4

I Finished My Degree!

Hi guys!

I’ve gotten the urge to write a bit on my blog again and first thing’s first – I FINALLY finished my degree!

I know there’s only like 100 odd people who follow my little blog, and most of yous haven’t been here since my first posts, but I began this blog back in the winter of 2014, while on a foundation year for a degree in Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex. In total, I’ve been in further and higher education for the past 7 years – yes, SEVEN! At 19 years old, I jumped back on the education bandwagon after dropping out of school when I was 14, and am now 26 years old and have finally completed my degree. If you think about it, it actually ended up taking the expected amount of time – 2 years for GCSE’s, 2 for A levels and then 3 for a degree is the norm – and it took me 7 years too. I went a bit of a different route though – starting with a year doing intensive GCSE’s in Mathematics and English alongside an Access course to Higher Education in Biological Sciences, followed by a year spent on the foundation year of the Physics & Astronomy degree at the University of Sussex, followed by a year spent studying A level Physics & Mathematics from home, followed by a year spent on the foundation year of a degree in Physical Sciences at North Hertfordshire College, and then finally 3 years on a degree in Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire.

It’s been a very long journey, and I didn’t expect it to be such a long-winded, twisty path, but I think every step was necessary to allow me to be in the position I am now.

I’m hoping for a 2:1 – my possible degree classification grade range is from 56.5% – 74.9% based on my degree classification safety net and based on the 6 pieces of work I have left to receive a mark for. I was so dead-set on getting 70% (a 1:1, highest possible grade classification for a degree) for the entire time I’ve been back in education, but I’ve done my very best and I’d genuinely be happy with a 2:1 (60-70%). I think I’d feel pretty upset if I got a 2:2, not going to lie about that, and feel insanely happy if I somehow managed a 1:1 (EXTREMELY unlikely given the amount of questions I couldn’t answer in the 3 exams and that I’d need something like 90% or more in them to get a 1:1 overall at this point), but I feel comfortable with a 2:1, knowing that it was the best I could reasonably do without losing my mind in the process!

I can honestly say that I’m really, really flipping proud of myself aswell. For many different reasons.

1. I may be lucky to not have any extreme disabilities or any incredibly disruptive situations at home that would greatly impact my degree, but I have had a lot of mental health problems for this duration that have definitely affected my learning. I’ve also not had any friends or family nearby (actually, I don’t have any super close friends altogether) so my support system hasn’t always been the most in place. I’ve also experienced a lot of hurt in my last relationship for these past 7 years, including several break-ups, and a year ago our engagement was broken off. It wasn’t the path I wanted for the relationship, which has meant it has been EXTREMELY difficult to focus on my degree for this final year. Coronavirus has also impacted my exams and the majority of my second semester pieces of coursework.

2. I could have worked harder than I did during my degree, but I still worked harder than I thought a human would be capable of in the same circumstances I have been in honestly, and looking back, how good some of my grades are is actually shocking considering how extensively my mental health and personal life was impacting my life at the time, and I think it would have been entirely normal to have deferred the second half of this past year of my degree altogether.

3. Some of the grades I have received this past academic year include 100% in all 3 of my particle physics assignments (2 problem sets and a presentation), 96% in my condensed states of matter assignment ( a problem set), 95% in my space dynamics interim workbook submission, 92% in my computational physics star formation report, 92% in my quantum mechanics coursework problems, 90% in my quantum mechanics presentation and 90% in my cosmology practical.

4. My grade average for second year was 53% (I really struggled mentally last year and had to defer a lot of work – this also means this grade average doesn’t include the module Quantum Mechanics that I deferred to do that this year instead). My grade average this year (including the Quantum Mechanics module and its weighting, and not including any marks I haven’t gotten back yet) is 69%. I have raised my grade average in final year, the most challenging year of a degree and whilst struggling with mental health problems and a failed 6 year relationship, by 16%. I am so incredibly proud of that!

It’s been an insane journey – astronomy never ceases to fascinate me, and I’ve learnt about so many different interesting topics.

I’ve learnt what topics in astrophysics I really, really do not want to pursue unless it’s in my free time and is entirely non-obligatory, and the topics that really amaze me, and that I yearn to delve deeper in and explore further than I have done. It’s given me a bit of sense of direction, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

I’ve learnt that I sort of really do not enjoy being obliged to study pure physics topics, and would much prefer to learn and read about those topics in my free time. I’ve also learnt that I really enjoy (and am quite good at) data sciences, and aswell as still enjoying astronomy in general and astrobiology, I also really find cosmology fascinating.

I’ve learnt how important ecology is to me and the need for me to somehow integrate that into my life in order for me to feel fulfilled.

I’ve learnt that I am absolutely rubbish at exams and exam based,  face-to-face, taught, conventional education – and that that’s absolutely okay!

I’ve learnt I’m really, really good at coursework and research, and that I learn better with having just a few face-to-face taught interactions, and most of the time learn better and produce better work when I work fairly independently – at least for astronomy.

I’ve learnt that although I am capable, I’m not mentally well, and so I am less capable than a healthy person is and will therefore struggle more with the same work, and am likely to do worse in some pieces of work due to this despite working harder, and that that is also okay.

I’ve learnt that full time education is a bit of a pressure cooker situation for me due to my mental health, and leaves me with absolutely no time whatsoever to focus on any hobbies at all. I haven’t read a non-university related book in around 6 years. I haven’t played a computer game in maybe 4 years. I haven’t watched Star Trek – my favourite TV series of all time, in maybe 3 years. I’ve learnt only 10 seconds or so of a song on my guitar that I’ve had for 4 years, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve learnt the impact of my mental health on every aspect of my life, and that it absolutely must come first if I’d like to soon be capable of having enjoyable, fulfilling days.

I’ve learnt that I absolutely WILL stick to and complete anything I really want to, but that it will take a lot of time and work.

I’ve learnt that just because I am fully capable of commitment, not everybody else wants the same things as I do, and that I shouldn’t base my decisions on a life with somebody who thinks it’s wrong to prioritise love.

I’ve learnt that I am beautiful, inside and out, and that I only require myself to believe in that for me to feel it.

I’ve grown, and my life has changed a lot, but in other ways, it and me are exactly the same. Before I started my education journey, I was single, and am single again. I started it out without friends around, and again, don’t have any friends around me. I started my journey out homeless and again, I’m without a home. I started my journey off independent, determined and strong, and again, I am independent, and hopefully the determination and strength will come with a bit more time.

So, that’s first thing first!

TLDR; I finished my degree, it took me FOREVER, it was difficult because I have bad mental health and my relationship failed, but I’m hoping to get a 2:1 and am proud of myself.

– Storm

3

I Got Onto My Degree! Results + Treats.

Hey guys!

As some of you may know, a couple of years ago I dropped out of my foundation year for Physics and Astronomy, for various reasons. The next year, I applied for University again – and successfully got onto a foundation year for Astrophysics.

I have just completed that foundation year and, finally, I have actually managed to obtain a place on a bachelor degree in Astrophysics!

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I was pretty worried that I wouldn’t be able to, as I needed to achieve 65% in my Advanced Mathematics module – whereas I only achieved 62%. They’ve given me a chance, and I’m so grateful for that!

Here are my overall results:

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Here is a breakdown of my results:

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As you can see, I did pretty terribly in my final Advanced Mathematics exam (43%) – but I did SO WELL in my Statistics exam (90%)!

And here is the interpretation of my results (although this was just a foundation year, so my results this year don’t actual count toward my final grade):

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When I found out, the first thing I did was to call my partner – he was having some drinks with a colleague after work. That evening when he came home, he had brought me back a GORGEOUS bouquet of flowers, an AMAZING bottle of Rose champagne, and an absolutely DELICIOUS bag of Indian takeaway! What a treat! I just love how much it means to him when I achieve something!


As a treat to myself, from myself, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a Primark haul tomorrow. I’ll be heading down to the all famous Primark on East Oxford Street. My style has really changed over the past few years, and I have a lot of clothes that either don’t fit me right at all, that look bad on me, have become damaged or that I just plain don’t like anymore. I really don’t buy myself clothes very often, so I decided on Primark because if I shop there first, I’ll be able to get a lot of pieces at a low price – pieces that could very well be a lot more expensive elsewhere! I’ll also be able to actually try the clothing items on, and I much prefer high street shopping to online shopping in general!

So, I’ll be heading to the most popular Primark store that I have nearby, and I’m going to get there super early – like for 8:00 AM, so that I can pretty much have the store to myself. I’m so excited! I’m going to really make an effort to choose items that actually make me feel confident, and to not just chuck things in my basket without thinking. I don’t really have a specific spending limit, both because I trust in my ability to only buy the gems I find in the store, and because I genuinely need a LOT of new clothes! I don’t have anything specific in mind that I’m going to look for – Primark could have amazing shoes but rubbish dresses one month, but then have awful shoes and incredible dresses the next.

This is probably going to be the first planned haul I’ve ever done! I’ll of course be writing a Primark haul blog post tomorrow, hopefully with try-on photos, so look forward to that!

– Storm

2

Is Obtaining A Degree Ever Worth It Financially?

So, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the costs of obtaining a degree. Unfortunately for us in the UK, the average debt for students graduating today is £50,800. That is an awful lot of money! In that time, the individual could have instead worked full time – both gaining valuable work experience and, of course, money. Obtaining money rather than loaning (and in effect, losing) money is always a good thing!

A student can work alongside their degree however, and loan repayments are wiped 30 years after having obtained said degree. The loan repayments are also a relatively low sum per month, and only need to be begun to be repaid once the individual hits an income of £21,000 +.

With interest applied to the loan amount however, loan repayments can ultimately add up to be a rather large sum altogether.

So, I’ve been wondering. Is obtaining a degree ever worth it financially?

There are many other ways a degree may or may not be “worth it,” but I’m just thinking about the financial aspects of one for now.

I imagine myself, one day in the future when I am repaying back my student loan monthly, and am in a job that required me to have the degree which I had obtained. Now, what if I compare that future me to another person the same age as me, without a degree but with more years of work experience, and by now already in a very stable, well paying job.

I’ve always heard that degrees should be thought of as an investment, but is this really true? Does one always end up better off financially in the long run after having obtaining a degree?

Programmers, for example, do not require that individuals have obtained a degree. Employers will rarely fixate on an applicant’s education history at all in this field, and are much more interested in their actual practical ability in the field at the given time, and will more often hire someone based on their demonstration of said ability. Programmers can make a very decent salary, rising quickly. Programming is also a relatively easy skill to self-teach, and doesn’t really require tuition at all.

My partner has no official prior education in programming whatsoever, and simply self-taught himself as a teenager and young adult for fun. We are both 23 years old, and he is now in a very well paying programming job, whereas I am still struggling through obtaining a degree – with no official work experience to speak of to date! On top of that, I have also already incurred a student debt of over £20k.

So, financially, will my degree ever be worth it? I’m just talking about Bachelor degrees here. Surely it would have been more worth asking my partner to teach me programming instead, right? Honestly, I don’t even know anymore. If I’m honest, I don’t think they are. Some of the highest earners in the UK are Brokers for example, which is a job that doesn’t often require any formal qualifications – only usually a year of work in the relevant field – such as sales.

I suppose money isn’t everything, right? It has made me wonder though. I still have 3 years of my degree, and have begun thinking that perhaps the debt is just not even worth the effort! Especially now that so many people are obtaining degrees – I feel they are almost becoming obsolete over actual real life experience in the industry… I think my answer for this one, in all honesty, will have to be a no! I absolutely do not think a degree is worth it financially. Not in the UK at least!

I certainly don’t think money is everything, but I do know that financially I am currently quite unhappy, so perhaps sometimes money does bring you more happiness. Maybe it is time for a change in direction for me. I think I may start thinking of work and other parts of my life as the center, and my education as a side thing I’m working on, if that makes sense? I do still want to work on m degree, but I think it’s time for me earning a salary to take the center stage! I think I’d definitely feel happier financially that way 🙂 I think it would also be a good idea to get my partner to teach be a bit of programming over the course of my degree, so that once I’m finished, I could work in programming if I want to!

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

– Storm

0

My quest to a career in Astrobiology!

So some time ago I decided it was about time to sit down and make a decision on what it is that I want to do as a career. Me being somewhat of a perfectionist meant that I couldn’t bring myself to find a job/find employment in a field without having done this first. After a lot of thinking and searching, I came to a decision – Astrobiology.

This field is ideal for me. You see, unlike a lot of people, I never found an intense interest/hobby/passion when I was younger and instead found most subjects somewhat interesting. Astrobiology is a subject that involves all my academic interests – geology, ecology, biology, astronomy… For a career in Astrobiology, experts in the fields involved are preferred to individuals who are experts in Astrobiology itself, so I’ve chosen Astronomy to be my focus.

It’s taken me two years since I made that decision to get to where I am today. It hasn’t been easy – it meant having to toughen up and mature quite suddenly and I know that it’s only going to get more difficult, but… Making a life choice and following that choice independently is so freeing. 🙂

I’m currently on a foundation year of a degree in Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

I guess this post was a little introduction to my educational pursuits. 🙂

– Storm