Sunday, 26 July 2015


So I have a confession.

I've been running from this blog for several weeks. 

By that I mean I've been avoiding it, because I knew that in my next post I'd have to mention graduation (after all, my time at university, and leading up to it has been a constant theme during the past four years of this blog!). It wasn't really graduation that I was dreading talking about, though of course, my family did manage to embarrass me in front of one of my tutors, and I did find parts of the day quite awkward and hard to get through. Why? Because how do I communicate to my family what the past three years in college have meant to me? How can I explain to them the life I lived, which, since leaving Oxford, no longer even makes sense to myself. 

Anyway, what I was really dreading was having to discuss my exam results. And yes, I do have to talk about them, because I've always written a quick comment about my results, through GCSE, AS-level, A-level and Prelims. Let's be real - studying is something I take seriously and for the past four years or so it has pretty much formed a major part of my life. 

Which is probably contributing to the slightly lost feeling I'm experiencing right now, with my job not starting until 5th August, and having literally no work to do, at all, for the first time since I can remember. I digress. 

I'll cut to the chase; after getting a Distinction in my first year exams I really, really, really wanted to get a First in my Finals exams. It didn't happen. 

In retrospect I realise that I was very lucky with my first-year result - I got an average of 68 or 69% and they rounded up, This year I finished with an average of 68% and they didn't. I got a 2:1. 

Graduation in the Sheldonian theatre, not my photo :P
I should start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a 2:1, it's a good mark and reflects many years of work etc. etc. However, I was especially disappointed as I had achieved a First in a couple of papers, and was 1 mark off a First in my Extended Essay, but was let down by two exams that got a low 2:1. That's the brutality of the Oxford system - you work solidly (as in, almost everyday for 3 years, including 'vacations') and do well in coursework, but ultimately your marks are determined by a week's worth of exams at the end of your third year. If you have a bad couple of days, it undermines a lot of the effort that you put in to the previous 75 tutorial essays.

So, this has been a slightly unpleasant learning experience for me. It has made me re-evaluate my past three years at university - my experiences do not resemble those of my friends at other universities at all - yet I have the same degree classification as many of them. I'm trying extremely hard not to be bitter about the people I know who (having also worked hard) got Firsts, either at Oxford or other universities. This is what it feels like to throw everything at the target, exhausting yourself in the process, and still miss. It hurts. Big time.

I'm getting there though. Several of my friends had exactly the same experience as me - missing the degree classification they wanted by just a couple of marks overall. We're setting ourselves new targets, and telling ourselves that after our first job, no one will care what marks we got anyway. Perhaps that's true.

I felt ill the night before my graduation. What if I was confronted by my tutor? (Everyone in my class had presumed I'd get a First...) What if my peers kept coming up to me and asking about my marks? Would we have to stand up in order of degree classification? Luckily my fears were largely unfounded, though I did have the bizarre experience of staying a hotel room located opposite my third-year room, which was unnerving. I could literally look into the window where I'd spent so many sleepless nights working, and where I'd returned distraught after a couple of disastrous exams...

After some reflection I've realised several important things;

a) Before I came to university I would have been perfectly happy with being told that I would get a 2:1, and do some fun extra-curriculars. I have achieved this,  
b) Before getting my Prelims results I would have been very content to get a high 2:1 overall in my degree.
c) At the end of third year, and even now, I am satisfied with the fact that I came out with a 2:1 and a vaguely sane mentality, rather than suffering any serious mental health problems, for the sake of, and in pursuit of a First.

Onwards and upwards. The liberating thing about being slightly disheartened by my degree classification is that it finally means, after years of schooling and formal education, that life is not just about grades. At moments I produced work that was worthy of a First, but at all times I conducted myself in a ridiculously efficient and studious manner. I completed hundreds of hours of volunteering during my degree, and I tried to consider the welfare of fellow Oxford students, particularly my friends. I rose above a lot of horrible situations and circumstances, and I never stopped trying.

If someone doesn't employ me with this attitude, then they have a heart of stone.

I will talk more about my new job in my next post as I'm aware of how lengthy this one is getting! Stay tuned, I promise the next post will be far more positive! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment