LIFE // 5 things university taught me

Saturday, 4 July 2015

After spending the past 5 years of my life in higher education, I am ridiculously proud to say I'll be finally graduating this September with First-class Honours in Fashion Design! I wanted to write a post to share some of the most important things that my university experience has taught me, for anyone who is starting soon or still thinking of applying. These are not things I learnt from studying or even specific to my degree, but actually some pretty big and transferrable life-lessons.

It's ok if you're not ready
When I finished my A-Levels at 6th form I didn't feel ready to go to university. The prospect of having to leave home was really scary for me, and at that point I didn't even know what I wanted to study. I took a year long Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at my local university, which gave me a taste of what student life would be like before making any decisions. Having that year helped me to gain more confidence, experiment with different types of art, and also meet some wonderful like-minded people (who are now some of my best friends). After my Art Foundation, I knew exactly what degree it was that I wanted to study and felt so ready to move away from my little hometown. Going to university is such a huge (not to mention expensive) life decision to make, sometimes its better to give yourself time to figure things out first. It doesn't help when your school and/or parents put the pressure on for you to do a degree - Just ignore them and do what you feel. If, in the end, you decide university really isn't for you, then that's alright too. Don't let anyone tell you that you need a degree be successful in life. I know many people who are happily doing their own thing really well without higher education.

Do what you're most passionate about
I did my A-Levels at a school that was really bad for pressuring it's 6th form students to study certain subjects at certain universities. They seemed way more concerned about the reputation of their school than the individual skills, talents and happiness of it's students. A good friend of mine was discouraged to study music by our head of year, who basically told him he was making a huge mistake and wasting his time. The thing is, he was great at Maths and Science, but not passionate about it. He followed his own path and is now getting to do the thing he loves the most (which is drumming) every single day as a job. Don't just choose a subject simply because you've got good grades in it, or because it sounds better on paper than another degree you'd much prefer to do. Make sure you pick something you're going to enjoy studying for three years at university, or pursuing as a future career.

Embrace new experiences wholeheartedly
University is a real opportunity to experiment and try new things. Build your own identity and form your own opinions of the world: You are not your family or the town you grew up in. While it's good to be close to your family/significant other/friends at home, make sure you don't miss out on some of the things going on right in front of you. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my first year was not really embracing university life as much as I could have done, because I had a boyfriend. When he and I broke up, I became depressed and felt like I didn't have any friends. Luckily, I started spending more and more time a girl in my flat, her friend and a couple of other nice people they both knew. We quickly all became good friends and moved into a house with each other for second year (the funnest year of my life). I was having drinks with a friend yesterday, and we were talking about how he embraced his time at university by being in a sports society - That's definitely one way to meet loads of new people! It's great to find like-minded folks, but also learn to appreciate people who maybe aren't so similar to you. One of the best things is getting to meet all kinds of people from different places. Try learning from others, embracing new experiences and you might find something you love. Even if you don't end up liking some of it, you'll regret the things you didn't do at university more than the things you did do. It's all a big learning curve.

Take the steps you need to get to where you want to be
You should never feel like you need to do anything the same way as everyone else just to please anyone. Always choose the path that's right for you personally. While many of my friends moved away to university straight after school, I stayed behind to study my art foundation because it ultimately helped me get to the degree I wanted to do. Another example of this is when I made the huge decision of deferring almost half way through my final year. It was so hard to leave behind some of my best friends and watch them graduate without me. I knew I had to take time out for my own mental and emotional well-being, so I did. During my time out, I took a couple of short courses in things I wanted to study and also worked for a stylist in London. I grew stronger as a person, gained confidence and came back next year feeling ready for anything. The worst thing about it was the people who told me I had given up or that I was a coward for choosing to put my life on hold for a year - Those people are not my friends anymore. It's braver to face your demons than it is to ignore them. Not only did I get myself better again, but I was also able to grow and better myself in so many other ways too. I have now finished university and will be graduating with First-class Honours, having achieved everything I'd wanted (and more). There is absolutely nothing selfish about making your own way, and never let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Never, ever write yourself off as not good enough
When I chose to do Textiles at A-Level, I was the only one in the class who hadn't previously done it. While I wasn't the best in the class, I tried my hardest and somehow ended up being the only one going on to do Fashion Design at University level (This is not something I expected myself to be capable of at all!). When I started my degree, I didn't think of myself as skilled at sewing or pattern cutting compared to my peers. While I enjoyed designing, I didn't think I would ever be good enough to do the final collection pathway in my third year (I thought there was no chance of someone like me getting their work picked to be in Graduate Fashion Week!). During second year, I had a very encouraging and supportive tutor who taught me to have a lot more confidence and self-belief. He also made me realise I was good enough to make a final collection, so I ended up doing exactly that in my third year AND I got chosen to show it on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week. Despite all of this, I still thought I would come out of uni with a 2:1 grade and, despite working myself half to death, had almost given up all hope of achieving the top grade. Again I was wrong, since I managed to get a first. What did I learn? That you shouldn't ever think you're not good enough to do anything - Keep on working at it until you succeed.

I hope this post was helpful. Are you going off to university soon, or have you already been? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


  1. Thank you so much for this!! XOXO

    1. No worries! Wishing you the best of luck starting your own university journey. Feel free to contact me if you have any concerns that I've not covered here.

      ♡ Emily x