June 11, 2020, by UoN School of English

Beyond the Books: What Has University Taught Me?

Besides (hopefully) gaining an English degree, going to University has taught me so much. From theatre practitioners, the Irish Literary Revival and the works of Alexander Pope, to key poetic techniques and the acquisition of children’s language, my degree’s breadth has equipped me with vital analytical and critical skills. Yet my University education certainly went beyond the page. Beyond the book, even. So far away from academia, and towards self-exploration and character development. Towards developing my empathy, compassion, and patience. University has taught me more than I could have anticipated. To summarise three years’ worth of experience and life lessons into 300 words would be impossible, so take this as the preface of what University life has taught me.

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemmingway


1. Some people, in which I include myself, are incredibly good at suppressing emotions. To know how to present yourself to certain people to avoid questions, confrontations, or awkward interactions. This is not to mean these people aren’t emotional, or that they aren’t suffering with a variety of problems, just that they do well to keep their head above the surface, and smile, so convincingly that you can’t see the frantic feet fighting to keep them afloat. It is sometimes the most confident, the most positive and the most ‘put-together’ of people who might be having a hard time. So, never judge people or pretend to know the entirety of their character or make assumptions about their life before you know your conclusions are true. Because most of the time, they won’t be. Instead work to truly know a person’s character. Be kind, be inquisitive and be interested. Going to University can sometimes bring with it a pressure of meeting as many new people, and making as many new friends, as possible. But the quality of the relationships you make isn’t in their volume, but in the connections you make with individuals.

“Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.” – Matt Haig

2. You are no use to others if you are not well in yourself. University is a time of constant pressure: pressure to succeed with your studies, pressure to make friends, and even pressure to have fun. But it is vital you have time to stop. To reflect. And to really digest and think about how you are feeling. Allow yourself time alone, if not physically then mentally. It is so important to be connected with your mental health so that you can recognise when things may need to slow down.

“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.” – Sandeep Jauhar

3. Ask for help. Frequently. Perhaps more so than actually necessary. Use the resources and academics on offer to you and take advantage of people’s emotional and intellectual advice. Asking for help and advice are critical in getting the most out of your University experience. Criticism will propel you forward. Help and encouragement will help to push you further. Do not be too proud to ask for help. No one is ever above asking for help. It may feel stressful, awkward, belittling, or unnecessary, but reaching out to others is so important. Whether it is asking a lecturer to explain something which everyone seems to understand but you, asking a friend to help with a personal problem, or attending counselling to try and solve some deeper routed issues, it is important to recognise problems and address them.

I have learnt more at University than I could have ever imagined. I know that future experiences and opportunities will benefit from what I have learnt. Never stop learning, for when we stop learning, we stop living.

Emily Hall is a third year English student at the University of Nottingham. She’s the Head of Features for Impact Magazine and a Features contributor for Her Campus. You can find her on Instagram @emi1ly_hall.

Image credits: UoN Image Bank [1, 2, 3]
Posted in Student Words