I Funded Myself Through University
When I was 19, I was determined to become a lawyer. I liked the idea of knowing my legal rights and helping others counter their difficulties using the law. But also, quite honestly, the idea of parading around in court wearing a wig and black robes appealed to my inner child.
Dreaming of becoming a lawyer
At the time, I was living in Malaysia. I understood that a lot of case law was based on the UK legal system. It made sense to me to study law at a place where all the case law had originated from, so I could learn straight from the source and immerse myself among great legal minds. I imagined myself attending famous court cases and hearing the judgments of popular judges in person. It was going to be so exciting!
My father brought my fantasy to an abrupt halt when he announced that studying abroad was not possible as he couldn’t afford it. My parents were still supporting my other siblings and the only option I had was to study at a local university, which was equally good.
I had been reading Jeffery Archer’s books and how his characters built business empires from scratch. For some reason, I decided to pretend I was one of his characters. That night, I applied to all the reputable Departments of Law in the UK. I didn’t tell my parents.
Making my dreams a reality
I was lucky enough to receive a few offers and decided to pick one in the town I had grown up in as a child, Birmingham. I then asked the university if I was eligible for student funding or support with my fees. Unfortunately, I was not, as I hadn’t been a resident in the UK for 3 years. So, I asked myself what a Jeffery Archer character would do and the answer was, do it yourself.
The next day, I announced I was going to study in the UK and fund myself through the university process. I planned to work as much as possible and pay for my fees and living expenses. Looking back, I am surprised my parents let me go. But perhaps, they knew me better than I knew myself and that I could do it.
In the end, I did do it, but it was the most eye-opening, toughest experience of my life. It has shaped my entire character and personality. Nothing wakes you up to the reality of life like worrying whether you can afford your rent next month while trying to revise for your exams and achieve a decent grade.
The hustle was real
I worked all sorts of part-time jobs. Anything that helped pay for my university fees was fine by me. I worked as a cleaner, barista, waitress, in a call centre and even as a bartender. I didn’t drink alcohol but somehow managed to convince the owner to hire me, because the pay was really good and they offered free transport home. Later, he admitted he hired me because he didn’t have to worry about me stealing and drinking alcohol! It was a win-win situation.
I didn’t sleep much over this period. I experienced a lot of anger and stress that I wasn’t achieving the grades I wanted because I was working all the time. In my final year, I applied for grants from a few charities. Miraculously, a few education bodies did help contribute to my fees. This was a huge help, especially in the final year when I need to study the hardest.
In 2011, I completed my degree and Master’s. I funded myself through university, paid for by my hard work and resilience. To be honest, the lessons I learnt from that experience were much more than anything I learnt from university.
What I learnt by funding myself through university
I learnt that if you’re experiencing hardship, you will build resilience and be better equipped to deal with life’s curveballs. No job or situation has been as difficult as what I experienced in those 4 years. Now, I tackle every challenge with gusto. I’m always reminded that life is much easier than before.
Some say talking about money is bad taste. I disagree. We need to talk about money and the importance of financial planning. I don’t have a child, but I’ve set aside a savings account for their future education. The sooner you start planning and saving, the better.
I also learnt that adversity can have two outcomes: gratitude or bitterness. For a long time, I felt disgruntled that my parents weren’t rich. Then I spoke to a girl who was also funding her own education. She said, “Everything you do after this will be easier.”
She was right. I changed my attitude and decided it was a blessing that I had the opportunity to learn how to make my own income at a young age, and that my body was resilient enough to help me juggle education and work.
Finally, I learnt that money can be made and saved; it’s about our personal decisions. Often, I’ve seen people in debt or unable to save because of bad financial decisions. People want a better financial situation but it’s about sacrifice. Are you willing to sacrifice your free time to work on a side hustle to earn extra money? Are you willing to sacrifice spending on items you don’t need so you can put the money away in a high-interest savings account?
No doubt, some things that may impact us financially are out of our control, like illness or accidents. But most of the time, it’s about bad financial decisions.
I Funded Myself Through University And Learnt Many Life Lessons Along The Way
If you are experiencing a tough situation now, I hope you know you aren’t alone in this struggle. I funded myself through university and it taught me that these struggles are in fact building valuable skills that will stay with you for life.