Yesterday, I was asked to contemplate the things I’d like to have known before starting university. Initially stuck for ideas, I soon became rather unsettled by the steady stream of complaints spilling onto my computer screen. I listed five in total; a mixture of both the frivolous and the serious, and asked myself the immortal question: if I had my time again, would I do it all the same?
Regret is a somewhat unfashionable word, riddled with connotations of misery and general shoulda-woulda-coulda, but perhaps it is not so undesirable to think of all the things we could have done a little differently. And given the chance, I’m sure many would.
Reading back over my list of grievances in the sober light of day, two of them appear to be a rather damning indictment of my sentiments towards my degree. The first is the (highly cliché) questioning of how the extortionate tuition fees can possibly be justified by the four measly contact hours a week my Joint Honours course affords me. I certainly knew that an arts degree wouldn’t mean lectures from 9am-5pm every day, but my situation is almost the other extreme.
The second, inextricably linked to its predecessor, is how little my tutors are involved with my studies. With a third of my modules for this year labelled ‘Independent Study’ or ‘Dissertation Preparation’, these ambiguous titles seem to be a get out clause for these academics to pursue their own interests, and ignore those of their students. Asking for help is turned into such an arduous rigmarole that, even when entirely clueless about what I may be doing, figuring it out alone is by far the easier option.
Gripes aired, that niggling question of regret rears its ugly head once more. According to Google, the word is defined as ‘a feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.’ I’m quite relieved to say that I don’t believe this applies to me in this case, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t question what is wrong with the decisions we have made.
I believe that university is an experience that anyone fortunate to partake in most certainly should, if they feel so inclined, but we should not be blind to its faults. The sense of pressure so irrevocably attached to be having the best time like, ever, during one’s degree can certainly cloud our rationale in assessing our true feelings towards it.
I appreciate that this entry is far removed from those that I usually post, and I apologise if it seems sentimental or preachy. What I am simply trying to share, however, is that in a nutshell: shit happens. There are many things in life I would take back if I had the chance, but I wouldn’t change any of the big decisions I have made. There is always some strength to be found in adversity, and hard as it may be to accept at the time, these things truly do shape the people we become – whether we like it or not.