Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Went To University

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When the 10-year challenge was floating around the internet a few weeks ago it made me realise that 2019 marks exactly 10 years since I went to university to study editorial and advertising photography. When I look back now at my time studying there are so many things that I would change and do differently, but they do say hindsight is a wonderful thing for a reason. Creative degrees are always looked at with a little bit of a stigma, and whilst they’re never going to be as important as law or medical degree but I do think there is a lot of value in them. As it’s generally the time of year where people are deciding if they want to go to university or not I thought this post was timely and here is everything I wish I’d known before I went to university.

Shanghai 2010

Shanghai 2010

PICK A COURSE WITH A GOOD AMOUNT OF TEACHING HOURS

Picking a course is incredibly hard, there are so many factors to take into consideration and one of the biggest things for me was that I wanted to choose a course that had a lot of teaching hours. It wasn’t something that I’d thought about at all at first, my sister who had already been to university was the one who really made me think about it and I’m so glad she did because I think it's one of the most important things to factor in. The cost of university is absolutely crazy now, triple what it was when I was studying so when you’re spending so much money on your education you want to make sure you’re quite literally getting your money's worth. Some of the courses that I looked at only involved a couple of days a week which isn’t much at all. Whilst degrees require you to work outside of teaching hours I do believe it’s important to have a good balance of the two. If I remember rightly I was in university 3-4 days a week and they were full days too and having that structure was something that worked well for me. Something else that my course offered me was work experience, again this isn’t something that many creative courses offered at the time and doing those few weeks of work experience were so important for me. There are a lot of things you can learn at university but it can't give you those hands-on experiences like working in your chosen industry can.

scope out the area that you might be living in

I chose to go to university in Cheltenham, a beautiful spa town in the south west of England. I looked at campuses in big cities and whilst they had a lot of appeal I’m not sure I would have been really comfortable in that environment. When it comes to location I know everyone is different with what they want but for me I felt comfortable being two hours away, that felt like a good enough distance to be a little more independent but not so far away that my family weren’t able to get to me if there was ever an emergency. And Cheltenham itself is a beautiful little town, looking back on it now I don’t feel like I appreciated just how much it has to offer so I’d love to go back now. When I went to open days and to my interview I talked to other students how they found the town to live in and what they liked about it and that is something I found incredibly useful as they gave a good insight on nightlife etc.

Shooting with 5x4 (the most difficult camera to work with ever)

Shooting with 5x4 (the most difficult camera to work with ever)

 
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try to be savvy with your finances

University is expensive, very, very, very expensive and I’m not sure there is any way to get around that unless you’re fortunate enough to have financial support from your parents (absolutely no judgement here with that, it's awesome if you're in that position). There are course fee’s which in the UK you can get a loan for as well as your maintenance loan which is to cover your cost of living like rent and food, to be honest, though they rarely do as the cost of living is so high. Getting a part-time job is always a really good option if it’s something that you’re able to do as it gives you a little more money but otherwise being as savvy as you can with money is vital. I was nowhere near as savvy with my finances as I am now when I was at university which is the most important time and it’s something that I seriously regret. When that student loan rolls in you can't help but feel like you're invincible but it soon goes down when the bills go out.

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don’t worry if you’re introverted

If there is something I could go back and tell myself now it would be first of all; you’re introverted and it’s ok. Fresher’s week is the time when you’re expected to be out and socialising every single day and it’s intense, of course, it’s amazing that there are lots of things to be doing but it can be hard to recharge your batteries when social gatherings don't give you any energy. Moving away from your family to more than likely an entirely new area is overwhelming let alone not having any time to recharge mentally. Chances are that you’re not alone with the way you feel as so many people are introverted so you’ll find your people who get you and how you like to socialise. I found that the people I was closest to were the people on my course as I found our personalities synced up a lot more than the people who I shared my halls of residency with. There is so much pressure to immediately become besties with your flatmates but that’s not how it works for a lot of people and that's ok.

and everything else I learnt

  • Make the most of your holiday’s, keep that part time job if you can.

  • Plenty of people go to university when they’re older.

  • You don’t have to drink to be accepted.

  • Everyone more than likely goes through a stage where they want to give up.
    Do not buy fancy plates or cutlery but fairy lights make magnolia walls a little nicer.

  • There are so many ways to use a degree, you can completely change your career path and still put it to good use.

  • 90 day payment periods are very much a thing in creative industries and complete rubbish.

  • University is absolutely not for everyone and there are lots of other avenues to go down.

  • Some people REALLY love fancy dress.


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have you been to university? what were your thoughts?

Rebecca WarrinerPersonal