*This post may be a bit long so get comfortable*
On Tuesday, 24th July I graduated from University with a First in Hospitality Management and Food Studies but let's take it all the way back, to the beginning.
I'd decided to take a gap year for a number of reason but also clarity about my next step in life. I was not happy with my A- Level results and I decided to scrap the initial path that I had initially thought I would tow. I also used the year to redo some modules (in my own time) which to be honest ended up being a waste of time in hindsight but hey, at least I tried right?
In addition to that, I used the year to get my first job which happened to be with a hospitality agency as I was still also thinking about whether university was for me or not.
Early to midway through the year I realised that I do want to go to uni but I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I had applied to a few unis during this year as I chose not to the final year of my sixth form. Let's just say that it ended up being in vain as I did not meet their requirements and ended up being in a place that I never thought I would be in; clearing. For as long as I remember I'd always been fine academically. I'd never struggled to attain good grades so my subpar A level grades really got to me in a big way.
Knowing that I definitely wanted to go to uni but having to rethink the course I wanted to take put me in a complex conundrum. There were some things I knew I could have studied but I wasn't too keen on studying my passions (Writing and English) for three years as I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it. I thought about my experience during my gap year and my work; I'd found it to be alright. I didn't know much about hospitality but I thought that the devil you know may be better than the one you don't know. And so my journey into hospitality began. It's actually so weird how God works at times because for as long as I can remember (around my early teens) I'd had a desire to have my own restaurant and other interests surrounding food.
I actually did not know what to expect at all so first year was a real all over the place experience. I did however say to myself that I refuse to be miserable about life not seemingly going the way that I had expected it to go and I made a concerted effort to get stuck into University life. I was not going to be a miserable person who moped about with a 'woe is me' countenance. After first year I realised that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would which was great. I wish I could say that this made second year easier but it seemed to be the beginning of a whole new set of different challenges.
A placement year was a requirement for the course and our uni did it so that we started in January as opposed to the start of the academic year. There were ways to get out of the placement year but I unfortunately did not meet the criteria. I was really upset about this as it seemed that I would now be graduating much later than I ever thought or expected I would. I was so self conscious about it and whenever people used to (continuously) ask me about final year based on their assumption on when I should be finished with uni it really irked and irritated me. The worst is when they would still continue to go on and on about it and it was the main reason why I didn't want to do a placement as I wanted to leave uni at a more 'socially acceptable' age (so ridiculous looking back). I had to get to the point where I was content in where I was in life and knowing that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. I'll rewind to late 2012 when God gave me a specific word which has been, and continues to be a comfort and which saw me through university despite various challenges.
Now, it's placement year and His word is tested because that year started off an absolute shambles. I'd gotten a placement, later than expected at a place that seemed promising. A week into my placement I was dismissed and for no tangible reason either. I couldn't believe it and I was upset about it for a long while which hindered me looking for another placement or place to work . Most companies had closed their schemes by now so I had to apply for a regular job within the hospitality industry. Soon enough I found one at a place that most would consider great but it was far from the reality. For starters my contract was changed last minute from full time to zero hours which was a major disappointment. Zero hours are really not ideal especially when you have a certain number of hours that must be completed in order to pass the placement year. The only thing that made it palatable was the fact that I was working everyday so that really helped. Unfortunately the atmosphere at work was horrible and the company culture left much to be desired. I remember going to the toilet and just crying in the cubicle. My mental health was at an all time low and I made the decision to leave the place as my state of mind is more important than any salary. I lasted there for a month and did a few odd jobs here and there afterwards so that I could still get my hours. Unfortunately for me I was badly behind in terms of hours and was not even halfway through the required amount in July. This, coupled with the fact that I was off to Tanzania late August, caused me to fret a bit. Not only were my hours not there, I was also finding it hard to do the placement assignment as I had not been at a steady place in order to get the required documents that I needed.
Towards the end of the year however things got a lot better and I got a short-term job that bolstered the hours I had. I was still in a deficit however and I was wondering what would happen when I got back to uni. I'm so grateful to God that I was able to complete my placement assignment and even ended up getting a first in it despite how patchy the year was. When I did get back I found out that due to my shortage of hours I had the option of either writing a long report or continuing in part time employment in order to bridge the gap. I was not up for the report so I opted to continue work whilst studying. I had tried (unsuccessfully) to see if my previous hours from working during my gap year with a hospitality agency could be used and one lecturer had said a flat out no. I continued to try and still work at the same time which was a real struggle during final year. Thankfully, I had gotten the go ahead that it was fine for the hours to be used but I still had to wait for it to be officially approved in January 2018. If it wasn't approved it would mean that I could not graduate this year and would have to wait until much later which is not what I wanted at all. I kept praying, hoping and trusting God that it would all work out. I finally accrued the necessary hours just in time for the January cut off point and I got the clearance that I needed shortly after.
My final term at uni was challenging but for other reasons such as the loss of a loved one. I was so tempted to ask for an extension but I knew that I would eventually still have to do the assignment so I decided to press ahead. It was hard but I thank God for seeing me through!
And so here I am, done with uni. What's next? If I knew I would tell you though I do have quite a few things to look forward to. I have however decided to take my life a day at a time and not compare my life to that of anyone else because we are all unique in our own way. Some days I absolutely ace this mentality and other days I cave under the age old habit of comparison but the former is taking over which is good.
I do want to take this time to thank my friends and girls for being the best support system ever; those that started the journey with me, those I met along the way and those who weren't able to see me complete the journey.
I really do look forward to and am expectant of what the next chapter of my life will bring. As always, I'll be sure to fill you all in along the journey (where possible) and not just the destination because we all need encouragement along the way in this thing called life.