I recently attended a family event, seeing distant members of my family I hadn’t seen since I was about six. As you do, you get chatting about life and the inevitable question of “what are you doing now?” continually cropped up. When I explained I was a student in my final year, training to be a primary teacher, there were responses such as “good luck!”, “that’s amazing, what a rewarding career!” amongst others. However, I was upset that a few others involved “aren’t you a bit old to still be a student?” (um, no I’m only 22), “didn’t fancy getting a job then?” (well, I actually worked straight from Sixth form and came back to Uni, but, OK) and the main one, “oh, you’re one of those students that gets free money and laze around for three years.” Yes, those exact words.
Now, I’m sure this was only meant as a little bit of “banter”, however I could tell there was an element of sincerity to their words. As this person walked away and I was left to gather my thoughts, I realised that, quite often, this was the view of people. That all students are lazy layabouts, who have thousands and thousands of pounds of “free cash” lying about, which they witter away on booze, drugs and clothes. Whilst I’m not denying there are some students who take advantage of their extra leisure hours and the money provided to support them through Uni, I also feel this is an unfair reflection of the student population in this country. These thoughts prompted me to write this blog post.
Before anyone reads on and thinks I’m being a completely self absorbed, self righteous martyr with a huge ego, I would like to assure you I am not. These comments are being made as a representation of the student community. I’m just using the first person to portray this.
I am one of those students who worked extremely hard all through my school career to gain a place at University.
I am one of those students who moved hundreds of miles away from my family/moved out of my comfort zone/left friends and partners in order to attend a University where I could create further career options.
I am one of those students who applies for funding in order to actually live throughout my University career, only to receive the money and realise after paying my rent I have £7 a week to spend on everything else (or that my money doesn’t even cover my rent).
I am one of those students who takes on a job on top of my studies, working every weekend or evenings until 3am, just to have enough for a food shop that week.
I am one of those students who has to balance lectures, seminars, part-time job, socialising, reading, assignment writing, time for myself, exercise, visiting family and friends back home, general household chores, library sessions, placements. Yes, some courses have very few hours of timetabled sessions per week; however, others have 35.
I am one of those students who, as a trainee teacher also, is technically working towards two degrees. One to prove my academic capabilities, another to show that I can satisfy and exceed the teaching standards and prove I am able to teach your children.
I am one of those students who effectively works as free supply cover for up to twelve weeks, taking on the role of the teacher and engaging in everything the actual teacher would do. This is on top of my other assignments and studies.
I am one of those students who will work in the library for twelve hours at a time, refining and perfecting the assignment that could potentially make the difference between me getting a job or not.
I am one of those students who will sacrifice time with family and friends, be it an evening or a weekend, in order to complete outstanding work.
I am one of those students who takes part in numerous voluntary and charity schemes in their spare time.
I am one of those students who relies on funding from the government in order to train in a certain career. Without this funding, there would be a significant decrease in teachers, nurses, optometrists, lawyers.
I am one of those students who will live with a minimum of £27,000 worth of debt before their careers even begin. Mine is currently at around £46,000.
People aren’t forced to go to University, everyone has a choice. Most people choose to go because they really enjoy the course they are on. I really enjoy University, so while all these things do have an impact on your life; can make you stressed, depressed, anxious, worried, upset, exhausted, it is worth noting that at the end of it it is all worth it.
I just wanted to raise the fact that you can indeed feel this way at University and it isn’t all about lazing around and spending free money.