Moving away from home [the British Virgin Islands] and being accepted into a tertiary institution is the pinnacle of adulthood for some students. Often when we think of a young person shipping off to school, we think of the experience as a luxury, a privilege. It is, but what’s often forgotten is the sheer bravery it takes to leave what’s familiar behind: the food, friends, family, and even the weather, to embark on a new journey somewhere else.
Even the most progressive and strong-willed persons still need home and community support. Nevertheless, the experience is thrilling and exciting!
My university experience was long expected. I moved to the United Kingdom at 16 to attend boarding school. The most natural path after was to complete my tertiary education. Oh, it was a must from a household of both tertiary-educated parents.
While I was enthusiastic about attending university, I had no idea where my interests lay. Thus, I chose the course that best fit my interest: Media Communications and Culture and I haven’t regretted it. The degree gave me a broad understanding of the sociological and cultural bonds that make up our interconnected global lives. It oddly felt like a looking glass into the matrix.
What really stuck with me throughout those three years and got me through the stresses of school plus the chaos that was the COVID-19 pandemic was a conversation with one of my favorite lecturers. He told me, “Never forget this; university isn’t so much about the material you’re learning, but about the lessons you gain while here that teach you how to do life.” This statement echoed in my mind on my graduation day. I felt relief. Finally, this chapter of my story was coming to a close, and I could finally start living this amazing adult life I saw so much of on television (It’s all make-believe, Adulting hits the real way!), but I also had a deep heartfelt sense of appreciation as I gave my campus one last look, shook the hands of my teachers and hugged friends.
College years are some of the most instrumental years of a person’s life. They’re filled with the mystery of the unknown, excitement of what’s to come, tests, trials, and tribulations. Still, they’re where every student finds their footing and begins to assert their independence.
That’s what happened to me. Those three years of constant lessons in time management, new friendships and sometimes breakups, spells of wanderlust and adventure are years I wouldn’t trade.
On the day of my graduation, I was reminiscent of my entire time in the United Kingdom. The journey began at an international boarding school where I was surrounded by Spanish, Eastern European, Egyptian Eritrean cultures, and many more. And it ended in Nottingham, UK, at the fantastic Nottingham Trent University. Over those three years, I survived lockdowns, and being stranded outside of my home country, learned online, and thrived on regional trips to Paris, Belgium, Berlin, and the likes. I have learned many things and experienced things I can’t put into words. Still, I know I was strengthened to take on the rest of my life.
Truth be told, I wasn’t excited about my graduation until the day. I beamed seeing my family in the audience who had journeyed across the Atlantic to be there with me. As I walked across the stage, I felt a mixture of emotions; sadness, nostalgia, and bliss. Nostalgic about my city, the places I had been, the places I had discovered, and the things I had grown to love. Sadness that I would leave it all behind and bliss for the new adventures ahead.
That ceremony was a hallmark moment that signified the end of an era for me. It was the end of this part of my journey. Only infinite possibilities await me. And the tools I had just acquired throughout my five years in the UK have prepared me for the next chapter of my life.
For my current and soon-to-be uni students, I‘ll say this; you’re in between two worlds, one world of responsibility and another world of child-like mystery and adventure.
Sometimes you’ll question whether the ‘piece of paper’ is worth it. I promise you it is because it signifies your commitment to stick to the course. It’s much bigger than just completing university. You’ve left home and not only are surviving but thriving. You’re growing, maturing, and making your family and yourself proud.
Capitalise on every moment. Understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. Uni is the perfect place to do so. Know that the sacrifice you’ve made to leave your home for a better future is worth it and is life-changing. Network as much as you can, and break out of your shell. Most importantly, live! You will never learn who you are or could be unless you jump at the adventure.