Megan gives an honest account of University life and is keen to spread the word about a project she is working on in Ghana, to help disabled children.
Did you know from an early age you wanted to go to University?
No. My Mum went to University and my Dad didn't, so there was no pressure for me to go. I thought after doing A levels all I wanted to do was work and earn some money and that, if I wanted to do business, the best way to learn would be through working. So, I took a gap year and started my own business, with a raw food chef, selling organic nuts. We made granolas, nut butters, roasted nuts etc.
Although I learnt a lot in business and economics classes, I did not know the answer to some of the challenges that happened at work. I soon realised after six months, that I should go to University to learn more. I had already accepted a deferred entry, so I decided to take up the offer. I'd be working for the next 40-50 years of life, so why not postpone for a few years.
How did you choose the subject and course?
I initially applied for Universities like Exeter and Lancaster for Business Economics courses. I based my decision on the ranking (which I found on The Times website) and the entry grades. I chose very similar courses and just applied. I had one University left to choose and decided on Nottingham (as my cousin had gone there). When I started getting offers back, I did more research into the courses, and decided Nottingham was where I wanted to go. I received an offer from Nottingham for a different course - Business Economics and Mandarin, maybe because in my personal statement I had written that I had an interest in economics of China, having written a paper about it before. The course was called "Business and Economy of Contemporary China" so I was under the assumption that it was about business economics in China. I was naïve and didn't check the course content before I went; as at this point I was set on going. When I arrived, I found out my course included learning Mandarin!
Location of University - did you have a preference?
I didn't have a preference. At the beginning I was choosing nice locations like Exeter that would be fun to live in, but I then decided that I wanted to go to a University that was far enough away to not live at home, but close enough so that if I wanted to come home, I could. Warwick was too close (only 20 mins), and Nottingham was 1 hour 30 mins (perfect).
How did you adapt to learning Uni style?
At School you are very lucky because the teachers can baby you, reminding you of when to do work, when to do homework, and keeping on top of your progress. This is great, but when you get to University it's a big shock. The Professors are paid their salary regardless of whether you come to class or not. So, if you don't come, it is your issue not theirs. If you decide to sleep in and miss your lecture or seminar, it is only you who is losing.
During my first year, when I thought the Mandarin classes were too hard, I decided to stop going and sleep in instead. When exams came, I realised how much of a mistake I had made, and this time, the Lecturer was not willing to help me, so I had to do double the amount of work myself to just pass the class. After this, I made sure I went to all classes. There is also a common perception that first year of Uni not counting towards your grades means that you can go out every night and not worry about studying, but no one tells you that this first year of studying is crucial to doing well in second year. When I was in second year, around half of my friends failed and dropped out, because they had spent the first-year partying and in second year, they couldn't catch up. You must do a lot of independent study to learn everything well.
Did you take a year out before Uni?
Yes, and it was the best year. I changed a lot as a person, and I think it prepared me for the independence of Uni life. There was a very clear difference in halls as to who had had a year out and who hadn't in terms of maturity. I would recommend having a year out as it will give you the opportunity to decide if Uni is the right choice, and it's also a good break in between studying A levels and University.
Did you have a part-time job whilst at Uni?
Yes. I worked throughout Uni, apart from fourth year, as the dissertation meant I had no time to work. Working allowed me to earn extra money but I also met a lot of good friends who were also at the same university.
Were you in halls to start off with, and how did you adapt to a more independent life-style?
In my first year I was in catered halls. Worst mistake ever! The food was not the best, and being a fussy eater I would often go to dinner and not like any of the food and then end up ordering takeaways. The good thing about catered is that it gives you a chance to meet everyone you live in halls with, as you will have your own single room, so you can meet friends during mealtimes.
Budgeting, did you find this difficult?
I don't find budgeting difficult as I have always managed my own money, but my student loan didn't even cover half of my accommodation, so I had to work throughout University. I was good at budgeting and making up the extra money I needed, and anything else on top I would spend on what I wanted. The only thing I wasn't prepared for, was all the takeaways we had when the catered food wasn't good as I didn't expect to be paying for food twice! Getting a job at Uni helps you to manage your money, as when I wanted to buy something, I would calculate how many hours work it would cost, and then decide if it was worth it. For example, a pair of jeans for £60 would be 8 hours work, a busy Saturday shift, was it worth it?
Did you enjoy the course?
Each year, the course had modules that were compulsory and then you had a certain number of modules you could choose yourself. The modules are either 20 credits or 10 credits, and by third year, we had learnt to pick 20 credit modules as this would be less coursework / exams and studying than 2 x 10 credit modules.
Being part of business school, I had a lot of choice for what my optional modules could be, so I always enjoyed them. And if I didn't like the selection, I would go to another school and find a module I liked and then ask permission to join the module, which always worked. There is a lot of flexibility within the course to study what you like, as some people doing the same course chose all Maths modules, and some chose all Marketing modules, yet on paper we all had the same degree. So always check how many optional credits you get as this will show you how much flexibility there is!
Did you have a year abroad with your course?
Yes, I spent my second year at Nottingham Universities campus in Ningbo, China (they also have one in Malaysia). This was an experience in itself! As I mentioned above, in first year I didn't take my Mandarin classes seriously, so when I arrived in China, it was a shock that I was not able to learn Chinese as fast as I expected. In true Chinese fashion, the campus copied everything that the UK campus had, including buildings, names, the layout, and they even imported geese to the river to give it an "authentic" feel, so this was frustrating when I was already home sick. However, I had some great opportunities, where I worked as a private tutor part time, travelled a lot through the country, and ate some good food! The best thing was being an "international" student, everyone was in the same boat together, so the experience was fun.
Now you have a degree, what next?
Unfortunately, I graduated during Covid, which meant I didn't get a graduation, and only spent the first four months of the year at Uni. I am currently living in Ghana, as I decided to get away from the Covid situation working in Fairtrade gold mining. My role is business development where I work with many small-scale mines to improve their working standards, health and safety, and other procedures so that it is safer for the miners. We then sell the gold to the UK, and I am responsible for the supply chain of it successfully reaching our customers. The profits are invested into improving the local community, including working with around ten schools to start gardening green clubs, teaching them how to grow their own veg which they sell or eat at home.
I also recently started an enterprise club at three schools and got the idea from the Young Enterprise program that you do as CCS during Year 7-9 with Mr Slattery in charge!
Would you like to support Megan?
I met an inspirational headteacher who opened her house as a centre to help disabled children. She is really struggling for money so in the meantime I am paying her carers salary (£30 per month) and trying to raise funds for her to continue her amazing work. You can read about the project by following this link.
Here's what a donation means:
As little as £1, can provide a hot meal for 3 children.
As little as £7, can provide a weekly shop for 5 people.
As little as £30 can provide a monthly salary for one carer!
Thank you, we hope that you can help Megan raise funds for this important project.
Did you leave CCS in 2015, do you remember Megan?
Are you happy to share a University story?
Currently living in Ghana working for a charity, Megan reflects on her time at University More...