What I’ve learnt from completing a degree

In September 2010, which feels about four million years ago, I started my degree in Linguistics at University College London. In June 2013 (yes, now), I completed my degree. I’ve learnt a lot. I’d like to say that a lot of that is about Linguistics, but that would be a terrible lie. I’m going to punctuate this with photos from the past three years to show you ‘what university is really all about’. And that, again, is a lie. These photos definitely show the ‘edited highlights’. If it was a truly representative overview, it’d mostly show me sitting in my room under a duvet, shivering, playing Solitaire, eating grapes and writing 50 words of an essay every hour.

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I’ve learnt some things about Linguistics. I’ve learnt the IPA. I’ve learnt (too much) about Relevance Theory. I’ve learnt about the way children learn language and about the way sociolinguistic studies are performed. I’ve also learnt some non-Linguistic things. I’ve learnt about Palladianism and Christopher Wren’s churches and Hume’s thoughts about art and morality and about place branding and feminism in Sweden. I actually much preferred learning about all those things to the modules associated with my actual degree.

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But most crucially, I’ve learnt that education really isn’t as important to me as I thought. Not formal education. I’m no Einstein, but I am intelligent (not that a lot of people would realise that) and I’ve always done well academically. I’ve just completed a tough degree with a 2:1 from one of the best universities in the world and I don’t really feel anything. If I’d really tried right from the start, and I mean REALLY tried, I could’ve pushed for a first. But I didn’t.

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Right since the first week of first year, I’ve felt this incredible apathy towards university and this stage of education. I’ve always worked hard enough to do well but never to exceed expectations. At school and college, anything less than an A* wasn’t good enough, but my spark had died by the time I reached tertiary education. I had no interest in the degree and had no real motivation to do my best. My heart was elsewhere. Halfway through my degree I took a different qualification. My NCTJ has already opened far more doors than I could’ve hoped. I got ill during final year, limped through first time, coasted through second (albeit under vast amounts of pressure, as I was working at the same time) and came out unscathed. So why do I feel nothing?

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The past three years have effectively been condensed into a number. Three years of stressing and deadlines and dreams of dropping out so I can be Kayleigh Tanner, Bachelor of Arts with a 2:1 in Linguistics. I don’t think you’re supposed to say this but I feel like I did it to go through the motions. I have no real connection with this degree. I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything. But that’s fine because of the other things it’s taught me.

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Having a degree isn’t the be all and end all and I think it’s taken getting a degree to realise that. You don’t need a degree to prove your intelligence at all. I know some super smart people without degrees, and equally some idiots with them. When I die, I like to think I won’t be thinking about my 2:1. I hope I’m thinking about all the things I actually want to achieve in life. I want to get married and start a family and experience a lot of things. I experienced things at uni, but the student life really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I can say with 100% certainty that the last three years haven’t been the best of my life. Those are still to come, and I can’t wait. I’ve learnt that my priorities don’t lie with formal education. I truly believe I would feel just the same as I do now without a degree, but I have the benefit of being on this side of it to know that I wouldn’t be missing out. I guess it’s good, then, that my degree has taught me something. Just not about Linguistics.

I will finish off with THAT Sports Nite photo, which perfectly sums up the uni experience for me.

UCL Sports Nite


2 Comments Add yours

  1. JennyLeungX says:

    Wow, this was really great reading. Thanks for sharing your views!

    1. Thank you! Thought I’d give an honest overview of the utter apathy I think a lot of students experience post-degree that they don’t feel they can express 🙂

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