University has taken a lot of things away from me. Money, probably years off my life, and of course the all-important dignity – no, it isn’t a good idea to show off when downing a dirty pint and yes, you will end up being carried home.
But out of everything I’ve lost in my time here, I’ve gained so much more.
I’ve gained so many new friends, a great social life, skills I wouldn’t have learnt if I hadn’t moved out, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Because there will always be those personal ones too, things you as individuals gain at university. For me it’s been something really big, and that's been confidence.
Before I came to university I was very quiet – I still am on the whole, but that’s a choice, not a confidence issue – I was shy in front of people, I always had been. I didn’t really like to speak up, especially at school, I preferred to keep my thoughts to myself and just write it down in my work.
I don’t know why. I’ve always been like that. My mom and dad must have been sick of going to parents’ evening every year and being told the same thing “Natalie is a lovely student; she’s just a bit quiet...”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Like I mentioned previously, I’m still a naturally quiet person. I still prefer to be the listener rather than the talker.
But I learnt quickly at university that you need to have a voice in order to be heard. Because if you’re heard it means that you get places; and considering I want to be a journalist, I realised I needed to be more confident.
So that’s what I did. I pushed myself into situations and said yes before it was too late to say no. I volunteered for things, spoke up, and I’m so much happier for it.
In order to get the most out of not only your degree – you should want to considering the £9,000 a year fees we now have to pay – but out of your university experiences too, throw yourself into things.
Get involved, even if it’s only something small. Not only will you gain a lot more personal skills, maybe something to put on your CV, but you’ll also meet so many more new people and make loads of new friends.
I’m so glad I came here and that I chose De Montfort because I know I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities elsewhere. If I could give any advice to people contemplating university, it’d be go for it.
I don’t know a single person who has gone and regretted it, even people who have now dropped out because they decided it wasn’t for them: because at least they gave it a try and realised they needed a different direction in their life.
This isn’t me saying university is the only option. Not everyone is going to go, but if you get the opportunity I strongly suggest you go for it.
People will tell you the debt isn’t worth it, but it didn’t take me long to realise that's a lie, told by people who are probably not willing to take the risk. I am here to tell you to take the risk.
And if you are at university already, my advice for you is just do things. Go out, join a team or a society, get involved, have fun, make friends, do all manner of stupid things you won’t be able to do when you finally have to leave and you’re in the adult world.
University is what you make of it, and I’m glad that, now in my second year, I can say I’ve made the most of it. It’s not just a degree you leave with, and that’s why it’s worth it.