Just over six and a half years ago when I graduated from high school, I decided that the next logical step would be to start studying. As I had no idea what I wanted to study, I decided to go for the bachelor Bèta-gamma, which allows students to spend a year studying different subjects to then choose one to major in. It’s perfect for people that like to postpone making choices.
When I first started I presumed that I’d complete my degree in the standard three years, maybe four at most, and by 2022 I’d definitely have a Masters degree and perhaps even a fulltime job. But now 2022 is here and I’m still going to need at least another year to get that infamous Bachelor's degree. Now you might be wondering ‘how on earth have you been studying so long and still don’t have a degree?’ Well let me explain.
After that first year of studying a bit of everything, I chose to major in Physics because I liked it and I was pretty good at it. However, it soon turned out to be a lot more work than I’d anticipated and I had a hard time putting in the work. I barely did any of my homework, skipped tutorials and lectures and flunked my courses. But I kept telling myself that I had made the choice to study Physics and that I had once liked it, so I just had to keep pushing until the ball started rolling. Unfortunately it never really did start rolling and I became more and more frustrated with my lack of motivation. I had made the wrong choice, or rather a choice that would never work if I didn’t change something, but I was too invested to admit it to myself. I was the perfect example of the investment bias, which is ironic because I had barely invested any time in actually studying and after three years had accumulated a staggering amount of 12 EC from Physics courses… But for some reason, it still felt like studying Physics formed a big part of my identity and I wasn’t ready to change my identity.
After 3 years of ‘studying’ in denial, my saviour came in the form of an Erasmus exchange. It was February 2019 when my parents dropped me off in the lovely city of Prague with my guitar, some clothes and a ton of enthusiasm. Going on an Erasmus exchange was something I’d been wanting to do ever since I started uni. It also turned out to be the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself. During the 5 months I spent there I met hundreds of students from all over the world, had amazing adventures and made friends for life. But I also tried courses from other degrees, which resulted in me finally allowing myself to say farewell to Physics and start studying Psychology. The full story of how I ended up going for Psychology is a bit more complicated and involves a trip to another ‘place’, but this story is already becoming too long, so you can ask me about that in person if you’re interested.
Since my return from Prague and switching to Psychology I’ve been enjoying studying a lot more. It would be too easy to think that it was just a question of switching majors, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. When I switched to Psychology, the main thing that finally made studying enjoyable again was making a conscious effort to meet other students and making a lot of friends in the process. During my Physics days I saw studying as a very individualistic thing. During most of my tutorials everyone would just be crunching away at formulas in their own world without any interaction with other students, which made it hard for me to feel understood and made the burden of studying even heavier.
I met many of my current friends through the study association (VSPA), but CREA courses have also been a great way for me to meet other students while exploring my creative side. I’m going to say something that might be a little out there, but I’m pretty sure I’ve learned more valuable things during all the CREA courses that I’ve followed over the past few years than I have from any university courses.
To my surprise, talking to the study advisors over the past few months has also been a great help with feeling understood and supported, especially when things aren’t going the way I want them to. Now, when I have my down periods I just let everyone know ASAP (teachers, fellow students, study advisors, friends, etc.) so that people understand. This reduces the burden considerably, even if there’s no quick fix. Just talking to people in general and realising that you’re not alone is a great help and has made me realise that people are way more understanding and compassionate (especially when you share things that are hard to share) than I’m sometimes inclined to think.
So what have I learned in almost 7 years of studying? Well, for one thing, that studying (and life in general) is way more enjoyable when you feel you can be honest with yourself and with other people you trust. But also that actively trying to make friends and sharing your laughter and tears with them is an essential stepping stone in that process.
Either way, when after 8 years (fingers crossed) I finally have my Bachelors degree, I’m going to give myself a well-deserved break from university life and focus on making music and other creative endeavours for at least a year, but maybe a lifetime.