As Divya Venkattu says goodbye to Glasgow University, she reminisces on her memorable time at UofG.
It has been a few months since I moved out of my university accommodation to another part of the city. Life passes you by so quickly that any attempt to grasp a certain period in time in the palm of your hand proves to be impossible. Nevertheless, I turn to writing as it allows me the luxury of preserving a period of my life in tiny, fragmented parts.
They say a year is a short time but looking back, I am surprised at how much can unfold over the course of a year. I remember the first few months of moving to Glasgow and beginning my course- it was as exciting as it was unnerving. In theory, I was prepared to live in the UK, which is never the same as experiencing it first-hand. It was difficult moving away from home and letting go of the ways of life that I had been accustomed to. But soon enough – perhaps because it was the only way to move forward – I grew comfortable with leaving things behind.
Despite being relatively introverted, in the first few months of moving to a city where I knew nobody, all I wanted was to meet people and make new friends. I went out of my way to make the acquaintance of strangers, and would gleefully strike up conversations, much to my own surprise. Soon enough, Glasgow felt less like a strange new city, and I regularly bumped into familiar faces in and around campus.
The main campus situated in Gilmorehill evokes a sense of awe in me every time I visit it. Walking through the cloisters, I think about all the students who have walked through these historic walls, and all the different journeys they must have embarked on, after university. And I like to think that no matter where they went from here, the time they spent at UofG matter to them: learning, faltering, achieving, and making something of themselves. In the movie Dead Poets Society, Robin William reads from Walt Whitman’s ‘O Me! O Life!’, “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse”. He then asks his students, “What will your verse be?” Standing at the cusp of change, I can’t help but ponder over what my verse is going to be.
In a practical sense, students go to university to gain skills that will ultimately make them employable. While that is an important goal to have as you graduate, it might be worthwhile to investigate whether the goal of education should extend beyond earning a degree and finding a job. Perhaps the point of attending university is equally to think about how you want to contribute to the world and who you want to be.
Your formative years leave a lasting imprint on how you see yourself and the world, and I was immensely lucky to spend what are probably the last of my formative years at the University of Glasgow. When I started as a new postgraduate student, one of the most common questions I was asked was why I chose Glasgow University. I never quite knew how to convincingly answer this question because it was a combination of factors that led me to my decision. Despite the very solid list of factors that made Glasgow University a great choice for me to pursue my masters degree at, the truth is there was still a lot of uncertainty over how my overall student experience could pan out. And being the sceptic that I am, I braced for the storm, quite literally. My expectation was not unreasonable in that it does rain an awful lot in Glasgow, but what I didn’t expect was to see sunshine and even some rainbows, amidst the chaos that was student life. It would be remiss not to mention that the staff and student community at the University really helped me weather bad days and stressful times.
I like to think that if I had to recap some moments from my year in Glasgow, they would resemble a coming-of-age story. I have a lot of reasons to be grateful to the University, but none more important than for instilling self-belief. At university, I found myself again, and it was amazing to reclaim my confidence after quite a long time. I was provided with ample opportunities not only to learn and to develop skills, but also to have fun. Gaining a degree is the destination that each student at university wants to reach, but the journeys we undertake to get there are uniquely paved by ourselves as much as they are shaped by our peers and professors.
The choices we make along the way, the events we choose to participate in, and the responsibilities we shoulder, reveal our capabilities and help cement our sense of self. The people we meet and the conversations we have enrich the journey, adding colour to it. My academic journey wouldn’t be the same without all the people that I have met. I have been inspired by many of my peers from Glasgow University, including those outside my course and those pursuing undergraduate courses. I have met some of the most brilliant, creative but also unassuming people here at university and it has been a privilege knowing and working with some of them.
My experience at the University of Glasgow has been incredibly rewarding, and while a part of me is going to greatly miss being a university student, I also realise that it’s time to move to the next phase of life. Before I embark on my next big adventure, I am cherishing my memories from what has been a remarkable year. As I step outside the gates of the University one last time, I bid adieu with a heart full of gratitude and admiration for my alma mater, and wish for the incoming batch of students to make the most of their time here.