It used to be the case that you would be expected to go to primary school, then secondary school, after that do a few A-Levels at college before culminating your education with a degree at some university. Not all of that was compulsory to get a well paying job, but it was the path that a lot of people chose to take. Nowadays, so many other avenues exist. You can get an apprenticeship, become an intern or start your own online business. Everyone can do something. I’m a traditionalist. I chose the culminate your education with a degree at some university option. And, thank God, I was actually able to culminate it! Now I’m wondering what to do next. But before I embark on some new adventure (or should I say Master’s course at the same university I just studied at with the same professors and same labs, so really old, tried adventure, with new, annoying challenges) let me share what I learned with you.

My biggest lesson I learned is the significance of people. It didn’t really occur to me beforehand just how exactly people would make my university experience better or worse. Or maybe a more accurate way to phrase that would be, I was certain people would only make it worse. I’m an introvert, so the whole idea of socialising was disgusting. *Obviously that’s some kind of joke.

But in the first few days and weeks it really became apparent just how much my flatmates were having an impact on my wellbeing, in a positive way. We would hang out in the kitchen, play games in the hall, watch a film in someone’s room and genuinely have a good time. I would make some edgy joke about being black and everyone would laugh. That disposition about not enjoying communication was mislaid. It was great getting to know people. I guess my real fear was people getting to know me. Not that I have some terrible secret, or shameful past; I’m just always a bit apprehensive about opening up to people, especially new people. But, friendships have to start somewhere. The nice thing about that is then you find someone you can trust.

Trust is difficult to obtain, but easy to destroy. Some people probably don’t trust me and I probably don’t trust them either. This brings me onto my next point. You can’t let people dictate your own worth. I know it’s a cliché but it’s an important one. So much time doing my degree was wasted feeling down because of what some people thought about me. I made the mistake of letting someone’s opinion define my own opinion of myself.

Maybe I am overly quiet?

Maybe I don’t get out enough?

Maybe I am too black?

There’s a rip-roaring black joke for ya 😉

The point is, don’t do that. Don’t feel the need to put yourself down because someone else doesn’t like something about you. I don’t want to sound like Cosmopolitan (I don’t even want to admit I know what that is), but it’s the truth. What significance does your classmate’s judgement on your choice of clothes add to your life? Why does that person’s opinion on your relationship status matter so much? Who cares what so and so, that guy, thingy or x think about you? Everyoneis going to have an opinion on everything and some are going to voice that opinion even when it’s not wanted. But at the end of the day, who gives two flying ducks what they think?

Somewhere during the last four years, I realised I stopped caring what people think – for the most part anyway. Amongst other things, that mindset really set me free. The irony of that being, the thing which caused me to adopt such an attitude to my life was people. I found a group of friends that I could really trust, would laugh at my black jokes and not judge me harshly. I was blessed to get a bunch of companions in and out of university (shout out to church) who I could call my brothers and sisters.

The point is, people are going to make you realise things about yourself you can’t perceive alone: good and bad. Your friends are going to make you realise things about yourself you can’t perceive alone: good and bad for good. If you want to do a degree or anything in life, just get a group of mates who will support you. There will be a time when you will need ‘your back to be got.’

You were probably expecting me to say something like this: work hard, study loads and spend all your time in the library.

But what would you gain from university if all you left with was a grade?

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