A typical student is perceived by the wider world as someone who lives in squalor, eats exclusively 17p instant noodles, and has no discernable interests outside of their academic subject, a subsection of media and recreational drugs. We are defined by ourselves and others by what we do, so take university as an opportunity to do something that isn’t just your degree.

Whether you’re in a top 10, Russell Group university or a place that fluctuates up and down the league tables like Sussex, you don’t become your institution. You become you, and now you’ve become a student here there’s a chance to decide who you want to be, and what you want to define you.

I’ve met both Oxbridge and Sussex students without any discernable personality. I’m entirely unsure what part of their life they discern pleasure from apart from grades and the acceptance of others. The opportunity to actually cultivate a passion and personality, through grasping at opportunities and experimenting with new things, is far more valuable than a place at a university.

The opportunity at Sussex to utilise the time between your minimal contact hours for anything from the societies to the sports clubs to the numerous opportunities outside the hills of campus means you no longer have to be defined by anything you don’t want to.

If you want to be known back home as “the Sussex student”, go for it. You do you. But if you want to be known as “The Rugby girl who spends time repairing bikes and volunteering at Refugee Radio”, I imagine you’ll gain more skills and more happy memories to look upon when you and every other Sussex Student is searching for a desk in the library and you feel like another brick in the wall.

The reality is, in these three short years there will be a lot you can do. It’s your choice whether you do any of it or not. But, after two years of seeing friends become nothing but a breathing textbook, remember your true passions may not be just your subject. Just like subjects and fields evolve, you can too. Give yourself the time and the fuel to grow into something more.


Miriam Steiner

Categories: Opinion

One comment

Study yourself, not just your subject

  1. I graduated from Sussex in 1991 but completely agree that extra-curricular activities (whether official or unofficial) can be at least as important as your academic work. Not just for your personal development but also for your career. Running a club or activity does take time but can be very rewarding and it gives you something extra to put on your CV (and talk about in job interviews after graduation).

    Easy for me to say of course, because we didn’t have tuition fees in those days. The trick is to do just enough work to get a 2.1. (I miscalculated slightly and ended up with a 2.2 in Psychology with Cognitive Science). This can be remedied by moving abroad (outside the UK – people are rather impressed with “Honours Degree (2nd class)”) and then doing a Masters if necessary!

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