Full UK Review, Part VI: Final Thoughts

August 7, 2009 in Novel, On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

cambridge_university

Finally, the final post on my time in the UK.

I came to the UK to obtain a masters in law at Cambridge and I did it.  I also did a whole load of other things along the way.

Cambridge is a terrific university, but in some ways it’s just a façade, in the way that most of the other top universities are too.  Because of its name, it attracts the best students around the world, who fight tooth and nail to secure a spot and are willing to pay whatever exorbitant fees that are imposed.  And because of the premium it charges for its name, and its reputation, it attracts and employs the top lecturers.  But apart from that, it’s not all that different from most other universities.  Sure, the work is challenging, but it’s not like ‘normal’ students would find it impossible to handle.  The teaching is generally excellent, but there’s still the odd stinker.

The same can be said for the students.  There are always a couple of brain freaks, but most people were surprisingly normal and had lives.  No one studied all day or even most of the day, even if they act like they did.  We only had 8 hours a week for 8 weeks a term for 3 terms, with 5 week breaks in between.  It’s not the unattainable, other-worldly academic or intellectual dimension they would like you to think it is.

So for those who think that if they can get into a top university they’ll instantly become ‘smarter’ or learn things other people won’t, it’s not like that at all.  You pay your fees, sit through lectures, study, sit for exams, graduate.  That’s it.  Sure, the overall quality is higher and it can probably get you a better job and give you smarter friends, but it doesn’t make you any different.  Likewise, those who miss out on getting a place – it’s not the end of the world.  Wherever you go, it’s up to you how much you want to learn and how hard you want to work.  That’s life.

So how did I do?  I did reasonably well – not at the very top but in the top 3rd of the class.  Could I have done better?  I’m not sure.  I certainly worked as hard as I could have in the period leading up to the exams, but I kind of ran out of time a little as I spent so many weeks travelling before it (and I also wasted another week catching up on a topic I didn’t study for in the exam).  Oh, and all the other stuff I mentioned in the previous 5 posts didn’t free up more time either!  That said, I gave it my all and I wasn’t competing against stuffed chickens, so perhaps it was the best I could have done.

I suppose ultimately, my heart wasn’t fully into it like it should have been.  I guess that speaks volumes about what I want to do with my life going forward.  Given the current state of the economy, I’ll have no choice but to return to my old job.  However, I’m not going back to it with a glum outlook.  In some sadistic way I’m almost looking forward to it again.  Because this time, I’ll be prepared, and I’ll actually have other things to occupy my mind apart from work.  And if the economy picks up, I won’t mind looking for something in writing.  I don’t know how long it will take to make the transition but at least the option is there.  Writing makes me happy but I still need to pay the bills.

As for the novel, I’m going to keep at it.  I’ll have at least another month or so before returning to full time work, so if I catch fire again finishing the first draft is not outside the realms of possibility.  Then I can take my time rewriting and perfecting it, however long that takes.  In any case, I’m going to finish it.  And when I do, I’ll look back be thankful that it was these 9 months in the UK that gave me the opportunity to start it all.