Defending Your Degree
There will be days when you will feel like you’ve made the worst choice you could have possibly made. There will be days where you are sat alone in the library staring blankly at your laptop screen. There will be days where you’re overloaded with books, not understanding any of the theory or criticism. There will be days where you think “have I really committed myself to this course for three years?” But, there will be days when someone will agree with you, and they will turn around and tell you that your degree couldn’t “possibly rival theirs”.
It’s not until someone criticizes what you do, that you suddenly realise it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s actually great. You’re learning new ideas (well, trying to understand them), reading (or skim-reading…) new books, discussing theories (or listening at least to what others have to say), learning historical and political context (thank you Wikipedia), stuff you wouldn’t have known had you not come to University (well, that’s what you tell yourself to try and justify the £9000 a year). Yeah, it’s really not that bad, and the negativity you felt towards Dickens’ and William Wordsworth disappears, and you strongly and passionately argue your case in favor of your degree. You’re here for the long haul, so you may as well make all those hours in the library worth your while, and tell this degree snob that “although you may have less contact time, that doesn’t mean your degree is worthless”.
I’ll admit it, and say there are days when I’ve got two 2,000 word essays to write, or an incredibly dense book to read, where I’ve thought to myself “Is this really what I thought it was going to be? Is this the course for me?”, the prospectus definitely suggested I would be having seminars outside sitting under a tree… But, I know deep down inside that an English degree is the only thing I would want to do at Uni, so despite the degrading comments, you’ll let others tell you how hard they work in comparison to you, safe in the knowledge that they probably couldn’t do your degree.
Degree snobbery is something you will face. People seem to think that the quality of degrees are measured on the hours you have timetabled, but that’s really not the case. An English Student with seven hours a week, compared with a Engineering students twenty plus hours a week will suggest to some, that those who sit around and just “read books all day” couldn’t possibly be working as hard as someone who spends their days in lab coats looking at engines. But some seem to forget that each course differs, and will therefore have different structures. When it comes to Uni, the way that people work will differ from College and Sixth Form. My course is 100% coursework, so the majority of my time is spent writing (actually, most of it is spent watching Modern Family on Netflix…) and researching for my essays, whereas more Science and Mathematical degrees will slowly build up towards exams.
Despite the resentment often harbored towards your chosen degree (and trust me, everyone feels it once in a while) you will discover why you chose the course that you did. Although the English lectures and modules that I now take are nothing like the Sixth Form lessons that made me fall in love with the subject and want to pursue it further, they challenge me to look at my course in a different way. Due to the changes in teaching and learning styles I was thrown off balance a little bit in the beginning of my fresher year, but once I began to learn how to juggle my free time (getting through an entire season of Breaking Bad in one week is not recommended) you will learn to appreciate your degree much more, and will be proud to call yourself a student of your chosen subject…despite people assuming a life of teaching awaits me.
It’s great having friends who take differing courses to you, as it opens your eyes to all the different degrees that are on offer at University. I live with an Air Transport Management student, a Textiles student, a Geographer, a Historian, a Sports Scientist and Engineers, and hearing about everyone’s degrees is really interesting. Although we all do mock each other for our chosen subjects, we all know that there’s no way we’d be able to do each others work.
Degree snobbery will be something you will face, but just be proud of your chosen degree. You worked to get your place, so don’t let anyone make you feel like it was for nothing. (If all else fails, English students do carry around some pretty hefty anthologies that would really hurt if they were to end up landing ‘accidently’ on someone’s toes….)