“It felt safe for me to be my authentic self for the first time and be automatically accepted for that too”
George Green graduated in English Language and Linguistics in 2014 – he told the university’s alumni team about his experience.
University was a transformative experience for me personally, academically and professionally. Even though it’s impossible to know an alternative universe where I did not go to university and how my life would have been if that were the case, I have a good hunch that this alternative would not compare. If I could go back and relive it all again, I would. Even today, the thought of university fills me with such joy. I’ll try to capture in a few words how university changed me and my life, but this article won’t do it justice – it won’t adequately capture how university made me feel and still makes me feel to this day. It has made me the person who I am now, and I wouldn’t change that, or my experience, for the world.
A shell of a guy, I was quite timid and full of anxiety pre-university. The unknown was terrifying and I wouldn’t dare explore it – and it was at my detriment. For years, I struggled with my sexuality, and with terrible acne, this combination had an abysmal impact on my mental health, self-esteem and self-worth. I was stuck in a rut, with no real guidance of how to move forward independently and with confidence. After some strong influence from very well-meaning friends, I took the step from a low point in my life to an unknown; I decided to move miles away from home to study at university. At the time, it was very brave of me to do this. I was pretty much programmed to fear the worst; what I didn’t foresee was how much it was going to open my eyes. I was introduced to a completely new world; from mundane Norfolk, where upon reflection I felt trapped in a bit of a hometown bubble, where nothing really happened, to the vibrancy and excitement of what Brighton offers. The overwhelming rush that I felt of freedom and liberation is unforgettable, consuming me with blissful memories with friends exploring the uniqueness of Brighton Lanes, drinking at bars along the coastline and the wild nights out in Coalition, Revenge, Casablanca and Prism. I met loads of wonderful people through my course, student accommodation and societies. I understood myself so much better. It felt safe for me to be my authentic self for the first time and be automatically accepted for that too.
Learning at university helped me develop an analytical and thought-provoking mind. I thought about the world differently because of the academic-rigour of my course. I read every journal article and book suggested to me, cover-to-cover. I was so determined to do well because I knew if I grabbed this opportunity and worked hard, I would have a better life post-university. Learning at university was much easier for me in comparison to school because I was at ease. I felt like I could just be, which massively helped me concentrate on my studies. My degree allowed me to develop academic and research skills; develop sophisticated questioning skills and assess my studies forensically. I can articulate myself much better, and digest large amounts of complex information faster. Sometimes people asked me, well, what’s the point of that subject? How can you apply that to the real-world? In response, I would say that I see the world from many different perspectives now and challenge the attitudes I learnt growing up. I would say that I can have an active involvement in politics and how we operate as a society. As part of the Semantics module of my course, we studied First Order Logic which in simpler terms is the study of natural language, using formal mathematical or logical techniques, reducing language to quantifiable variables and their truth-conditions. The skills I learnt from this module have made it much easier for me to learn to code.
I found my course really fascinating and developed positive relationships with my lecturers, which is all part of the wonderful experience I had at Brighton. During my time at Brighton, I took advantage of the Careers Service where I worked on employability and interview skills with a Careers Advisor called Zoe. I explored different careers with her in teaching, speech and language therapy, and marketing. I went to a few interviews, had some knockbacks and I graduated from university without a job I’d thrive in. As frustrating as this was at the time, I knew I had to continue. Shortly after graduating, I started attending interviews at companies that I didn’t want to work for and started to reject job offers. However, these interview experiences weren’t a waste of time as four weeks after graduating I secured a role at the University of East Anglia.
Since leaving full-time study, I have worked in Higher Education delivering projects to improve access to university for underrepresented groups of people. I have worked in various institutions such as the universities of East Anglia, Birmingham and Cambridge. I deliver long term projects involving event management, relationship management, online mentoring and marketing communications. Part of my role requires giving presentations to small groups or large audiences of around 200+ people and working directly with young people, parents, carers and education professionals. My programmes aim to build knowledge of Higher Education from a younger age, supporting students in the decision making process and application stage. Higher Education policy has a huge influence on my work, including the policies around supporting students with academic attainment pre-university.
Overall, the most important part of university for me was the new life experiences that I benefited from. I wouldn’t change my experience at all; the people I met and the long-lasting friendships that I made. If I were to give advice to any prospective students considering university it would be:
- Identify what you need by how you feel. You might want to start fresh, make a new group of friends and feel confident in yourself. Ask yourself, how do I go about that?
- Be brave and step out of your comfort zone. If you prepare and do your research, then it won’t be as intimidating.
- Make the most of your studies: take them seriously and become one of the experts in your class.
- Make the most of the other added benefits of university: Join a society and stick with it and also take advantage of the careers service.
- Go out and have lots of fun, but not at the sacrifice of points 3 and 4.