Second Chances: What Would I Do Differently At University?

Monday, July 24, 2017


I can't believe it's been a year since I graduated from university!
For those of you who don't know, let me explain. I studied Politics and Sociology at the University of Leeds and I graduated with a 2:1.

While I was glad I went away to university, I had many issues during my time there (which have absolutely nothing to do with the university itself), mostly with other people. I didn't get on with most of the people I lived with, and I distanced myself from my course-friends because they treated me very poorly. In fact, I don't speak to any of the people I lived with, and I don't speak to my course-friends anymore (except for one).

I don't regret going to university. I decided I wanted to go to university at the age of 14 when I went on a school trip to a university in South London. At one point I thought I might never ever be able to go to university so I'm really glad I did - I was able to going against all odds. I enjoyed my course - it really helped me to strengthen my writing skills, and that's extremely useful for me because I now work as a creative copywriter. I also joined societies, got into writing and started my blog while I was at university.

Also, as much as I hated being skint and the nightlife, I actually loved being a student and I loved getting myself involved in university life. I loved the flexibility of my schedule and for the first time in my life, I started to enjoy learning. I hated school (for many personal reasons) and I hated the way I was taught to test, pass exams and tell the examiners what they want to hear. At university, the style of learning and assessments is very different: you're expected to analyse, critique and develop your own ideas. That style of learning suits me a lot better and it's the reason why university was the only time I did very well in my education (apart from my GCSEs.)

However, there were so many parts of university that I really disliked. I would rather not dwell on regrets but unfortunately I still get upset about certain things that I went through at university because I was treated so badly by so many people, and I was not able to deal with the situations effectively and process my feelings properly. I went to university with (very) high hopes of just being myself and meeting others like me, but I was let down constantly. I wanted to have a small but secure and stable group of friends that I could rely on and still stay in touch with post-graduation, but things didn't work out that way for me. If I could, I would do-over a lot of my university experiences and the outcomes would have been so much better. I would like to go back to university in the future to study for a Masters degree and I know that that would be my second chance to do things differently.

I now accept that there were a lot of things that happened to me that I cannot be responsible for, and I understand that there were circumstances that were beyond my control. I was not (and will never be) responsible for other people's words and actions towards me. I also take complete solace in the fact that the people who were nasty to me at university are no longer in my life because I kept my distance and cut them off while I was involved with my studies, and it's the best thing. Life is too short to put up with other people's crap and I reached a point where I'd had enough. After all, I didn't go to university so that I could become heavily engrossed in drama. I went to university to focus on my studies and further myself academically.

So I feel inspired to write this post by Kirsty Leanne, who wrote a similar one back in March. Here are the things I would have done differently if I could rewind and restart my time at university all over again.


I would have lived on my own.
I didn't want to live with other people in the first place, and my experiences pretty much confirmed the reasons why. Time and time again, I was constantly dealing with mess and filth, and vicious flatmates/housemates who were very horrible to me and would take my kindness for weakness. If I could have my time again, I would have looked around for affordable studio flats where I could live by myself and enjoy my peaceful and drama-free sanctuary, and I would have worked incredibly hard to find a job to fund my home, which leads me onto my next point...

I would have started working.
I tried to get back into retail and I tried to go back to my old workplace, but they kept on messing me around. I would have tried my best to find a flexible job that would allow me to focus on my studies and well as tiding myself over financially. In my final year I did work several ambassador roles, but I definitely would have made work my second priority after my studies earlier on, and I would have focused on freelancing instead of struggling to get into 'typical' jobs, which leads me onto my next point... (dear oh dear).

I would have started freelancing.
I tried to get into freelancing while I was at university because I needed a flexible job and some cash but I always struggled to find work. I'd sign up to all the usual freelance sites and apply for projects, yet I had no luck. If I could go back again, I would have worked a lot harder to find freelance projects in so many different areas. I would have worked harder to develop myself as a freelance writer, which leads me on to my next point... (goodness me).

I would have started working towards my freelance career.
I have always wanted to go freelance. Deep down inside I knew that I always wanted to be my own boss and work for myself (though I don't begrudge those who work for someone else.) I wish I'd started working towards building up my freelance career so that I would be prepared (and a little bit better off in a professional sense) once I graduated. I'm glad I freelance now, but I wish I'd started a lot sooner.

I would have moved straight back to London after graduation...
...instead of accepting the first job that came my way. I wanted to move to Manchester after graduation but that didn't happen so I ended up staying in Leeds instead. Big mistake. I ended up working in an awful job and living in an awful houseshare. If I could rewind back to over a year ago, I would have done my research before taking on any offer that came my way, and I wouldn't have accepted it, as it would have saved me a lot of stress, hurt and upset in the long run, and I wouldn't have had to deal with being misled, manipulated and messed around. In fact, I should have packed up my things and headed straight down to London as soon as I graduated and taken a bit of a break, and I really regret not doing that in the first place.

I would have made better friends.
I think that when the idea of university is sold to pupils in sixth forms up and down the country, there is an assumption that you will go to university and make wonderful friends for life. In actual fact, all experiences are different and the reality is that some don't make those friends for life. I know I didn't. I have one friend from university - I met her on the foundation year course that I did in the very first year - and that's it. I don't have the solid group of friends that I wanted. Unfortunately most of the so-called 'friends' I had were never good friends in the first place, so I kept my distance and cut off contact eventually. I'm glad to have at least one friend from university and I still keep up to date with some people from my course via social media.

It just goes to show that quality is much more important than quantity. But it would have been nice to have had a small group of friends that I could at least WhatsApp every now and again so it's such a shame. If I could have my time at university again, I would have made more of an effort to seek out (and make) better friends, instead of falling (unwittingly) into toxic friendships and acquaintanceships with people who were so hellbent on hurting me, tearing me down and destroying me.


I would have learned to be a lot more assertive.
I won't elaborate on this too much but I wish I could have been a lot more assertive instead of putting up with other people's crap. Assertiveness is something I've always struggled with and I still struggle with it now. Some people think it's okay to put me down, take advantage of my kindness and get away with it, and that absolutely infuriates me. It's actually affected the way I view interpersonal relationships. There were times where I did stand up for myself and called certain people out on their toxic behaviour. They hated me for that and I ended up falling with a lot of people, but that's okay. If people hate me for standing up for myself then that's their problem, not mine.


But I don't regret...

Keeping my distance and cutting ties.
I reached a point at university where I simply had enough of being treated badly, and I was gradually losing focus of my goal, so I decided to keep my distance from toxic friends, acquaintances and flatmates and get back to focusing on myself and my degree. I was still very hurt and upset by the way I was treated, but by cutting toxic people off and keeping my distance, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt a lot more content and liberated, and I felt so much better within myself. I also felt a lot more confident in myself and my abilities. When I was surrounded by toxic people I literally had my life and happiness sucked out of me, but by keeping them out of my life, I feel like a dark cloud has been lifted.

Studying my course.
I received a lot of bitter and nasty comments from some of the girls I lived in my first two years of university. They hated the fact that I studied a foundation year (a widening participation course) and they often implied that the courses I studied (Social Science foundation year and joint honours Politics and Sociology) were not worthy courses to study because I didn't have much contact hours per week. Quite often, some of the girls would say things like "You have no work, you have no right to complain/speak about your course, you're using your course as an excuse not to go out clubbing" and I was very hurt by this. I don't think anyone has the right to tell someone how they should or shouldn't feel about anything. I take my education very seriously so I really resented the fact that some of the girls I lived with would use my degree as a weapon against me. Looking back, I could see that those girls were just vicious, bitter, insecure and jealous - they were never the kind of girls to be happy for others and they would never cheer you on or celebrate other people's achievements. Instead, they were just two-faced, miserable, toxic and bitchy, and they expected everyone to kiss their arses and be exactly like them.

I'm not ashamed of anything. I don't regret studying a foundation year in Social Science and I don't regret studying a degree in Politics and Sociology and working hard to get a 2:1. Why should I? I'm not going to let a couple of idiots ruin my achievements.

I will always be immensely proud!

Sticking to my guns in some areas...
While assertiveness is something I've always struggled with, I'm so glad that I did have the courage to stick to my guns on certain matters. At university, there were so many people putting pressure on me to do things that I did not want to do. I'm so glad I said no and didn't bow down to pressure, despite other people's attempts to get extremely pushy with me and cross my boundaries. At the end of the day, if you get pushy with me, you're not going to succeed and you'll only end up pushing me away. I'm not going to tolerate having anyone mould me into something I'm not and I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for something I'm not.

Joining societies and getting involved in student life.
If you go to university, I'd 100% recommend getting involved in societies. It's a major part of the university experience and it's a great way to explore your passions and interests, as well as meeting new people. I must admit, the LUU played a big part in my decision to go to Leeds, and that's because the unions has over 250 societies available so I had a lot of choice! I joined a few societies but my favourite was the Lippy No Gloss society, an alternative women's magazine. I wrote for the magazine for three years and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read my posts here.


Starting my blog.
I started my blog while I was at university and I have no regrets (obviously!) I started my blog because I wanted a hobby and I wanted to set up my portfolio. It's almost four years since I started my blog, and it's been through so many changes, but now it's gone from strength to strength. I've achieve a number of opportunities via the blog and I will always be grateful for this. I also feel blessed to be able to put my passion to work via my blog: I love beauty, fashion and lifestyle, and I'm so glad to have my own personal platform where I can showcase my interests and have total creative control.

All in all, I have no regrets. I'm so glad I went to university. It's a shame that so many things didn't work out but I can't say I didn't try - because I did. Sometimes, certain things are just out of my control and I can only be responsible for myself - I can't be responsible for other people's words and actions towards myself.


Did you go to university? What would you have done differently if you could go back again?

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2 comments

  1. I feel like we have so much in common. I had similar experiences at uni in terms of not seeming to fit in anywhere - but in my case, I can see in hindsight that there's more I could've done. I think I tried too hard to fit in with people who just weren't my people, instead of investing time in those who I clearly had much more in common with. Great post!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that sounds so similar! I tried my hardest to fit in but the problem was that I was trying to hard to fit in with people who clearly didn't have any respect for me. I wish I'd spent more time trying to find people I had more in common with.

      Thank you!

      :)

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