, I managed to make 2 really close friendships eventually, but those first few months were intensely lonely and really took a toll on my mental health. Living in halls might have forced me to interact with people more. However, no one knows how it would have affected my relationship – we’re now married with a house and a cat so…

Textbooks Cost WAY Too Much and They Will NOT Last For Your Whole Degree

The whole textbook thing is built on LIES. I’m assuming this isn’t just the situation for psychology courses, either. There was a particular book that we were advised to buy in our first year, it cost £60. Two whole food-shops. Despite how expensive it was, we had it drummed into us that it was incredibly important we all own a copy of said textbook. The library only had a set amount of copies and it was absolutely ESSENTIAL for our degree that we possess our own copies. Probably around 90% of first years (including myself) bought this stupid book. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very useful book and cemented most of the content in my essays.

However, cut to our second year, where, in the very first lecture, we were given a reading list of what felt like every single psychology textbook out there. Apart from the obvious. Someone asked if we could still use it, and the response? No. We’re in our second year now. We need to be using a ‘wider range of resources,’ and, here’s the kicker: they’d released a new edition recently anyway. It got better too – if we were to be seen referencing this particular book too many times, we would be marked down. Excuse me while I slam my head on the desk repeatedly.

Loneliness SUCKS

When you struggle to make friends as much as I did, you get homesick really quickly. I missed my mum, and I missed my friends to the point where I was severely depressed. Thankfully, having my husband (or BF as he was at the time) with me was a huge help, and I genuinely don’t know how I would have coped without him. There are many things that being so goddamn lonely taught me, but the main thing is this – keep in touch with your friends and home, and for the love of god, don’t get upset every time you see them enjoying themselves without you. Go to the freshers’ events, try to talk to people, and finally, don’t be the weird couple who barely break away from each other. Having said that though, it worked for us – we’re married now.

I’ll freely put my hands up and admit that I’m not the best person to make any sort of guide to university. Let’s be honest, I still have A LOT of beef with the whole situation, and hearing words like ‘UCAS’ and ‘student timetable’ still fill me with anxiety. I have multiple regrets – I wish I’d have chosen another university for a start (long story). The new University of Northampton Waterside Campus and the amount of money spaffed on it makes me feel a little bit sick, especially when you consider the fact that my class and I spent the whole of our second year in shitty portacabins. I remember having lectures in the health buildings where they studied nursing and feeling super jealous that they had much better facilities, and also really curious about them (similar to whenever I’m in a hospital – I always have to know what’s happening behind those doors). I remember at one point wishing that I’d picked a mental health nursing degree as it seemed far more interesting than an entire module about sports psychology which we were forced to sit through. To be fair, if I’d graduated with that kind of degree I’m pretty sure I would have felt less of a failure than I did.

As much as I still have severe beef with my university experience, I’m trying to hold on to the good things that came about as a result. Namely, my relationship. At the time of writing, my husband and I are approaching 14 years together, something which I’m not sure would have happened if we went our separate ways when we went to university. Mainly because I have severe abandonment issues.

There’s also the job side of things. If I didn’t get my job in optics while I was at university, I wouldn’t have transferred to my local store and met my two best friends. Hell, I may not even be working in the job I am now. 

So, maybe the main thing I’ve learned is that perhaps I just need to wind my neck in and move on. I had a shitty three years, but in realistically, things have still turned out pretty good. Apologies, it appears this was yet another pointless rant of mine.

2 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned at University – 10 Years On”

    1. I wish they didn’t put so much emphasis on it in schools – I feel I’d have gotten far more out of an apprenticeship or something! Thank you for your comment x


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