Inspired by the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.
This month we’re hearing from one of our Library colleagues: Genevieve Beech, the early early morning Library Support Assistant at the Arts & Social Sciences Library.
What and where did you study?
Creative Writing with Media Studies (BA) at De Montfort University in Leicester and English and American Studies (MA) at Paderborn University in Germany. Both times I headed alone to a new city and I found that the most daunting part.
Did you experience culture shock when you started university?
With my BA, it was definitely a shock to go from living at home to living independently, including managing my finances and cooking all my meals, in a new city with new friends. There was much more of a culture shock involved in studying abroad for my MA though. I’d been living in Germany for a couple of years before I began the course, so I hadn’t moved directly from England to study there, and that helped lessen the shock.
What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
Due to a couple of lifechanging events that happened during my first year of my BA Leicester I struggled to attend all of my classes and if I’d known about any kind of wellbeing services I would have loved to have made use of them. As that was 15 years ago, I don’t feel these services were emphasised enough. I don’t class it as a failure but I regret not seeking help when I needed it. I’m proud that I finished the course and did well throughout it, despite dealing with these big changes.
What are you most proud of about your time at university?
In my final semester in Germany I decided to take 11 classes so that I could head back to England that summer and write my thesis from there. I didn’t want to stay for another semester as I’d already been in Germany for five years. It was an intense time – and I worked part-time too – so I’m really proud I completed all the classes, including the weekly readings, quizzes, essays and end of term papers. I was definitely a lot more dedicated during my MA than my BA and really enjoyed studying even though navigating the German university system wasn’t so straightforward.
What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?
If you’re unsure, I’d recommend taking a year or two out and heading to uni when you feel more certain of the path you’d like to take, rather than feeling like you have to go straight to uni after sixth form/college. I also think that if something doesn’t feel right make sure you get advice and address it. I originally auditioned and was accepted to study Dance at De Montfort University but I switched to Creative Writing very early on, as I realised the theoretical side of the Dance degree was not something I enjoyed, and I don’t regret switching at all.