When I was 17, in my penultimate year of Higher Education, I was told I had to start applying for university. There was no real discussion about what I wanted to do with my life, or where I wanted to go. It had always just been assumed that I would go to university and get a degree which would get me a good job.
At 17, I had absolutely no idea. I thought I might like to go travelling, to volunteer in Africa for a while, to explore the world. But I was told that this wasn't an option. That if I took a gap year, I'd be throwing away my education and would find it really hard to get back in later on. And I accepted that.
I accepted being told that I had to go to a top twenty ranked university. So of course I compared that list with a map, and pinpointed the six universities that were furthest away from home. If I wasn't allowed to travel, I might as well get as far away as I could, even if it was within someone else's limitations. Despite being told this was not a good reason for picking a university, I couldn't see any other reasons or way to decide, so this would have to do.
Long story short, I ended up getting the A and two B's in my A-levels, needed to accept a place at the University of Edinburgh (at the time ranking in the top 10; now ranking number 18). So on 11th September 2005, I jumped in the car, my belongings in the boot, ready to head off on what people told me would be the biggest adventure of my life so far. After getting out again to say goodbye to my family, I finally settled down for the five hour drive, with my dad, up to my new home. Although I wasn't allowed to call it home. Home was in Wales. Edinburgh was just where I went to university.
Fast forward four years to June 2009. I had survived first year - depression, anorexia, only just scraped through exams, didn't really know anyone I felt comfortable with; Second year - got promoted to Bar Supervisor, met some people I'm still friends with, just about scraped through exams; Third year - moved in with an awesome flat-mate, got promoted again, felt more comfortable around people, met the boy who is still my boyfriend, did slightly better in exams; Fourth year - moved house again, realised I hated being outside (a problem for someone doing an Ecology degree, which I was), messed up my dissertation and final exams (apparently slating the subject you are studying in your final exam is generally frowned upon), graduated with a 2.2, knew I never wanted to see trees or grass ever again.
Basically, looking back, I'm about 98% certain my undergraduate degree was a complete waste of time.
So when I decided in August 2011 that I was going to take on an MSc, I was determined this time to do better. I'm not stupid, I could totally get a distinction. And this time it was on my terms. None of this top-twenty rated nonsense. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt like a real person, where tutors knew my name and I wasn't just a statistic. I also wanted to go somewhere I knew had a good reputation for the course I wanted to study. And this is how I ended up at Edinburgh Napier University (currently ranking at number 98 in the UK, if you really care).
Today, I have become a lot more realistic about my own abilities and my expectation of myself. Ok, maybe I could have got a distinction. If I hadn't been working full time, been to the UN HQ in New York to represent WAGGGS, been battling major depression and the resultant months of counselling... So now I'm not expecting a distinction. Infact, even if I only just scrape a pass it will be enough (as long as I get more than the 53% I got for my undergraduate dissertation). Knowing that I made the decision to come back to studying, at a time in my life knowing it wouldn't be great, and that I stuck with it, that is enough. Having a Masters degree is something I never thought four years ago that I would ever achieve. So to have come through it so spectuacularly (I'm thinking a bit like a bull in a china shop) is a huge achievement.
And this time round, it doesn't matter that I know I don't want to work in the field relating to my degree. That's almost not the point. I survived, I don't feel guilty and I have a job. And soon, hopefully, I will be able to call myself Rosy Burgess, BSc (Hons), MSc. If I want to. Which I don't.
I do still want to go travelling though.
NB. There's nothing wrong with the University of Edinburgh. I am really proud to have studied there and to be part of the alumni. I just prefer Napier.