University didn’t give me all the answers.

However, it made me ask the right questions of the world, of people around me and of myself.

There it is.

That was the essence of my years of study summarised in two paragraphs.

The rest is just flab, but here we go.

Sitting here and writing this is a bit surreal.

Like you, I started my degree fresh-faced, with equal parts excitement and fear.

I was excited because university is where important people go.

I was scared because I didn’t think I was one of them.

At this point, I was not quite sure where I was heading in life.

University seemed like a worthy use of my time.

I enrolled in a creative writing degree.

My application was last minute, and I received my acceptance letter on the second last day of O-Week.

Aside from a few pens, I walked in completely unprepared.

First Year
I still recall my first class. It was an 8am seminar for experimental writing.

I felt like an imposter.

I felt like a kid from the wrong side of the town.

I didn’t have 1,000 followers on Instagram.

I didn’t drive a Mercedes to school.

I drove to school in a beat-up old ute with an interior that smelt like exhaust fumes.

It took me a long time to feel as though I belonged at university.

I didn’t think I was ever smart or good enough.

Slowly I started making friends and gradually that sense of separation disappeared.

One of the most valued things I have gained from university is a network of amazing friends, none of which I’d ever have met if I stayed quiet and withdrawn.

So, my advice to any first year sitting in their first class is this:

Look at the person sitting next to you… they are just as awkward and terrified as you.

Speak to them. Make friends.

Yes, university is where important people go, so get to know them.

If you’ve got baggage, leave it at the door.

Although, the first guy I sat beside liked to sniff his own greasy locks of hair. He freaked me out a bit.

Second Year
Fast forward 12 months and I am in my second year.

I changed out my major to journalism. Why?

It was about this time when I started asking the right questions of myself.

What do I want from my degree?

Am I taking this seriously enough?

Is Making Meanings actually the best fucking unit ever? (Yes. Yes it is)

I found myself wanting to write about the real world and real stories.

I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as that dude getting around in a ute that smells like petrol.

Plus, I could see the blood drain from every person’s face when I said I was majoring in creative writing.

Anyway, I went with it. It felt natural, and I began to excel.

I remember the first time I received a letter from the university congratulating me for achieving an above 75 percent average.

It wasn’t much, but to me it felt like a Nobel Prize.

It was proof that I could hack it with the important people.

It was progress.

My priorities changed.

I stopped seeing university as a halfway house between parties.

I made up for my stupidity with a lot of hard work.

I began to do assignments weeks before they were due, not hours.

My marks began to climb even more.

You might be saying, ‘man this guy got boring’, but one lecturer put it to me perfectly.

She said: “What are you willing to sacrifice for your degree?”

Looking back, I sacrificed a long-term relationship, many wild weekends with friends and precious time with my family.

Again, it comes down to asking yourself the right questions.

What are you willing to give up in order to succeed?

For me, the answer was everything.

I sound like an old man, but you are at university to learn.

It is supposed to be transformative. You just have to let it change you.

Third Year
Everyone studying at university eventually reaches a point of no return.

Third year is it.

You’re over halfway.

However, if you’re still working at McDonald’s by day and slaving away at assignments by night, you might be thinking, ‘why am I doing this to myself?’

The short and convenient answer is: so I don’t have to keep working at McDonald’s.

But a big part of being a third year is taking your first steps into the industry before you have the piece of paper.

A degree alone will not get anyone far these days.

Taking that step into a new career will not be easier when you graduate. In fact, it can be a lot harder.

Yes, it does mean you will be at the grindstone seven days a week for months on end, getting paid little to no money.

Yes, it is scary to back yourself and say McFuck you to your job at Bunnings.

At one stage, I was mowing people’s lawns around the neighbourhood for $20 each in the middle of summer, just to pay for my fuel money.

(No. That is not some kind of sexy metaphor. I literally mowed lawns in 40 degree heat)

At the time I was voluntarily running a student newsroom, which I had made time for by quitting my safe and stable job.

I dedicated so much time and effort into that newsroom role.

One of my teachers noticed and recommended for a casual position with a local newspaper.

The job entailed writing real estate editorials about glamorous Western Suburb homes.

‘Fuck it, why not,’ I thought, and I made the most of the opportunity.

A few months later I was reading my news stories on the front page of that newspaper.

So, if I was to sit down with a third year and offer my thoughts, I’d say:

You will never feel ready to take that first leap in to your career. But once you do and you do it with dedication, you will always land on your feet.

In conclusion, you are good enough if you want to be.

Ask the right questions. Best of luck.

JD