When I finished school, I went straight to the University of Stirling to study Law LLB. It was an absolute dream come true, especially since Stirling was my first choice university and I had been incredibly stressed for months about whether or not I would get the grades I needed at A-Level.
I had really fallen for Stirling when I went over for their open day. The campus itself was stunning (it’s built around a lough), and I really liked the idea of a campus university as I felt it would be easier to transition from living at home if everything I needed was just a walk away.
The weeks between A-Level results day and moving to Scotland are a bit of a blur, spent frantically preparing to move to another country. My initial excitement at arriving in Stirling and living independently from my parents quickly wore off – I couldn’t sleep for the first few nights thanks to the noise of student parties going on all night around the campus and the lack of curtains in my tiny room.
I remember calling my parents crying my eyes out because I was exhausted and homesick. It was really tough, but after a couple of weeks I began to settle into a routine and made some friends from my course.
I studied right from the start, even heading to the library during Freshers week for a couple of hours each day to get ahead in my reading. I thought things were going okay for a few weeks, however I quickly felt incredibly overwhelmed with the amount of work, reading, and the lecture content on top of the pressures of living alone for the first time.
I began to have frequent panic attacks during lectures and when studying as I simply didn’t understand what I was being taught. While normally that wouldn’t be an issue for me, I couldn’t find any resources to help me understand the topics I was struggling with. I read the recommended textbooks, I tried to find additional resources in the library but nothing seemed to help. I even struggled with researching – if I used the cases cited in the textbooks I was accused to copying them, but I simply couldn’t find relevant enough cases through our online library that would fit with the essay subject in amongst the thousands of results that would come up no matter how hard I tried to narrow my search terms.
The lightbulb moment for me was when my first semester essay marks came in. One essay for Criminal Law I had tried to research for weeks before the due date, I had meticulously planned, and re-drafted several times before handing it in nearly a week before the due date. I felt confident that it was best work, and quite frankly really proud of myself. Another essay for Public Law I wrote the night before the due date, drunk, at 3am (not my finest moment), with minimal preparation and hastily scrawled notes from lectures as my only guide. I managed to do quite well in my Public Law essay, but I scraped a pass mark in the Criminal Law essay. To say I was crushed was an understatement.
I knew right away the I didn’t want to struggle with another three years of university (Scottish degrees are generally 4 years, rather than 3), followed by several years of training in order to become a solicitor or barrister. I was in a constant panic due to the amount of debt I was already in from my tuition fee loan and maintenance loan, but I knew that Law simply wasn’t for me. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life instead, given that it had been my plan for so long.
I’m so lucky that my parents were really understanding. I decided to stay in Scotland and finish the year since I had already paid for a full year of rent on my room and I was loving Scotland as a country. After that I was going to move back home and live with my parents again on a ‘gap year’ so that I could figure out what my next step was.
Pretty early on I considered a Paramedic Science or Nursing degree as I knew I wanted a more hands-on experience than Law could give me. My Mum encouraged me to join a St John Ambulance division, and I didn’t look back. I loved all aspects of the training, and I was sold when I was invited out as a 3rd crew member on Northern Ireland Ambulancr Service (NIAS) cover shift. I loved putting my skills into practice and the patients we saw that night really touched my heart.
I applied for Paramedic Science at three universities in England, and Adult Nursing at one university in England and one at home in Northern Ireland as I still couldn’t quite choose between the two. I received offers of interviews from all five universities, which was a huge confidence boost but also slightly nerve racking as I hadn’t needed to do interviews for Law.
I went to all five interviews and fell in love with Kings College in London. I picked Nursing as I felt that I would thrive in a hospital environment with a team, however pre-hospital care will always be an interest and passion thanks to St Johns, The guidance and mentoring I received from St Johns was fantastic and it really helped me believe in myself.
Due to the fact I already have my A-Level results, I received an unconditional offer from Kings College, and I immediately accepted. I start university again in September, and I feel so confident and excited.
I don’t regret my time at the University of Stirling at all – in fact I think it will benefit me greatly as I know now how to cope with homesickness and also how to get into a balanced routine of studying while also having a social life – but I also know I made the right choice in dropping out and choosing a completely new path for myself.
The best advice I can give to anyone thinking they’ve made a mistake, either in terms of the university or the degree they’ve chosen, is to take a leap. There’s no point being miserable (especially while paying up to £9250 for the privilege) during university, especially as your experiences and degree can shape your entire future.
Until next time, Dani x