I got my A Level results EIGHT years ago.
First off that’s scary, but now here’s a little reassurance for those of you going off to uni, and a reminder that decisions aren’t set in stone, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my journey through three universities and show that it’s okay if you make the wrong choices!
My results off the top of my head were:
Fine Art: C
English Lit: D (lol) Good job that one didn’t matter…
Sixth Form was where I really came into my own, I made friends with people much more like me and I had an incredible two years – I knew this was going to be something difficult to leave.
So I went off to Southampton Solent in 2008, straight away after Sixth Form College, I was 5 hours away from home and studying Fashion with Photography BA. The key word is “with” here. Stupid me assumed that this would be a fashion photography course.
Instead I was taught how to draw pictures of coats for three months, learnt the 9 heads rule and even be taught where a camera battery and memory card goes in a camera… Like I didn’t already know seeing as I’d chosen this for DEGREE level. Turns out it was my bad, and the course was two thirds fashion, one third photography.
I wasn’t happy here, I didn’t click with the other students, I felt like I didn’t fit in in my halls, and even looking back at these photos now that room reminds me of how desolate it all was.
Don’t get me wrong, the girls I lived with were lovely, but I just didn’t find happiness in that course, or the place. I found myself crying a lot and trying to come home as much as I could, however it was 5 hours drive from my home back in Worcestershire.
I then made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I quit. I dropped out. Packed all my shit and went home after the first term.
I felt very VERY lost – all my other friends were off enjoying their uni experience with amazing new friends and so much ahead of them.
I vaguely remember at the time, resorting to watching every single season of Hannah Montana. This is how pathetic times got guys, real pathetic.
I couldn’t really see a way out, so I just reapplied to university, got rejected from London College of Fashion for the SECOND time because they deemed me “too confined in a classroom” – turns out they were right, I would have had a horrendous time if I’d done their hours and hours of crit work trapped in a classroom. I decided to go down the route of applying to purely Photography courses, no fashion tacked on, just photography. So I could tailor it to how I wanted it to be.
I secured my place at Nottingham Trent for 2009, but I still had it in the back of my head it could end up the same way as Southampton did. So I deferred my place for 2010 and went off to Birmingham City Uni to do a Foundation Art and Design course at their Bournemouth Campus!
This only cost me £500 to do, I say only, I mean in comparison to making another mistake at a uni – this one won’t break the bank!
For example, I am still paying off the loans I had from Southampton, and I had to pay for a whole year of fees even though I was only enrolled there for 3 months!
So the Foundation Art and Design course was good – I didn’t feel like I learnt all that much but it gave me an extra year to work out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.
I also had free range with their in-house studio as no one else ever used it!
I came out with a distinction, and worked alongside the course in various stop-gap jobs – Waitressing, Retail, Cleaning etc etc.
Then eventually the time came to head off to Nottingham in 2010, I remember moving in a day later than everyone else and crying for the whole of the Saturday instead. Pure fear of what laid ahead of me and if it would end up in the same way.
Also I was 21 by the point, three years older than a lot of people starting uni and I even had a letter sent out to me to ask “as you are a mature student would you like to meet friends of your own age?”.
This turned out to be THE BEST THREE YEARS OF MY LIFE.
Uni changed me, in a good way. I found my best friends that have become lifelong friends, I met my boyfriend who I have now been with for 6 years and own a house with and I started playing hockey again. I began to find purpose!
Something I hadn’t had for a very long time, probably even since Sixth Form – because I felt like I belonged there. Suddenly I found somewhere I belonged again.
My flatmates were amazing, they welcomed me in something rotten. We made friends with people all over the building and just became a huge team. So it didn’t matter if my course friends were crap, I knew I could still come back to these guys at the end of the day, like a little family!
The point of this post is that it’s scary getting your A Level results, and it’s even scarier working out what to do next. But do not worry, if you find yourself in a decision you regret, those regrets become something you were thankful for, because had I not gone to Trent when I did, I wouldn’t have met the people I did. Everything happens for a reason.
As mentioned before – I met my other half at uni, I found him outside my bedroom door at 5am – absolutely steaming. But in halls, everyone wants to make friends because you’re all in the same boat. Me and my friend Hannah were still awake, just having a cuppa as in uni, time goes out of the window, this is an acceptable thing to do at 5am.
She opened my door and just said “Els… These lads are here, they are warning us that someone is stealing your common room furniture.”
Turns out it was them trying to rob the furniture to take it to their common room…
Anyway, we were chatting to them for a bit, they took photos of each other off my camera and added themselves off my Facebook – because teenage drunk boys have no boundaries.
Needless to say, they completely forgot who I was.
I uploaded the photos on Facebook a few days later, tagged them in it, they both shit themselves and wondered who the hell this random girl was, and well here we are, from him sitting on my bed in halls, and me completely falling for that smile, to 6 years later with a mortgage.
So this is just one reason that I’m glad that I quit my first uni.
I’m. Glad. I. Quit.
Quitting something doesn’t make you a failure. It means you deem there to be something better for you – it’s okay to admit defeat sometimes and start again! There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The rest of those years were incredible – although I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder, I had friends who gave a shit, and stuck by me. My father passed away in my third year of uni and my uni friends came back to his funeral to support me.
If you’re scared of what the future may hold for you right now, just think, I never knew about all the amazing times I would have with incredible people, in an amazing city that I’d never been able to explore before!
p.s. Student Loans are also fun.
In those years at Trent we:
Went on day trips!
And fireworks nights:
Went to concerts!
Celebrated every holiday possible:
Partied with course friends!
Dressed like knobheads most of the time:
Partied with hockey:
Occasionally did some work…
Also, not advised, but bought a puppy (Bear):
And eventually graduated:
So again, my point of this is, I didn’t know what was ahead of me back in 2008.
After dropping out of Southampton I was so down on myself I never thought I’d get anywhere, then I picked myself up and started again. Until today I had pretty much completely forgotten the feelings of isolation when I first went away. Just never ever forget that it is OKAY to quit, it’s OKAY to leave and start again.
Now I look back at the most incredible three years of my life at Nottingham Trent.
Without those years I wouldn’t have found my boyfriend, my best friends and my own identity (or got a puppy…).
University shaped me, and one last tip – if you’re going to go into the creative industry or self employment afterwards. Use these three years (and student loan) to bounce off! Build yourself up whilst you have the time and disposable income, make contacts, get your work and name out there – and then if you do it right, you can just fall into your career and be your own boss when you leave.
But most of all HAVE FUN!!!!
I’m SO JEALOUS of everyone heading off to uni this September!
It’s the start of a journey you won’t even be able to imagine ❤