Life After University

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Sam Allen, Contributor

Hindsight is a valuable thing. Maybe not to the beholder but certainly to those it can be passed onto. I spoke to several graduates from across the UK about their time at university. They reflect on what they enjoyed, what they didn’t enjoy, what they regret and give advice to those yet to come out the other side.

Ricky Thompson is an Online Journalist at UTV. He studied Journalism and News Practice at Teesside University, England and graduated in 2013.

Why did you choose to study your course?
I wanted a university degree for the prestige and I chose the particular course – Journalism and News Practice – because I wanted to be a broadcaster and thought it would be a good qualification to have.
What was the best part about your time at university?
As I went to study away from home, the best part was living in a different place and getting to know a new area.
What was the worst part about your time at university?
The lack of practical experience. I became completely dissatisfied with academia and wanted more by way of active learning. In a subject like journalism, there’s no need to write essays, study philosophers or listen to lecturers drone on. In journalism you learn more in a month of actively working than you do in three years of a course.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I would never do it again if I had the choice to go back in time but if I were to do it again I would try to be more proactive in getting experience myself, outside of classes.
Do you think your time at university changed you? If so, how?
Yes – it definitely made me more confident and improved my communication skills. It also let me learn what I was good at and what I didn’t do so well.
Did you find adjusting to post-university life difficult? If so, how and what did you do to cope with the transition?
Not at all. I went back and did another course with more practical experience included and I had added confidence after receiving a First Class Honours.
What advice would you give to a final year student who is about to leave university?
Aim high and don’t think you’ll not get a particular job because you’re not good enough etc. If you present well and try hard enough, you can achieve what you want to. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true.
What advice would you give a fresher who is just starting their university experience?
Don’t waste the opportunity – yes, university involves having a lot of fun, drinking and partying but remember you’re paying a fortune for a first class education millions of people don’t have access to. Make the most of it or you could regret it.

Amy McCall is an English Language Teacher in Spain. She studied English with Linguistics at Queen’s University Belfast and graduated in 2014.

Why did you choose to study your course?
I chose to study English, probably like most people who study it, because I love literature and jumped at the chance to study it for three years.
What was the best part about your time at university?
Trying my hand at different things and making amazing friends through that. I tried netball, Arabic, the Red Cross and got involved with the Christian Union.
What was the worst part about your time at university?
I don’t think there was a ‘worst part’ of university. I loved it all.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I would still push myself to try new things, meet new people and go out of my comfort zone.
Do you think your time at university changed you? If so, how?
Yes-living away from home makes you evaluate your life, maybe for the first time. You are away from family and everything is new; you have to think through what you know and believe to be true.
Did you find adjusting to post-university life difficult? If so, how and what did you do to cope with the transition?
Straight after university I worked in one of the chaplaincies for a year, so I still felt like a student in many ways. It was a nice transition year before going into the world of work.
What advice would you give to a final year student who is about to leave university?
My advice would be don’t panic if you’re not sure what you’re doing with the rest of your life. It will work itself out. Try new things you like and might be good at and explore how you could do what you love.
What advice would you give a fresher who is just starting their university experience?
Enjoy these years as you’re unlikely to ever have another experience like this. Use them to throw yourself out of your comfort zone and think about new ideas.

Duncan Lannon is currently doing a PGCE at Queen’s University Belfast. He studied English and Modern History at Queen’s University Belfast and graduated in 2014.

Why did you choose to study your course?
Because of some fantastic teachers [from high school] who made me just profoundly interested in History and English. I wasn’t thinking of job prospects although I had teaching at the back of my mind.
What was the best part about your time at university?
I enjoyed the freedom of it. I enjoyed the ability to get involved in lots of activities. And I also enjoyed times I did have to work. So like “all-nighters” in the library were kind of a buzz.
What was the worst part about your time at university?
I didn’t enjoy some of my literature modules. I don’t think I have a poetic mind and I couldn’t identify with some of what they were teaching.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I would learn a language. Probably German or Hindi. Just because it was an amazing opportunity. And it was cheap and I had free time.
Do you think your time at university changed you? If so, how?
I think I’ve just grown more independent and just more confident in making decisions.
Did you find adjusting to post-university life difficult? If so, how and what did you do to cope with the transition?
Yes, I just found the change of pace of life difficult to adjust to. Also many of my friends had moved on. But you always make new friends. I think that’s just a natural part of leaving university life.
What advice would you give to a final year student who is about to leave university?
Have a think about which friends you want to invest in after university life because keeping in touch can be difficult.
What advice would you give a fresher who is just starting their university experience?
I would say just take the opportunity to try new things. Make friends with people you normally wouldn’t befriend and keep an eye out for amazing opportunities because there are loads of them. And don’t forget to work.

Tom Johnson is an Account Executive at PR MEDIACO. He studied English and Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University, England and graduated in 2013.

Why did you choose to study your course?
Originally I started English Literature but I didn’t enjoy it. However I did one module involving fiction writing. So I think by the second semester I decided to change [to creative writing] and I absolutely loved it.
What was the best part about your time at university?
Apart from the free time, I loved the fact that I found out that I could do something I thought I couldn’t do before. I didn’t realise I had it in me to write. It was really a lot of fun.
What was the worst part about your time at university?
My dissertation. I had to write an eight thousand word story and a two thousand word essay about the story. It was very difficult to find inspiration.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I would work harder and spent more time writing.
Do you think your time at university changed you? If so, how?
Yes, definitely. I think it made me think more. Such as more about life, about literature, about myself and what I wanted to do.
Did you find adjusting to post-university life difficult? If so, how and what did you do to cope with the transition?
Yes, I found it hard. It was all on me now. I had to motivate myself to get up and do stuff and figure out my next step. I don’t think there is a way to cope. You just do.
What advice would you give to a final year student who is about to leave university?
Don’t hold back on your aspirations and if you know what you want to do, go do it.
What advice would you give a fresher who is just starting their university experience?
Enjoy it. Work hard. And make sure you get a 2:1.

Laura Cloughley is a Clerical Officer for a public agency. She studied Criminology at Queen’s University Belfast and graduated in 2014.

Why did you choose to study your course?
If I’m honest, I’m still trying to figure that one out. As a child, I could never settle on what I wanted to do and Criminology was the first thing that jumped out at me from the prospectus when I got a copy in Lower Sixth.
What was the best part about your time at university?
For me, the best part was meeting other students in my class. There was a group of us Criminology students that sort of just banded together in fresher’s week and we remained that way right up until we graduated.
What was the worst part about your time at university?
The worst part was having a constant stream of work looming over your head. Of course it was to be expected, but it was difficult trying to find time to do the different pieces of work when the deadlines were in close proximity of each other.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I would probably reconsider the course I chose. While Criminology was interesting, it didn’t really open up any particular career path for me.
Do you think your time at university changed you? If so, how?
Definitely; both academically and socially. Academically, it helped me to understand what I was good at and what I needed to improve on. Socially, it helped bring me out of my shell a lot more than at school.
Did you find adjusting to post-university life difficult? If so, how and what did you do to cope with the transition?
I’ll have to be honest I’m still finding it difficult. Thankfully, some of my friends have been feeling the same, so it’s nice to know you’re not entirely on your own. Even just talking to them and knowing that we’re all in the same boat has helped me cope a lot better than I thought.
What advice would you give to a final year student who is about to leave university?
Take each day as it comes. It might be hard to transition to post-university life but it gets easier. There are thousands out there going through the exact same thing.
What advice would you give a fresher who is just starting their university experience?
Go to class – it really helps in the long run! Don’t be afraid to approach someone in your course and talk to them – they’ll probably really appreciate someone making an effort.

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