Four years of hard work, finally completed. Sitting on the coach on the way home from London seems like a fitting place to write this blog post…
A little over a week ago I officially handed in my final piece of work for my Imperial undergraduate degree – my dissertation. It was a huge piece of work, entailing many hours in the library, last minute meltdowns and far too much coffee. On the day of hand-in I was exhausted, having given it my all, handing in the 44 page document was a bit of an anticlimax. Let’s put it this way, my friends and I celebrated completing our dissertations with some time at the union – we all ordered soft drinks and food. Sitting opposite us were freshers who had just finished their first university exams, they ordered 12 sambuka shots at midday. How times change…
The following week I faced my disseration viva, needless to say grit determination to finish my degree pushed me through right to the end. Then came the freedom, the freedom of never having to do university work again. If I’m honest, at this point, freedom felt a lot like being lost – I had lost my sense of self. My university degree had defined me and my actions for the past four years and, in what felt like the blink of an eye, it was all over. One thing the freedom has afforded me is the time to think, to think about my life at Imperial and the university experience it brings.
Looking back at the past four years, life at Imperial has certainly had its ups and downs. It’s a place like no other, filled with scientists and engineers all eager to make a dent in the world. When I think back to when I was a fresher, I remember being very overwhelmed by it all. I was fresh from sixth form, excited to start my semi-independent life. London had huge promise, the constant hustle and bustle was quite different to what I was used to. In many ways that sums up first year for me – things were quite different to what I was used to.
First year was tough – I had to learn to cook for myself, do laundry, navigate a new city, live without my parents, make new friends and cope with my university degree. Despite many rocky moments, my newfound friends helped me get weather the storms and survive. Second year was comparably a lot better, I felt like I belonged at Imperial and I wasn’t totally out of my league, I knew my way around London and began to really settle into city life. Third year came as a break from Imperial for me, I went off an explored the working world, settling into working life at a zoo in Devon. Although there were some hiccups, life was very relaxed, working whilst gaining hobbies I hadn’t had the time to try in university. Final year hit me like a tidal wave, adjusting back to life at Imperial and in London was a challenge, but one I knew well enough to deal with. It was very much head down and work until the end – exhausting but necessary.
When I think about my university experience, it was far from the party all night, booze culture you come to expect as a teenager. It was rather a huge learning experience. Imperial pushed me hard from day 1, and although there were many moments of intense pressure and stress, it made me to produce some of my best work. It taught me how to compete with the best in the world and showed me that I am capable of producing work of quality beyond anything I previously thought I could. It taught me resilience and that everything will work out in the end (although at the time, that’s quite a hard reality to swallow). Most of all, I learnt a lot about myself – how I deal with pressure, tight deadlines and balancing different aspects of life. For me, university was as much an experience where I gained knowledge about biology as I did about myself. I’ve changed hugely since I first stepped into Wilson House in 2014.
If you take anything away from this blog post, make sure it’s this: If you’re thinking about coming to Imperial as an undergraduate or you’re currently in the midst of your degree, know that it will push you hard, harder than anything else you have ever done. More importantly however, know that you will overcome any hurdle that stands in your way. You have worked hard to get here and you deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. Take a deep breath and dive into university life, do as much as you want and remember that your university experience is unique to you – you don’t need to compare it to anyone else’s.
Although I’ve technically finished, I’m yet to get my final degree grade, so no popping champagne (prosecco – we’re still broke students) just yet! I just thought now would be a nice time to show that if I’ve survived and grown at Imperial, then you can too. Trust me, you’ll be better for it.
UPDATE: I passed my degree and got the grade I wanted – YAY!