It is six years since I arrived at Royal Holloway to start my degree in Classical Studies, and after three epic years of travel for some wild reason, I’ve decided to go back to school…
Anyone who knew me at university must have been aware that I was a terrible student. I was that girl who rarely did the seminar reading and yet always had a point to make, the one who would run into lectures last minute with her essay freshly printed just minutes beforehand, and the one who graduated with a First even though I ran out of time and handed in my dissertation without half of the relevant references in the bibliography…
Yeah, I was that knob. I justified my way of working by telling people it was because I produced better work under pressure and I’d watched some TED talk on stress that proved it. The one time I decided to get my act together and start an essay two weeks in advance, I ended up with a grade over 5 points below my usual, so safe to say I never learnt my lesson.
Achieving academically was never really the main problem (except in Latin, I failed Latin) I had with uni, my health was. Although I could get the grades, 24-hour shifts in the library fuelled by sugar and caffeine multiple times a term was not doing my body any good and I hated myself for it every single time. Moreover, being faced with a mountain of dense books and having to write tens of thousands of words on them was hardly paradise for someone with dyslexia. Although I could do it, it was a toxic love-hate relationship that I needed to get out of for my sanity.
By the time graduation came around there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to get out and do stuff. I thought my peers who were sticking around for postgrad were either bonkers or too scared to face the “real” world or a both. I thought “Screw that” and went off to pursue my travel dreams and take back that gap year the trebling of tuition fees had robbed me of pre-university.
That gap year turned into an epic three-year roller coaster of language learning, English teaching, and backpacking through both dreamy and undesirable locations. Looking back on it, I can’t help but think: fudge yeah, I did good.
I well and truly spread my wings and yet for some barmy reason, here I am, a freshly enrolled student again at the University of London about to spend two years studying an MA in Applied Anthropology, Community & Youth Work. The day I sent off my Student Finance Declaration form I thought to myself – have I gone completely mad!? Do I want to gain *another* three stone!? I’m a 24-year-old going GREY with an already very pronounced frown line for crying out loud! Someone even asked me if I was my Mother’s SISTER at the park the other day! SHE’S 52!
Thankfully, I have found body positivism and am aware that none of the above matters.
When I graduated, I said to myself I would only do a Masters if I felt it would benefit my career. As I decided to cut my trip to South America 6 months short, I was totally lost with what the heck I was going to do next because I’d achieved everything I’d hoped to do after graduation. I’d learnt Spanish, travelled, and returned to South America. I’d gained an impressive CV and character references along the way and could have easily jetted off to several countries around the world and continued teaching English if I wanted to. After volunteering for EftG in Chile, however, the thought of life tied to private language academies charging obscene amounts for classes and making a profitable business out of education made me wince. As much as I appreciate that private language academies aren’t all bad and I have certainly enjoyed working for a few of them, it just was no longer for me.
This was something I always knew deep down but didn’t know how to get around. My options through the education sector were limited to either continuing to work on Language Assistant programmes like I did in Madrid, or going home and qualifying as a teacher by doing a PGCE and maybe getting work in state schools abroad. The former option meant I would continue to be broke every time I came home, and after spending 4 months working in British high schools I knew the latter was definitely not for me. I frequently thought back to my job as a Senior Mentor for the National Citizen Service (NCS) and how after every wave I thought to myself: damn, I wish I could this full-time.
And on went the light bulb.
Truth be told, I had a different Youth Studies Msc saved in my bookmarks bar since 2014, but didn’t know how I could afford it and thus kept putting it off until next year. When the new Postgraduate Loan Scheme came out that changed and suddenly it became a real possibility. I put it off a further two years until, on that sleepless flight home from Mexico, a young gentleman poked holes in my I’m scared of commitment so I’m just going to keep wandering aimlessly fragmented life plan that I had left after all those goals had been checked off my list. Although later in the year I would find myself panic applying for jobs in South Korea and putting my application off until the latest practical time (in true #lastminutemegan style), in August I quite fittingly received an offer from Goldsmiths whilst on a campsite during my first week of NCS.
I am still trying to find a job and a place to live and am not entirely sure how I’ll make this work, but after my first lecture this week I have this sense of ambition simmering inside me that I didn’t realise I’d been craving all this time. Although reading those academic journals that make no sense to anyone other than the author makes me feel a little bit sick (lol), I’m excited about the challenge ahead and to nourish my brain again. I have already found myself going to the library to read up causes I’m interested in purely by choice and am auditing lectures that are not compulsory for me to attend. My mind is brimming with ideas and I’m finding answers to the bank of questions I’ve saved up over the past few years and yeah, I’m excited.
So, what does this mean for my future travels? Right now I don’t when I’ll have to money or time to jet off again and as it stands I have no overwhelming sense of wanderlust to quench, although I’m certain that after a few months of studying anthropology I’ll be itching to explore once more. What I do know is that right now I need to focus on what will [hopefully] my love for learning about new cultures and desire to help others into a long-term career.
But I also really miss Chile?