On Finishing University

Images from my final walk around leafly Highfield campus as an undergraduate

On the eve of my final day as an undergraduate in Southampton, I feel compelled to look back on the past four years and ask 'Was it worth it?'. I will be leaving Southampton with approximately £59,655 of student debt and a great deal of extremely specific knowledge that would become largely redundant in the event of a major magnetic shift, extended cosmic radiation event, severe energy crisis or loss of my ability to type, to name a few events of varying probability. In addition to the monetary cost of acquiring this knowledge, I have spent four years of my life in its pursuit. I have studied Computer Science here over 8 semesters, completing 32 modules ranging from an introduction to programming suitably titled 'Programming I', to a study of the applications of Darwinian mechanisms as search algorithms. The most surprising thing is that the content I have been taught in my course is just the tip of the iceberg of knowledge I have gleaned since September 2019. Studying at Southampton has opened up to me a range of experiences that have transformed my worldview and made me into the person I am today.

The quality of teaching and student experience is often identified as a benchmark for the value of higher education in the UK and a justification for (or against) the typical annual fee of £9250. Dissatisfied with teaching quality during the pandemic, many students demanded partial refunds of their tuition fees. Although many of these claims were valid, I can't help but feel that the thought process and rationale in such a discussion fail to do justice to the true value of higher education. In reality, the tuition fees are merely table stakes. Once paid, you are instantly incorporated into a body of thousands of like-minded individuals equally willing to dedicate years of their lives to the pursuit of learning and self-betterment. This environment, rife with opportunity and teeming with innovation, is the true resource you are paying for with your tuition fees. I would expect that most of the highly successful alumni of any university course found their success not by attending lectures and sitting exams but by exploiting the environment and advantages offered to them by the university to do something extraordinary.

To this end, I am so glad that I have been able to participate in events, explore new things and join societies that I am passionate about, such as Southampton's Lifesaving Club, enabling me to meet incredible people that have all done so much more than just turn up to lectures. I intend to stay in contact with as many of them as possible and, should they continue to tread the path less trodden, I expect they will soon be doing surprising and wonderful things around the world. This approach to thinking of the cost of something simply being the price of entry should be considered not just in the context of the university, but in a great deal of decisions. Soon, I will move to London to start a new job. Such a choice is not without cost; I will be leaving much of what I know behind. However, I know that this opportunity will mark the start of a new chapter for me - a new world filled with new opportunities and new people. If I can learn half as much from them as I have from those at Southampton, I will be in safe hands.

With that, I must say goodbye to the leafy campus I have grown to be so fond of, the same street I have lived on for three years and most importantly the people I have met along the way. After spending four years swimming countless lengths in the pool at Jubilee Sports Center, running through meandering paths in the Common or just spending a quiet afternoon in the library, it's finally time for a change of pace and a new challenge.

More images from around the University of Southampton's Highfield campus

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