My time at Leicester has genuinely been the best of my life so far. As cringey as that sounds, it’s true.
So, here is a lengthy account of some of the greatest things I’ve learned from my time at Leicester:
1. Follow your gut. It’s usually right.
Something I’ve come to learn is that self-awareness is absolutely key. Recognising when something was good or bad for me was crucial to making decent life decisions (including coming to Leicester, in fact!)
I remember sitting in the back of the car on the way back from another uni that really wasn’t the right fit for me. I hated it, in fact. I wasn’t sure where else I could consider.
In my research in the back of the car I found the University of Leicester. How had this never been on my list? I wondered. On one of the few open days left I was meant to visit another university, one which I was really keen on, but something in my gut told me to go to Leicester.
Lei reminded me of my secondary school; a place that was home to me, made me who I am, and gave me unbelievably opportunities. But most importantly it was a place that had real heart, a place of community spirit where we all stood together in the face of adversity. Somewhere where I was believed in.
And on my graduation day, I still believed this. More than ever, actually.
As the Vice Chancellor poignantly put in his grad speech to us: ‘Carry the heart of Leicester wherever you go’.
I chose where I thought I’d be happy, because I know when I’m happy I’ll do well. And I can’t explain how thankful I am for following the instinct that led me here.
2. You can do anything you set your mind to. More than you could ever fathom
All my life I’ve known how important self belief is, but never so much so as when endeavouring to complete my Law degree.
I always put limits on myself in school; I struggled with being an obsessive perfectionist to the point where I couldn’t sit an exam without having a panic attack unless I knew every possible thing that could come up. I believed I couldn’t do well unless I stuck to my relentless timetable for my set three month period.
How unbelievably wrong I was.
This January when the back wheels of my car aquaplaned and my car got written off a week or so before 12,000 words of assessed essays were due, it was a disaster. I was in shock and kept pushing myself to study, but the focus just wasn’t there. I was still in shock. But I managed to write them all in two days, with having only properly researched one of them. Of course I don’t advocate cramming or all-nighters; but this is just one of the hundreds of ways that uni pushed me, and I pushed back harder.
In my bag I carry a scrappy pile of post-it notes with quotes on, and here are a few that kept me going:
‘The only disability in life is a bad attitude’ – Scott Hamilton
‘Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly’
‘Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right’ – Henry Ford
‘Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is’ -Bhagavad Gita
Everything will be okay, I just had to keep believing that.
Keep the faith. Be relentlessly hopeful – especially when the adversity you’re facing feels insurmountable.
As my hero and inspiration Brad Montague advocates this in his ‘smuggling hope’ video:
“Hope is where we are.
Hope isn’t something you have to smuggle in.
Wherever you are today, hope it right there, too.”
3. Base your decisions on potential for growth (especially career decisions!)
A story I haven’t shared on here before..
From the age of 11 I was certain I was going to be a barrister. I spent the next seven years doing everything I could to learn about the profession, get work experience and achieve the grades necessary to pursue a career at the Bar. When I got to Law School I realised being a barrister wasn’t for me. I wanted to help people, but this wasn’t the way I was going to do it.
For a while I thought I’d just be a solicitor instead, until I was asked at a barbecue last April ‘If you could solve any social problem, what would it be?’ I laughed it off, and then went away and had a real think. My answer was: mental health, communication, and gender. From that day I realised that it had been staring me in the face all along – the charity sector! I could event manage, and lead, and work on communications, and work with the law, and do frontline work, all whilst using my creative skills too! I could influence policy from the outside, by changing people’s hearts and minds.
In my research I found a grad scheme – a brand new one. I could be a Prison Officer whilst completing a custom-made Master’s in the theory behind leadership and prisons, and then write a government policy paper on what needs to change.
It was a radical choice, especially when I was offered my dream charity job.
I did my research, and went on the Law School prison trip to see if I could hack it.
I took the leap. I took the job that meant I wouldn’t be behind a desk. I’d be on the landings, talking to people, whilst doing academic work too – changing lives and promoting rehabilitation.
So many people have been shocked and confused at this choice. But prison is a closed world, and no one understands how crucial the job of a Prison Officer is.
I have met so many individuals who’ve spent time in prison, who turned their lives around because an officer believed in them.
We don’t just lock doors – we change lives.
This will be the most challenging chapter of my life so far, and I can’t wait to jump in! Choose your next step based on potential for growth and you’ll learn more than you ever thought imaginable.
4. Every day is an opportunity to change your life
I wrote a post a while back about not being a lame duck. No matter how difficult it seemed, I tried to never think that just because I was in third year, or it was the end of the term, that there was no point in making friends or trying something new. I’ve got to know some of my dearest friends after Easter this and last year.
I’ve learned that you have to seize every single day. Instead of talking about how there isn’t enough time, turn your acquaintances into friends! One hang out could change it all. You never know when you’ll meet your people – I certainly never foresaw it.
I asked Lucie to go for a Chinese one evening, Alex Cotton convinced me to come to pancake day, Gunika and I went to Costa – and that was all it took.
5. Being truthful is one of the most powerful things out there
Something I’ve always found difficult is opening up to people. I’d always be that one who’d tell my best mates something huge in my life weeks or months after it happened. “By the way guys…”
One challenge I set myself in third year was to be truthful. I shared things with people that I never knew how to before. Marcus taught me that people will always love you more for being flawed and being yourself, than for being perfect and fake. It’s unbelievably true. Your people love your quirks, and the scary/embarrassing stuff only brings you closer together.
It’s been hard coming into a new working environment, but opening up to Orli (shout out!) has allowed me to process everything going on, and helps our friendship along the way.
If there’s one thing I always advocate it’s telling people the good stuff! We are so quick to criticise and complain, but genuine compliments can feel awkward, for some ridiculous reason?!
I have only felt more fond of people that have told me the truth, whether that be good or bad.
At a job interview a girl came up to me and said ‘you’re a really great mediator!’ When Luce is proud of me, she tells me. When I graduated, Marcus wrote me the loveliest message, telling me what he thought of what I’d achieved. People have contacted me to comment on the success of the Law Society. These truths have never had any negative reaction, and have told me what I need to be doing more of!
For the people who’ve told me I need to slow down and communicate more – because I’m more about doing, rather than talking – I carry that with me whenever I’m leading something now in my job. When I went through a phase of being late a lot, Dan, Tom and Luce called me out on it and now I pride myself on being places on time. When I told Dan about my job, despite me really wanting to do it, he told me his honest reservations so I wasn’t going in blind.
Honesty gets rid of miscommunication, and as Lesley reminds me – if you tell someone the truth, they can deal with that. They can make a fully informed decision on what to do next.
It also means that you’ll know when something isn’t right – and that’s when it’s time to change it!
6. ‘I’m too busy’ is a lie
In third year I totally changed my priorities, and it was one of the most crucial parts of re-structuring my life to make it exactly what I wanted it to be.
Instead of work always being number one above absolutely everything, I put friends, societies and going out/having fun, studying, and Law Society as joint top priorities. I challenged myself to do everything to the max.
What this taught me is that ‘I’m too busy’ is a lie. Yes, your timetables might clash, and you might have to wait a little while longer to see someone, but you’re never too busy. If you cut out things that waste time like scrolling mindlessly through social media, binging on Netflix every night, and stop procrastinating, you have got time.
It might just be a quick half an hour coffee shop catch up, you might have to run everywhere or it might mean going to the library until 12pm and then going straight to the club (Let’s Disko commitment level 100) but you do have time.
I challenged myself to do university life to the full in third year. I planned to go on every night out, make friends of my acquaintances, let my friends in, try five new societies, make Leicester Law Soc one of the best in the country, and get a good degree. Why not squeeze every last drop of joy out of every single day?
Yes it all sounds ridiculous, but it’s possible.
And this doesn’t mean running yourself into the ground. A quote that I kept close to my heart – “So many people glorify and romanticise ‘busy’. I value purpose. I believe in resting in reason and moving in passion. If you’re always busy/moving, you will miss the important details. I like the mountain. Still. But when it moves? Land shifts and earth quakes.”
~ Joseph Cook
The underlying tone of my new priorities was self care and self awareness. When I need to have lunch on my own, or take an hour to just lay down and listen to music, or walk to uni on my own, I took that time. You can’t be productive and smash your priorities if you’re all burnt out.
I may be busy, but never too busy. You can do it all. I promise.
The only measure is how badly you want it.
7. Say yes. Take a chance
All progress takes place outside your comfort zone.
At university I decided I’d move away from debating and Model United Nations into cheerleading in first year, ballroom dancing, swimming and a lesson of ballet in second year, and pole dance, wakeboarding, Buddhist society, Quidditch, mental health society and others in third year.
Did I fall over a ball and faceplant the ground on my first Quidditch practice? Yes. But did I realise I love being a beater and meet one of my dearest friends, Kieran? Also yes.
Did I get punched/slapped in the face as someone did a newyorker next to me in ballroom? Ha! Yep! Did I fall onto the ballroom dancing President when practising on my own and then spend the whole lesson apologising to a guy for stepping on his feet? Of course I did.
Did I kick a girl in the face and land bum-first in a girl’s face in cheer practice? Oop, yes! Did I get so nervous that I jumped out of a lift onto the Charles Wilson reception floor? Yeup.
Bearing in mind this was to get over my fear of water sports, did I end up being trapped under my board on my first go at wakeboarding? Typical!
Did I go to meditation practice at the chaplaincy and realise they were doing a 45 minute session, panic and almost leave? Uh-huh.
Have I been asked by six year olds in the swimming pool whether Dan is teaching me to swim? Yep!
It’s been the most ridiculous three years of learning, mishaps and hysterical laughter. But I never knew I could enjoy so many things, and meet such incredible people. Putting myself out there and going to taster sessions alone helped me to know myself better (and embrace my lack of coordination!)
Feel the fear and do it anyway!!
One final quote to leave you with, that has stuck with me throughout my time at Leicester:
” ‘Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you…’
No. Do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love people, all people. No conditions attached. No wondering whether or not they’re worth it. Cross oceans, climb mountains.
Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give.”
You are a galaxy – not made for complacency or stunted growth. Make your life the best story in the world.