‘What was the point of getting into all that debt and spending all that time at university if you are still unemployed?’ This is the kind of question I get asked by people and I am tired of it. When I went to university I of course hoped it would give me better job prospects, but that was only one reason I went and not even the main one. Over two years after graduation I have managed only to have one part-time temporary Christmas job, but I still don’t regret my degree and am very glad I took it.
My reasons for going to university:
1. To prove to myself and others that I could do it, to show that I had some brains and could cope with the work. I admit to not being amazingly smart, or even the most academically gifted in my family, but I always knew I was not completely stupid. I had at the age of fourteen found myself in a special needs school. It was supposedly for physical disabilities, but the work was so easy in some classes it felt like I was in a school for children with learning difficulties. By the time I left school I was determined to work my way out of the special needs label and get some qualifications higher than entry-level. I was at this point not thinking of university, but some kind of college level education would be good. When tutors started talking about university and told me they thought I would get a lot out of it and could more than cope with the work I began to think maybe I could do it. After looking in to it and realising I could get into some universities with my qualifications, I decided that I would go for it. Part of me was determined to do it so I could take my degree and shove it in some former school teachers faces to show them I had far more brains than they ever gave me credit for (although of course I only ever get to do this in my imagination, but that is still fun). I wanted to prove to my family I was smart, although I think they already knew this, it makes me feel more on a level with them, as they are all well-educated people. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it as I had started to have doubts about myself. I had spent so long having special needs and had so many issues with my education I began to think maybe that was all I could do and I was quite thick. However I refused to let those doubts win and decided to prove to myself I was wrong.
2. To learn about a subject I have always had a passion for. I chose to study drama as I have always wanted to do that since I was little. I have always enjoyed performing on stage and going to the theatre. I had a growing interest in how theatre worked and about plays of various types. I thought maybe I could land a job in theatre after my degree, but if not at least I could enjoy my favourite hobby even more by having a better understanding of what was going on.
3. To leave home and learn to be more independent. I was twenty-three by the time I went to university, having had to catch up on my education and sort myself out mentally. I knew I had got lazy living at home for so long with my mum doing more to help me than maybe she should. I wanted to show I can survive without constant support. Both me and my parents needed some space from each other.
4. To make friends. I have never done popular, at school I was a bit of an outcast. I have often been in social situations and felt like I was outside looking in. I knew at university I would meet people with a common interest, everyone on my course at least had to like drama and theatre. I wanted more of a social life, to get out and do things.
5. To get a qualification that would help me get a job. This is the last one on the list for a reason, the degree qualification itself matters to me a lot, but was not my biggest reason for going. I know drama is not the most useful subject to study job wise, but I would hope some employers see a degree in any subject as a good thing. It proves I can stick with something for three years and see it right to the end. It shows I must have some kind of brain to even get into university and that I can read and write. In job applications I try to sell the fact drama taught me team work having to work closely with others for every practical performance assessment we did, but I can also work on my own intuition having had to research and write all my essays alone.
I did manage to prove I could do it, better than I thought I could even. I thought I would get a third or a 2.2 if I tried hard, but in the end I managed a 2.1. I proved to myself that I have brains and just need to challenge myself more. I defiantly no longer felt like I had special needs educationally, for the first time I can remember I almost felt kind of normal, sort of.
I learnt a lot about performance and theatre. I also loved reading the plays and learnt about a wide variety of subjects, especially history. Now I go to see plays and understand the meaning behind them more. I now feel even more at home in a theatre.
I coped well living away from home for my first time. I managed to attend almost every single class and rehearsal without someone forcing me to get out of bed. I managed to eat well and learnt to cook more. I attended appointments by myself mostly on time. Since university I have got a bit lazy living at home with my parents again, but I do more for myself now than I used to before university.
I felt much more like I fitted in with the people on my course at university than I had ever felt before. I felt like I had some real friends that understood me better than people had in the past. I realised that other drama students often felt like they were outsiders at school or college as well.
OK, so no it did lead me to my dream job or right now any job at all. However I do think my degree being on my CV has helped me get more interviews than I might have otherwise had. I also think it has given me the confidence to apply for more different types of work.
The idea of university is often looked at purely in terms of getting a job, but I think this is wrong. For me university was more about learning about myself and who I am as a person. Not everyone will suit university, but for me it was so far the best three years of my life.