It's finally happened. I finished university.
Last Friday at 12pm the announcement was made to put down our pens and stop writing and almost as quickly as university came around, my degree had ended. Kinda weird to think that 3 years of all that hard work, lectures, reading, writing, crying and relief had come to an end. I don't intend on going on to do a masters degree, so for me this is very much the end of traditional education.
For my whole life so far it has been building up to this moment, being a graduate. I attended a school where university was very much the focus and end goal of everything we did there. Your grades, the sports teams you joined, Duke of Edinburgh, volunteer work, interview practice. All to mould you into this all to common ideal university candidate. Coming to the realisation that none of that really matters anymore and that I've ticked off another box on my journey into the real world is really quite strange.
This is the first time in my life I've had no deadline and no commitments beyond the next plane I'm getting on. For someone who always likes to know where she's going or what's happening next, this feeling is both terrifying whilst simultaneously being weirdly therapeutic. Without a deadline of where I'm meant to be going next I'm able to focus on what's happening right now and maximise the benefits I can from that situation. I now have time to focus on developing things I'm passionate about, reaching out to people that inspire me and having plenty of time to explore the world whilst also taking a little bit of time to relax and destress after the last 6 months.
What university did for me...
It evoked passions I didn't know I had, it gave me time to pursue things I was interested in, it inspired me to learn about issues and world events from a different perspective and gave me the means to formulate arguments and opinions that would not have otherwise been possible. It taught me that I can organise, manage and allocate my time and that I can stick with something even if there are moments I dislike it and trust me there were plenty! Not only did it teach me what I was interested in but also what I wasn't, an equally, if not more important lesson to learn. I also met some really awesome people and live in one of the best cities in the world.
I can't compare the mindset I would be in if I hadn't gone to uni however from the perspective I am writing from now I'm so incredibly happy I finished and pursued a degree. Whilst university may not be for everyone, it's helped me establish what I'm interested in and opened my eyes to career possibilities that I don't think I'd have set my eyes on if I hadn't done the degree that I did.
As one of my modules for final year, like many degrees, you have to complete a dissertation. For me this was to be completed on a topic of my choice (related to my degree in some form) in 10,000 words. 10,000 words may sound like a lot but when you find a topic you're passionate about, it's not even nearly enough! I wanted to focus on women's rights, I went through a process of reading a deliberating and eventually settled on the title of - "How have incidents of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo transformed peacekeeping missions?"
I was completely fascinated and equally appalled by what I researched and read about. The basic gist of it, to give you an idea without me spiralling into a novel is as follows. In many Peacekeeping missions that take place around the world the peacekeepers sent in by the United Nations abuse their power and exploit the local women and children they're supposed to be protecting, for their own personal needs. Whether this be through rape, prostitution or even more disturbing abuses. It is by no means all peacekeepers, but there have been a considerable and concerning amount of instances throughout the history of UN peacekeeping. One of the most prominent of these cases has been witnessed in the mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is why I chose to focus on the DRC in relation to the study of whether the reporting of these abuses has evoked any kind of change or improvement. Sadly exploitation is still occurring today. What I found most shocking about the case of the DRC is that this exploitation is occurring amongst the epidemic of rape which has plagued the country throughout the ongoing conflict over the last 2 decades. It is both encouraging Sexual and Gender based Violence and hindering developments towards improving that situation.
My dissertation really forced me to reevaluate what it was I wanted to focus on in the 'real world'. I felt and still feel like learning about the misfortune others experience, simply due to where they were born, is something I cannot learn about and simply ignore. I'm aware I'm in a very privileged position to be able to do something about this, I've received an education from one of the best universities in the world, I live in one of the most innovative cities in the world, I have the support of everyone around me and I have you guys, an audience willing to engage and read what I put up on this little blog. These are all things I don't wish to take for granted and want to harness to create greater good. If I hadn't have chosen War Studies at King's College London and chosen a dissertation like this I don't think I would have been nearly as focussed, driven or aware of what was happening in the wider world. For me, university has opened doors not just into the working world but also in evoking opportunities and ideas for what I want to pursue in life. If you hadn't guessed it already I'm consequently going to be heading into the Non-Profit/Social-Enterprise sector to learn, engage and eventually set up my own. I want to combine my love of storytelling, travelling and writing to interest the wider public in issues they may otherwise not be aware of. I hope you'll enjoy following me on this journey however long it is.
University, thank you and GOODBYE!