It took me 7 years to get through my undergrad, and I wouldn’t change a thing!
It was only a few weeks ago when I was at my parents’ house, sifting through the old family computer when I stumbled upon my UAC preferences deep in an unorganised file. First was Architecture, then Interior Architecture, and then Journalism (truthfully I am glad none of those worked out because I can’t spell any of those degrees without spellcheck!). I must not have gotten the marks for the first two, because I fumbled my way through a semester of Journalism straight out of school, and to say it was a rough start is putting it lightly.
I was too lazy to read the course handbook, so I had no one idea what I was in for. I think the only loose thread was that I enjoyed writing and expressing myself, so the Journalism degree seemed to check out. However the reality was far harsher.
Looking back I don’t think it was necessarily the course content that didn’t land, but rather the culture shock of being at university. I was no longer surrounded by the friends I had spent every day with for 6 years, and there were no teachers telling me exactly when things were due. I began to feel very isolated when I wasn’t making friends – something very foreign for someone like me, who loves connecting and meeting new people.
When the referencing and self-directed learning became too much, I stopped going to class and eventually failed most of my subjects in that first semester. I watched as my high school friends seemed to love the uni experience – it appeared so effortless for them. They had pals who they would go to parties with, they loved their courses, and they had career goals. And here I was, secretly failing, hating my subjects, and no idea what to do next!
I decided to take the next semester off and, for the first time in my young life, actually thought about what I really wanted. I worked in a pub, and also balanced shifts in a CD shop. I met lots of interesting customers who shared stories about their lives and careers. I used these conversations carefully, always taking notes about the possibilities of my own. Working in customer service gave me access to conversations with people from all walks of life. I remember picking the brains of mechanical engineers, hair stylists, dentists, deli owners, sales executives, HR managers, and guitar teachers… the list goes on! I used this time away from formal education to be curious about the world.
After this time off I enrolled into a Bachelor of Arts. After ALL of those conversations with ALL those people, I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to study, so I chose something broad which would allow me to explore wide and far. I learnt languages, I learnt about ancient civilisations, I learnt about feminism, I learnt about theatre, I learnt about technology. I learnt how to learn. I was gaining momentum and confidence. I was making friends. I felt good about where I was, but I still wasn’t quite sure if this was the career direction I wanted to be moving towards.
After a session with the university Careers team, I made the decision to add on a Business competent to my degree. Bingo! At this point I had been at the uni thing for a few years, and I realised adding the Business load would add a few more years, but I felt really excited by this call. I had done enough self-reflection to know what I valued, and the kind of work I wanted to be doing in the future, so I was not anxious about timelines. I was happy to keep on studying, whilst working outside of uni and using this employment as a way to build up transferable skills and experience. The time flew by and I ended up acing my grades!
By the time I graduated (7 years after high school) I really felt like I had the whole uni thing in the bag. I went from failing, to being an engaged and high achieving student. What I can confidently say I learnt from all of this, as cheesy as it sounds, is that good things sometimes do take time. We often have false starts – and that’s ok! We just start again. And again, if we have to. There is no rule book when it comes to finding your path, but what I see working for myself (and for the many students I work with at Drop-in), is that our curiosity will often know the way…
(Still need convincing? Check out Isaac’s post, Extending your degree isn’t a terrible thing).
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
By Sarah Marlor
Sarah is a driven HR practitioner with employment experience spanning across talent acquisition, on-boarding, customer service and career advisor roles, so it is fair to say that people are her thing! With a bursting enthusiasm for helping individuals work towards being their best selves, Sarah brings a passionate vibrancy to her current role as a Recruitment Advisor at the University of Technology Sydney.