Three Ways University Changed My Life
Every student has a different experience at university and learns different life lessons. Some people absolutely hate it and spend 3 years contemplating dropping out, or actually do; some people don’t stop partying; some are a bit more cliché and ‘find’ themselves. For me, it feels like all three, in one extremely quick three-year degree. Having had my last exam and handed in my dissertation on the same day (that’s right…a day early), I almost instantly started to feel an all too familiar loss of purpose… a feeling I experienced after each end of term exam(s). But this time it was different. I started to reflect and concluded that I had learned 3 main life lessons.
Hard Work Pays Off
After rather disappointing A level results (even having to do BTEC’s in a third year at College to qualify for my Uni) I was rather apprehensive about my academic abilities at that time. However, a young ambitious Woodrow dove head first into one of the most traditionally academic degrees possible… law. And I absolutely loved it.
As cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t have done so well if I didn’t love the subject. I can honestly say, if I did any other degree I wouldn’t have worked as tirelessly as I have done (despite considering dropping out on a weekly basis… but that is every law student right?).
I have never worked as hard on anything in my life. It even got to the point where I became so acquainted with the security team that locked the library up at midnight, they would laugh at me for still being there. My proudest moment was setting off the security alarm because they though everyone had left… because who in their right mind would be on the top floor of the library at 23:58 on a Sunday night?
When it came to revision, it became an obsession. While I may not have lived in the healthiest way and sacrificed many other areas in my life, it essentially paid off. I don’t currently know my results… but I do know I have exceeded all expectations of my 3-year younger self.
And this applies to everyone, not just university students. If you have realistic expectations, and you are willing to put in the hours, it will pay off. It might not even be in the way you think… you might not even be the best at it… but you will take something positive away from it. Hard work does pay off.
Life Isn’t Easy – Grind Hard – Networking is Everything
One of the hardest things to overcome in the legal professions is making connections. Regardless of how ‘accessible’ it claims to have become, particularly with the fast approaching implementation of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam… the age-old quote “it’s who you know not what you know” remains true.
I was consistently told that the degree is common place for law students… it’s the work experience that separates you from ‘Joe Blogs’ who got 1% better that you in that exam who has the personality of a wet mop. I spent virtually the whole first and second year applying for vacation schemes and work experience with a success rate of 0%.
It was only after a few everts where I had to work extremely hard, placing myself out of my comfort zone that I managed to land some work experience. From there, I have never looked back and managed to gather a wealth of experience. But has not been easy.
Unless you are one of the lucky ones who has a few good connections in your field, it is hard to break into any industry. And understandably so… every employer is looking for someone that particularly stands out on paper, or whom they already personally acquainted with, so they ensure they will work hard and ultimately be good at their job. Jobs, experience, money, fame… anything worthwhile isn’t usually just given to you. You need to work hard; you need to grind hard; and most importantly you need make connections.
It’s Okay To Be Alone – Sometimes It’s Exactly What You Need
For some, university is the place where they met their ‘BFF’s’… and while I’m happy they have… that was definitely not the case for me, especially for the first two years at university. Moving to a new city where you have no friends can be extremely daunting. University mitigates that gut-wrenching feeling of loneliness to an extent because it’s one of those rare situations where everyone is in the same boat. It’s perfectly acceptable to be more outgoing than you usually would be to ensure you make friends.
While I did make friends, I struggled to make friends that were available outside of University time. While this may have something to do with being in a non-campus university, it did not help the fact I felt completely alone for the first two years. While it was excruciatingly hard at the time, it was exactly what I needed.
Surprisingly, one of the things I learned was that being alone is okay. I became satisfied with my own company (sometimes I think I little too much… but that’s an entirely different issue).
When you are alone, use it as an opportunity to think about where you are. Where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there. Mathew McConaughey puts this concept in the perfect way during his 86th Oscars winning speech for Best Actor for his performance of Dallas Buyers Club:
“Now when I was 15 years old, I have a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who is your hero?”. And I said I don’t know I gotta think about that, give me a couple of weeks. I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “Who’s your hero?” And so I thought about it and I said you know who it is, it’s me in 10 years.
So I turn 25, 10 years later that same person comes to me and goes “so are you a hero?” And I was like, not even close. No, no, no. She said “Why?” I said because my hero is me at 35. So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero. I’m not going to obtain that, I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”Mathew McConaughey – 86th Oscar Winning Speech
So whatever your situation; happy, sad, lonely, popular, satisfied, unsatisfied… use alone time to gather your thoughts. Think about where you want to be in 10 year’s time, and chase them. It’s when you find out who you are and want to be, then you can move forward. We all strive for personal growth, and there’s always room to grow. It’s Okay to be alone… sometimes it’s exactly what you need.