So I’ve finished my BSc in Psychology at the University of York and will be graduating with a high 2:1. If you asked me a year and a half ago whether I thought I’d graduate with a 2:1, I’d probably have forced a smile and whispered something along the lines of “I doubt it but never mind”. In reality I was utterly convinced that I would not receive the mark desired for most professions I am interested in, and I was devastated. To be frank, I felt deflated, unmotivated and hopeless (cheers depression). I could not see how I was going to achieve the grade I wanted, and I was already beginning to dread having to tell my family that I failed; even though I knew that I had (and have) the upmost support from my family regardless of academic success. Things weren’t really going my way, or so I thought, and everything felt too hard – socialising was too hard, university was too hard, going to work was too hard. However, something inside me made me keep going – I went to work, I tried to see my friends regularly, and I wrote essay after essay and made countless revision cards. Thank goodness I did, because here I am now with a 2:1 and a smile on my face. That “something inside me” must have been an intrinsic hope. Either that or it was the anxiety of failing that was battling against the lack of motivation; one of the very few advantages of being afraid of anything less than perfection.
So here I am, a 2:1 tucked under my belt, promising future plans, and a relatively positive outlook on my experiences. So what have I learnt from university?
Sure, I learnt how to reference according to APA guidelines, I learnt the appropriate statistical test to run and I know the components of the eye, ear and brain. I could tell you about various disorders and their corresponding deficits/assets. I could even tell you that chimpanzees are, in some respects, more intelligent than humans (honest – see Horner and Whiten, 2005). Whilst the skills and knowledge I have gained from the degree itself is of paramount importance to me, it is not the only thing I have learnt from the past 3 years.
Please forgive me for acting as a walking cliche, but these past 3 years have enabled me to learn who I am, who I strive to be, and taught me that things can and will get better. Education is not only sought through books and lectures, but through interaction, new experiences, personal growth and deeply rooted challenge. I learnt that I have depression, but depression does not have me. This was not discovered through lectures, seminars, and exams per se, but in a way they contributed. I managed to sit in the middle of a row at the rear of a lecture theatre and not enter into a crippling panic as I had done for so many years before (that’s not to say it didnt happen a few times). For the first time in four years, I completed all my exams in a large room full of other students, as opposed to in a smaller room. Taking my exams in a smaller room was extremely helpful for me when I was younger, and is nothing to be ashamed of, yet I think managing to negotiate the stress of exams aswell as the larger room is a solid marker of my personal progress. Additionally, I didnt have a single panic attack in the moments leading up to the exam – a stark contrast from the pre-exam meltdowns that were so frequent in my past. I learnt to calm compulsions (ish) that had previously taken over my life – allowing myself breaks from working, combatting the waves of guilt felt when I’ve not worked myself to exhaustion, and not rehearsing counteless revision facts over and over in my head when I’m supposed to be relaxing.
I think that one of the most important lessons learnt over these past few years is that its always ok to ask for help. Almost counter-intuitively, I learnt that grades do not dictate my future, nor does anxiety, nor depression. I am in charge of my future.