Oh shit, it’s September

I have never really got into student life. Despite the fact that I hate summer, I love the holiday aspect of it. This is not because I am a lazy bum, because in my opinion I have actually been quite busy this summer. And the busiest bit (two weeks in Cumbernauld) was the bit I enjoyed the most.

Ever since I started at university I have noticed a pattern. The first Christmas after starting university felt amazing. I couldn’t work out why, but I just went along with it. After all, you oughtn’t worry about feeling good. Then, between Christmas and New Year it hit me again: I realised that I would have to go back to university in a couple of weeks.

Since then, every university holiday has felt the same. It’s not just having time off. Like I said, I am just as busy when I am away from university, just doing different stuff. But just not having to be there is such a weight off my mind. I must really hate university.

At this time of year a lot of people ask me if I’m looking forward to going back to university. The answer, “Actually, I’m dreading it,” is mostly met with confusion. It’s a bit like the “how are you” conversations. You’re not actually allowed to say what you actually feel about university. Student life is meant to be amazing — the best years of your life. I have spent them depressively gazing at my feet.

Student life is way overrated if you ask me. Maybe part of it is down to the fact that I still live at home, so I don’t get to sample much in the way of student life. I don’t get the fun bits. I just get the work. Plus three hours of commuting hell every single day. I don’t get to do all the cool things students do, whatever they are.

But even if I lived in Edinburgh I doubt I would be into it much. Student culture is probably one of the biggest stains on humanity. When it doesn’t involve getting horrendously drunk for the most tenuous of reasons, it seems to be about “ironically” watching Neighbours, “ironically” saying “retrooo” at anything that is vaguely more old-fashioned than an iPod Touch and “ironically” being a total and utter twat.

Plus, for a section of society that is meant to be well-educated and open minded, students are an incredibly reactionary bunch. You meet extremists of all sorts — right- as well as left-wing. I find myself wandering around going, “Where are all the reasonable people?” I can’t remember the last time I heard a student say, “On the one hand… On the other hand.” [Insert obligatory dig at excessive bansturbators People & Planet here.]

All-in-all, it is enough to make me want to “ironically” reach for the nearest gun and “ironically” shoot myself so that I could go to “ironic” hell, because that might be a little bit more pleasant than a university campus.

This year, the dread came a bit earlier than previous years. It came over me like a massive black cloud on a visit to Edinburgh a month or so back. I used to quite like Edinburgh, but now it just reminds me of university dread. On top of all of the usual stuff, I have to contend with a couple of factors that are making me more scared of this year than usual.

First there is the dissertation. Because of my unexpectedly busy summer, I have not done as much preparation over the summer as I would have liked. The deadline is March, but still. I have not come much further forward since April. And next week I have to meet my Director of Studies who is the same person as my Dissertation Supervisor. Meep.

Then there is the fact that I have still not worked out what the hell I am going to do once I have finished university. Given that this is my final year, I had better think of something quickly.

The thing about careers is, you really need to have a good idea of what you want to do from a young age. If you haven’t worked it out by the time you’re about 15, I reckon you are screwed (like me). I used to say to people, “It’s a bit worrying, I don’t know what I’m going to do once I leave education.” Invariably people said, “It doesn’t matter. Nobody really knows what they want to do. You still have plenty of time to think of something.”

This is bullcrap. I found this out the hard way by actually believing it. The thing is, the advice stays like that until you reach the age of about 20. At which point the general advice becomes, “Well you should have decided before then, shouldn’t you!” True, but unhelpful. And then you are stuck with it, all set for a life spent wandering around like a headless chicken.

So given that I have to think up a profession quick-smart, I am going to have to attend every Careers Service event under the sun this year. To have this on top of the dissertation, I have a feeling it’s going to be a pretty tough year.


  1. This is perhaps the most agreeable thing I’ve ever read. I think I’m in an incredibly similar situation to you (home politics student, need to do a dissertation this year), and I have at least as much disdain as you do towards student culture.

    Maybe its because we’re living on the bleeding edge of society, reading blogs and determining the Zeitgeist by broadcasting our opinions, that when a “regular” student enthusiastically describes that Rainbow “twangers” clip it makes you want to role your eyes (and slash your wrists)? Or maybe a lot of students are just morons?

  2. Spot on, I hated my time at uni – and until I read this, I thought I was the only one who didn’tenjoy it!

    I was 17 when I set sail for Edinburgh and I think that was too young to be heading away from home for the first time – for me at least. I went home every weekend and without that I don’t know how I would’ve got through it – I spent the week counting down the hours until I could go home again!

    I didn’t go back to Edinburgh for a while and I can appreciate how you associate the city with bad times there – but I’ve been back a couple of times and the bad feelings do fade, honestly!

    Hmm, this has opened up lots of old memories – there could be a whole blogpost coming on this!

    Good luck with the job thing – I’m still not sure what I want to do for a living and I’m 30! 😉

  3. You only need to think up a “career” if you’re not able to generalise and move with the times. I’ve changed my career 4 times now, and while I’m not making large amounts at the moment, I should be (startup company, low salary).

    You’re able and informed enough to move through a number of different jobs—you can analyse, you can thing for yourself, you have a breadth of knowledge.

    Plus, you’re studying economics, and I’m convinced that basic level economics is a more useful business field than pretty much any other subject.

    As for enjoying life at university and being surrounded by idiots? Yup. I survived by joining societies and through the university forums—made a lot of good friends through there. Most universities are full of time serving idiots. And they generally are the smarter ones. Scary, innit?

  4. I’m sorry you’ve not enjoyed your university years; maybe that’s down to Edinburgh and the kind of students it attracts (vastly generalising, I’m sure) On a positive note, you’ve saved yourself years of having to pay back student loans.

    If you’ve not got a vocation in mind, then I found the best way to find a job doing something you enjoy is to temp in a variety of short-term contracts. Don’t turn anything down if it pays well enough. You might end up doing something which leads to a more permanent role – and you can plan from there.

  5. Sorry to hear that you’re not enjoying uni. I think whether you live at home or must make a difference (I moved to Aberdeen, where I knew no one!) – I also had a job while at uni and made a different set of friends there. Check out the Fresher’s Fayre and get involved in some club you enjoy, like many things you only get out what you put in.

    As long as you’ve got an idea of where you want your dissertation to go, and if you’ve got some research done over the year, you’ll be sorted.

    And no-one really knows what they’re going to do, unless they’re doing law or medicine 😉

  6. I sympathise. By the end of Fourth Year, I was pretty jaded with just about everything – I’d thrown myself into the Debates Union and EUSA long since before, but in the latter case, because I wasn’t in P&P I was considered to be on the right of General Pinochet, and I was even getting cheesed off by the Debates Union at the end as well, though that might have had more to do with being a ‘lame-duck’ Convener by about February. Anyway, my heart wasn’t in anything (even my election campaign was just going through the motions, mainly because I knew who would win), and as such, everything suffered. My dissertation was awful (I wouldn’t even use it as toilet paper) and I was lucky to get a 2:2 in the end.

    Yet strangely, I don’t regret any of it. Perhaps it was moving away from home, perhaps I felt more content in the City than I did in the Uni itself (and certainly more so than at home), but despite how things ended, I’m glad I chose to go, and do what I did, even if things didn’t turn out as I’d intended. Perhaps the experience of being there was the most productive thing. Certainly going home again was a tremendous shock to the system, and I would happily return to the City at the drop of a hat. In fact, I’ve been trying to, and the various brick walls that I’ve kept hitting have been intensely frustrating.

    In terms of after Uni, have you considered a spell of voluntary work? That might give you some ideas of what you want to work in, and as well as the experience you already have, it would add some extra points ot your CV. Certainly mine got more interesting since I could add my time with CSV on it.

  7. I’ve been a professional programmer for 6 years now, earning a comfortable salary, but I still don’t know what I want to do for a career – I wouldn’t get hung up on actually planning a career, just go where the mood takes you.

    As long as you get a job that interests you, that pays the bills, that allows you to learn new skills… do you really need a career?

  8. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Everyone is picking up on this “career” thing, which is all true. A lot of my decisions are being based on the fact that I could try something else first before going for X, Y and Z. What I’m getting at though is that this time next year I will have to be doing something. I just don’t know what yet, but that’s part of the challenge for the year coming.

  9. Im sorry to hear you’ve had such a torrid time, but i find this post to be highly biased and generalising and it makes you look like a very lonely and bitter person.
    I too was skeptical about uni life but now i love every aspect. nothing beats living in a house with a few mates, everyday just seems like you’re on holiday. Maybe you would of seen this side if you lived away from home. The people you generalised as the majority are definitely the minority at my university (leeds university).
    I can understand your points but it seems like you just dont like your course or the people around you and are blowing this up to the point that all university life is shit.