Jeeeez. It’s been a while. The whole of May and now half of June has passed, and while I started a whole bunch of stuff here, it never really got finished. University took over my whole life for most of May, and then I was at home for the bank holiday weekend, and then I started a new summer job this month too. So now I’ve gone from university, an internship, a part-time waitressing job and very little free time to a part-time summer office job, a part-time waitressing job at a restaurant which is currently understaffed and only slightly more free time. But still not much. And most of that free time I’ve had has been spent either playing The Sims or watching Jane the Virgin. Writing has been kind of difficult – but I think I’m over the worst of it, now I’ve not had to write anything.
In between both jobs and The Sims and Jane, I’ve been thinking about my time at university – in particular, was it worth it? Did I make the right choice? How has it impacted my life? What’s changed in the last three years? When I first started thinking about it, my knee-jerk reaction was a resounding “no.” Honestly? I don’t feel much smarter than I did at eighteen. I’m in a lot more debt, I’ve no real guarantee of a permanent job, I don’t feel any more skilled in my field than I did before and I didn’t feel I’d made all the meaningful bonds people talk about when they talk about their university experiences. Sure, I had friends, but films and television portray unversity as the time where you make so many friends who stay with you for life and, particularly in my second year, I didn’t feel like my experiences matched up to that.
I won’t lie, I was stuck in this mindset for a good few days after finishing the year. It wasn’t until after I’d been home and talked to my mother about finishing university that my mindset changed. My mum had mentioned to me that I’d never have got to spend four months in New York without going to university, which got me thinking: what else have I done that I couldn’t/wouldn’t have done without university?
Obviously, NYC is the one that stands out. But I made so many good friends on that trip, on both sides of the Atlantic, that will (hopefully) be friends for life. I first met my boyfriend when I was out there. I would have never been on a flight alone, much less a long-haul flight. I wouldn’t have had that experience of living in a different country, and everything else that comes with it, and I am grateful to my university for allowing me that experience.
Similarly, university allowed me to get out of my small, seaside hometown and live in the big city by myself. Being able to experience London and all of its offerings as a resident rather than a tourist has been life-changing, and I am forever grateful for that too. Its not common that a single person gets to live in both London and New York before they’re 21, and I’m lucky to be such a person. Big city living aside though, even mundane things like paying rent and bills was a new experience that I wouldn’t have got if I’d stayed living with my parents.
University and distance allowed me to see fully what a piece of shit my emotionally abusive and manipulative ex-boyfriend is. While ultimately I wasn’t the one to cut off contact in the end (something I’m still somewhat salty about), at the point in which all ties were cut, I was looking for any reason. In the aftermath of that, university and the indepence it has afforded me has allowed me to regain some self-esteem and confidence, and a certainty to not let any man treat me so badly again. Such awful treatment for so long as of course left its scars, but without the guilt, both self-imposed as a result of the ruined friendships, and from him for never being good enough, I find it easier to reconcile now than I think I would have in any other position. My only regret is I didn’t have a chance to do this all sooner.
And, yes, even though at first I didn’t think so, I learned a lot during the last three years, both academically and non-academically. I made two short films during my time at uni – a documentary and a comedy-drama. I successfully wrote about gender in action films and the Lego movie as a dystopian film. I researched and pitched a Black Widow film, and very well too! I’ve wrote scripts and worked in content marketing and as a result of studying, having an internship and working part-time all at once, I’m able to compartmentalise and my time management is better (professionally, at least). Even now, my summer job and my trip to Amsterdam in September is all a result of my time at university.
Everything I thought I hadn’t got out of my university experience, I definitely did get and beyond. Mia in 2013 would never have expected to achieve half of what Mia in 2016 has. To be anything other than proud and grateful would feel disingenous. I definitely did make the right choice, and the impact of my university experience is still reaping benefits, for the time being, at least.
I could still do without all that student debt, though.