Let's Talk: University & Creative Degrees

The topic of University is huge and hard to approach. In our generation, it's almost expected that we've all done a degree at some point. But in reality, it's not as easy as that. In today's post, I wanted to talk about University as a whole, creative degrees and what to do when you want to pack up your bags and leave. I suggest you get comfortable because it's going to be a long one. 


I would say I'm a pretty average person when it comes to academia and intelligence. But I didn't do that well in my exams at school because I don't cope well with that type of situation. My coursework and practical work were always A* but when it came to exams. I had a meltdown every time. I don't think this is something that is spoken about enough but a lot of people just aren't cut out for exams. And I am one of those people. So naturally I was drawn to something more creative. As I've got the drawing skills of a child it was something more practical like photography that I found myself really interested in studying. Taking photographs is always something I've enjoyed, I used to beg my dad to let me take our holiday pictures. It took a lot to persuade my parents who were heavily in support of academic subjects to let me drop out of Sixth Form. To go to college in the city and study photography. But after months of begging and pleading they did. So off I went to college to only study an art based subject. And it was ok, I liked my course and in my second year when I really found my feet I did pretty well. It felt like a natural progression for me to go to university to study the subject. 


Picking the right course and university is difficult and takes months. Something important to bear in mind is the money that you're be paying out for your degree. You want to get the most that you can out of the course because ultimately you're paying for it. I studied at the University Of Gloucestershire and did a degree in Editorial and Advertising Photography Degree. The biggest attraction to this course was that they enforced work experience meaning you would have to work in the creative field during your studies. Which at the time was really rare to find in a creative degree. Not only did the love the look of the course but Cheltenham is a really beautiful little town. It was my first choice and I was lucky enough to get into a very selective course. The biggest reason that I went to university is because I felt it was something I had to do to get further in my chosen career path. Of course, now I know it's not the only way to do it. Things to consider when picking your degree;

  1. The course, is it worth it? Look at timetables etc and see how many teaching hours you're getting. 
  2. The university itself. 
  3. The area and the general living costs. 


It's a well-known fact that creative degrees are looked down upon. Called joke or Mickey Mouse degrees and it can be incredibly off-putting when that's what you're passionate about and want to study. Doing a creative degree doesn't give you job security. But in our current economy, most degrees won't secure you that so the argument is becoming pretty redundant. When lawyers and teachers are working in retail or bars after studying for 3 years. Creative degrees not only broaden your mind and skill level when it comes to your chosen subject. But they can also help you grow as an individual too. Everything we use in this world will have had a creative person working on it. Our iPhones, cars and even down to something so simple as a carrier bag. Without creative degrees and creative people our world would be an incredibly sad place and very uninspiring. So the next time someone puts their nose up at your degree choice. Ask them how they would feel if they couldn't live in their house because someone told an architect that it was a waste of time studying that subject? We're surrounded by creativity everyday and we take it for granted. 


I didn't have your typical start to university life. My mum was diagnosed with a rare aggressive cancer during my last year of college and passed away two weeks before I was due to leave. I did still go to university but I probably wasn't in the best place to do so. Looking back on everything now I'm glad I went because it gave me something to focus on. But it was really tough, there is no denying that. However, I did really enjoy university as a whole. I really liked my course overall and the town that I lived in. There are some aspects that I didn't like so much like but it can't all be plain sailing. Aside from the academic side of things. I really changed as a person during my degree. I grew up and had the independence that I'd never had before. There were big highs at university and also crushing lows. 


It was after my first year and beginning of my second that I really felt like my course choice wasn't for me because I didn't want to be a photographer. I really wanted to work in the creative field, I just didn't want to be the one taking the images. So if I didn't want to be a photographer it didn't make sense to photography? It took a lot of courage to talk to my lecturers about my struggles but after I did. I felt so much better because they opened to my eyes that I could do so much more with my degree than directly be a photographer. It was one module and lecturer in particular that really made me see things in a different light. Creating my own magazine and working with other creatives was a turning point. It was the biggest push for me to complete my degree. Throughout the rest of my three years, I definitely felt myself really struggling but I persevered. And I graduated with a First Class Degree with Honours. There are so many options out there when you feel like your course isn't right. The key is to talk to the people around you and make the most of your lecturers, that is what they are there for. 


When you want to leave your degree it can be all too easy to do it with haste in the moment that you hate everything that you're doing. Writing lists, talking to people and giving yourself time is so important when making such a big decision. University isn't for everybody and I have the utmost respect for people who go down a different route. But I also have a lot of respect for people who complete their degrees. University is painted as such an easy option, especially creative degrees. I didn't mess around with a camera for 3 years, a lot of hard work was involved. Completing any degree takes hard work and dedication. Once I'd spoken to my lecturers and let my mind settle I knew that I did want to complete my degree. So I found ways to get my course to work for me so it could benefit me in the future.  My lecturers were a big help in doing this too. If you're thinking of leaving university. It's important to think about what you're going to do instead of your degree. You could go on to do a different course or you could go into full-time work for a little. I didn't have much going on in my hometown for me. I could have gone back to my old retail job but I wasn't going to be happy doing that. 


This was one of the big factors that were in play when I thought about leaving. I was working to briefs on a weekly basis that wasn't something I felt passionate about because I hadn't found my style of photography yet. Finding your style and aesthetic takes years and it's something that will constantly evolve. But having your basic style is a big part of that. There are so many elements of photography that I love but the styling and organising are my favourites by far. Which works really well when it comes to still life photographs and now that's what I specialise in and with my blog it's something I do on a daily basis. I find working with a person as a subject so difficult and applaud anyone who does that well. Everyone else on my course loved portraiture and I felt insanely pressured to follow suit. It was the magazine brief that pushed me into the style of work that I'm truly passionate about. In any degree, you're forced to do things that you wouldn't normally do. But it's such an important practice to finding your style. It might feel awful at the time but it's a great learning curve. 


I often think about if I what I would do if I could go back and do it all again. Without taking all the financial aspects into account [which are important because it's absolutely ridiculous now] I would do it again. I think I would do things a lot differently, not only in my course but the social aspect of university too. The people that you're surrounded by can have a huge impact on your university experience. I would also save a lot more money towards my course, the cost of doing a creative degree is a lot. Your student loan just simply doesn't cover it, they barely cover living costs let alone course extras. If you're going to university or thinking about it, don't let the pressure of society get in your head too much. It's totally ok if going to university isn't for you. There are so many other routes to go down in life. 

I'd love to know your thoughts about university

R x

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Rebecca WarrinerPersonal