So I’ve now graduated from University, and I guess these last 3 years passing haven’t truly soaked into my current reality, but I do know it’s been a journey. I’m not going to sit here and say how life changing University was because I’ve experienced life changing moments and I wouldn’t say my stay at Manchester was one of them. What I would say though is I learnt a lot at Manchester, beyond the hard to pronounce words, the theories and what course units not to pick, I learnt a lot about other people, but most of all myself.
Popping the Uni Bubble:
Some say University is a bubble, not like the real world, others say it’s a place to develop your independence, I mean although we were effectively paid to study if we felt like attending lectures, the one thing that made University so unique was the people.
You’d meet people from all walks of life, all around the world and all around the UK from places I’d barely had heard of like Nelson or Carlisle (Yes I know I sound like an ignorant Londoner and No, they’re not names from a boy band). My 1st year was like living in a constant series of The Inbetweeners lol, but I soon gravitated towards like minded black Londoners, and I was more comfortable living with them in my second and third year.
In hindsight sticking to my predominantly black friends in 2nd and 3rd year could have prevented me from venturing out and learning more about different cultures, I still tried (where I could) to engage with other students from different backgrounds. Living with predominantly black people in 2nd year and just black people in 3rd year reminded me how heterogeneous British black boys can be yet in the same vein made me appreciate our shared distinct culture, understandings and experiences that are unique to us.
I guess I really valued this when I moved from an Inbetweeners like accommodation, where I was one of two coloured people on my floor of 17 boys, to living with black people in my 2nd and 3rd year houses.
More than Race:
Still, my University experience has been way more than just race. It’s funny to see the vast amount of class mixture, from the upper middle-class private schoolers who would dress in mud covered clothes (no exaggeration) to fit in with the working class ‘cool’ kids with inner city London accents, or me a second generation kid from Sydenham, a place few people at my Uni had heard of, so I’d usually add Crystal Palace or Lewisham, giving an awkward laugh when a white kid would reply saying “ahh the endz”, when I’d use the latter. I was learning too, learning to not conform to the many stereotypes black men face and it was a process, a journey.
Despite peoples backgrounds, University was the great equaliser (for 3 years) actually, that’s not fully accurate because some students parents could pay their fees outright, but University was an equaliser because to do well was based on each person’s individual merit and hard work not their parents pockets, and that in my opinion that alone is what unites a bunch of people who differ on sooooo many types of attributes.
Was it Worth it?
On the train going up to my graduation, I thought who better to ask this question than my Dad (because all second generation African immigrants go to Uni because of their parents right? lol).
Chijioke: “Do you think degrees are worth it?”
Dad: “Yes, I do because a degree is basically a mark of education and education is the way forward. It makes life easy, it makes you understand things better and it makes you efficient in whatever you’re doing”.
Chijioke: “What about the people who say paying £27,000 (British tuition fees only**) is not worth it?”
Dad: “It depends on where you’re starting from…it really depends on individual circumstances”
It was a no brainer that my Dad who came to England when he was 22 years old from Nigeria, to seek a better life through education would think a degree is worth it. I think the infamous bubble that University can be is worth it due to the experience and the amount you can learn about yourself and others, as for a degree I think it’s only worth it if you can apply it to your future and God willing I can do that.
TWN Editor Chijioke Anosike