Dropping Out of University: My Experience Two Years Later

Dropping out of university is not an easy thing to do. It goes against everything you’ve spent so much time and energy working towards. Without sounding dramatic, it truly is a life-changing decision and a defining moment in anyone’s life. On November 1st, 2015 I made that decision and I have never spent a second regretting it since. 

The process of getting to university was, for me, a pretty standard one. I had spent the previous two years in sixth form working on my A Levels with the goal of going to university. I looked into different options and I was continuously told to apply to places outside of London. At the time, leaving London felt like the best thing to do… How wrong I eventually was. I ended up putting the University of Winchester as my first choice. I remember liking it when I visited and in my interview I was assured that if I did not get my predicted grades, it would not necessarily stop me getting in.

I ended up getting my predicted grades and I went on to start studying at Winchester in September 2015. I had the same fears that anyone would have prior to moving somewhere new for university – the fear of not making friends, the fear of not liking where you live and, worst of all, the fear of living in halls with five strangers and a shared bathroom. On the day I arrived, it it all seemed fine.

I could do an entirely separate post on the weeks leading up to November when I ultimately dropped out. The short version of it is that I did not enjoy the course, I found Winchester a nice but boring place to live and I hated living in halls… I cannot stress that last point enough.

I did actually have quite a nice set up in Winchester though. I made quite a few friends at the university, I got involved in societies (Pole Fitness was my favourite – see the picture below) and I got a job at the Jack Wills in town. I think working there is why I ended up staying in Winchester until November. It did not take me long to realise that the only thing I was enjoying about living and studying in Winchester was my part time job at Jack Wills… But that was not the reason I was there and it was unfortunately not a reason for me to stay.

Born to pole dance 💅🏻👄

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So, that brings me to the week I ultimately dropped out. I had been toying with the idea of leaving the university for a while but on November 1st the decision was made. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like something inside of me had snapped. I remember waking up that morning and the first thought in my head was ‘I need to drop out of this university right now’. It was only a few hours later that I went and got the relevant paperwork to make this decision official.

It took me six days to sort everything out and move back to London which I did on November 7th. Today marks two years since then.

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My last night in Winchester.

The immediate aftermath of leaving university is definitely the worst part. You have to set your life up again and adjust to no longer being in education. After returning to London, I got a full time job in retail which I hated. Working five days a week was never an issue for me, but for a while I had this weird feeling that I have never really been able to understand. It definitely wasn’t sadness but it also wasn’t necessarily relief. It felt weird to just be plucked out of what I now see as one of the worst times of my life. I had spent nearly two months hating being in Winchester and just like that it was over. Writing this two years later makes me think the feeling I had was simply disbelief. It took me a while to get my head around the fact I never had to return to Winchester. 

I knew from the day I dropped out that I was going to reapply to university – only this time I knew exactly what I wanted from university and I knew I wanted to stay in London. So, within two weeks of returning I began my second university application. I had no idea exactly which university I wanted to go to at the time, and I honestly felt like that was okay.

I took my time to do some research and felt no pressure from anyone about what I needed to do or where I needed to apply. Not to mention, already having my A Level grades made me feel as though I had the upper hand in some ways – I knew what I could give the universities and this time it felt more about what they could give me.

Now for the part that every student considering dropping out dreads the reality of. Money. One thing I was never told about was how much money I would have to immediately pay back after dropping out. I had just assumed I would not pay a penny until I was earning £21,000 a year or more. I have never been more mistaken about anything in my entire life. I won’t go into specifics about how much I have had to pay back since, but it was one of the worst parts of this entire process. I have thankfully now paid off everything I need to until earning the £21,000 we hear so much about but I would not take the decision of dropping out lightly as it does come with a lot of consequences.

One thing I cannot sugarcoat is the judgement you receive for leaving university. Despite me being very clear to those that knew me at the time about my plans to return to university in 2016, I still received everyone’s opinions on my decision – whether I asked for them or not. To be clear, I did receive a lot of support from my family and most of my friends. But not everyone was quite as nice. I had people telling me I was making the worst mistake of my life, that I was weak for not just staying and enduring it for three years and that I would not be accepted by any new universities once they knew I had dropped out somewhere else. The comments and judgement did not even remotely faze me.

One of the best things this entire process has taught me is to make the decisions that are best for you as you are the one that has to live with the consequences of your actions and, to be clear, two years later I am still able to say this was the right decision for me.

That brings me to the interview process. All five of the universities I applied to showed interest in me and wanted to meet me. I ended up withdrawing my application from two of them as I narrowed it down to three universities and saw no point in wasting the time of the other two. I naturally expected to be asked about the experience I had at Winchester but it was rougher than I expected. One lecturer at a university in London said to me: “You’re just a privileged North Londoner who didn’t like your first choice of university and now gets to take his pick of another.” Well, as he said, I did take my pick. I declined the unconditional offer I received from his university a week later without even thinking twice. 

Other universities did ask me about my experience, but I explained to them that this time around I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted from university and that dropping out twice was not an option for me. I ended up getting an unconditional offer from City, University of London not long after my interview and that is where I am still studying today. I am now in my second year of studying Journalism there and I achieved a 2:1 in my first year. To write this all down is funny in some ways as it shows me how things really have come full circle and that everything I had to experience over the last two years happened for a reason.

Had I not left Winchester when I did, there are so many things that I never would have got to experience. Not long after leaving, I found myself on a gap year that I never expected to have. I soon decided that I needed to do something with my time beyond working in retail. So, through CCUSA, I applied to be a Counselor at summer camps in America. I ended up being placed at Camp Homeward Bound in New York, a summer camp dedicated to children who are or were once homeless. Working at this camp has changed my life in so many ways and I am truly grateful for the things it has allowed me to experience. I have been lucky enough to spend my last two summers working at this camp and I really believe that had I not left Winchester, I never would have applied to what eventually became the best and most meaningful job I have ever had (the travelling around America each time wasn’t too bad either).

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In Times Square this June, about two days before returning to camp for the second time.

To say my life has completely changed since the day I signed that last piece of paper confirming my withdrawal from Winchester would be an understatement (have you seen how short my hair is now?) I have an entirely new outlook on life and looking back two years later, I know this was the best decision I have ever made. I am now a year behind where I expected to be at this point in my life but I would not a change any of it if I had the chance to. I am now working at a Jack Wills store in London part time (some things from Winchester never change) and I am in the process of applying to spend a year studying abroad.

For me, everything worked out the way it was supposed to and I can’t bring myself to be annoyed at the less than normal road I had to take to get to where I am today. Although no amount of blog posts will ever be able to tell my full story, I hope this gives you some idea of what the last two years of my life have looked like. There are parts of what happened that I didn’t give much detail on, such as the reasons behind my decision to leave Winchester. The reality is that certain things don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

I am sure that not everyone has the same experience I have had, but what I can say is that you can only do what you think is the best thing to do at the time. The days I spent stressing about the future in my dingy room in halls two years ago really don’t mean much now. Although the last two years have been extremely hard at times, especially immediately after leaving the university, the lessons I have learned and the things I have been able to experience make me so grateful that it all happened. All I can really say is that if you make the decision that is best for you and your state of mind, you’ll be able to look back without regret no matter how many years pass.

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London Coffee Festival 2017: Combining Art with Coffee

Ever wondered what coffee and art have in common? Let’s face it, probably not. But, when I went online to buy my ticket for the London Coffee Festival, I came across the Coffee Art Project which combines coffee and art to raise money for charity.

The Coffee Art Project first ran in London in 2013 and gives artists the opportunity to submit work that relates to coffee or an experience with coffee. Artists can use any type of media they want to, from sculpture to photography and anything in between – the only criteria is that there must be a link to coffee.

Katie, a 19-year-old lover of coffee says: “For someone who is a huge coffee lover and finds coffee essential for my daily routine, I think it’s such a cool idea to make art by using coffee.”

Artists who submit their work are critiqued by a panel of judges which is made up of artists and industry professionals. The winning artist is awarded with a cash prize of £1,000 and three runners-up are awarded with £250.

The competition has taken place in several cities around the world such as Milan, New York and Paris. It will soon be launching in Buenos Aires, but not before taking part in the London Coffee Festival which takes place this weekend. Visitors to the London Coffee Festival will be able to vote for their favourite piece of artwork.

The submitted pieces are auctioned off, with some pieces being sold for over £1,000. All money raised by the Coffee Art Project is donated to Project Waterfall, a charity which aims to bring clean drinking water and sanitation to coffee growing communities around the world.

Since 2011, the charity has raised over £285,000 and provided clean water and sanitation to more than 13,000 people in coffee growing countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia. 90% of coffee comes from third world countries and 60% of people in these countries do not have access to clean drinking water.

Anna, a 19-year-old art lover who had never heard of the Coffee Art Project before, says: “I think it’s a fantastic idea and I’d love to take part! Seems like a really good way of getting the community together to do something good for a community elsewhere.”

Ali, a 22-year-old Londoner says: “I think using coffee, something that is used every day worldwide and combining it with art is cool, creative and imaginative! What’s even better is that it is done for charity.”

The London Coffee Festival launches UK Coffee Week which takes place from April 10th – 16th and all of the donations it receives are given to Project Waterfall. The London Coffee Festival is open to the public from April 7th – 9th and adult tickets can be purchased online for as little as £16.50.

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7 Places You Have to Visit in London

From skyscrapers to markets, London has it all, making it almost impossible to see everything in one trip. Whether you’re coming to London for a day or a week, there are certain places you can’t afford to miss out on seeing – here are seven of them in no particular order.

1. The Shard


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The Shard. Image taken by Fred Mouniguet, courtesy of http://www.unsplash.com

London’s tallest skyscraper, The Shard, opened in 2013 and has dominated London’s skyline ever since. Its viewing platform, The View from The Shard, gives visitors the opportunity to see London from its 72nd floor and tickets can be purchased here.

Nearest tube station: London Bridge

2. Big Ben

Big Ben is over 150 years old and is a must see for anyone visiting London. It is part of the Palace of Westminster (or, as you may know it, the Houses of Parliament) which is where the government debates about the major political issues facing Britain. Below is a live stream I did on Periscope from opposite Big Ben on 03/04/17 to give you a feel of what it’s like to be there in person.

Nearest tube station: Westminster Station

3. London Eye

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View of the London Eye from Westminster Bridge. Image taken on iPhone 7 on 03/04/17.

The London Eye is one of London’s most iconic landmarks and is only a five minute walk from Big Ben. In only thirty minutes it will give you a view of the entire city from over 400ft in the air and, according to a Twitter poll I conducted, it’s the main tourist attraction my followers would want to see if they came to London. Tickets can be purchased here.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo

4. Sky Garden

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London’s Sky Garden is located at 20 Fenchurch Street and is based on its 34th-37th floors. It is situated opposite The Shard, giving visitors the best view of Britain’s tallest building available (as shown in the image above). There are even two bars in the Sky Garden, meaning you can get a drink as you take everything in. The best thing about it? Tickets are completely free.

Nearest tube station: Monument

5. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace. GIF courtesy of GIPHY.

Buckingham Palace is the home and headquarters of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and is a huge attraction for both tourists and Londoners. From watching the Queen’s Guard march outside to relaxing in one of the three neighbouring parks, it’s easy to spend the day at Buckingham Palace.

Nearest tube station: Green Park

6. Covent Garden

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Covent Garden has everything tourists come to London to experience. It’s full of shops, restaurants, bars and even has its own market. It’s a place that often gets overlooked by visitors because it isn’t home to skyscrapers or famous tourist attractions, but it’s definitely worth visiting.

Nearest tube station: Covent Garden

7. Camden Market

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Camden Market. Image taken on iPhone 7 on 03/04/17.

At the heart of Camden is Camden Market. You can buy pretty much anything in the market, from clothes to food to art. It’s the perfect place to buy something unique from your trip to London that your friends back home won’t be able to get anywhere else. It’s also not too expensive and Camden Town is full of restaurants, bars and shops to keep you occupied once you’ve explored the market.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town


So, there you have it. Those are seven of the places you have to visit if you’re ever in London, according to someone who has lived here for over twenty years. There are dozens of other places I could have recommended, but I think these seven are the most enjoyable if you’re a tourist and want an insight into what London is really like.

If you want any other recommendations or want to complain that I’ve missed somewhere that you see as hugely significant, then leave a comment or tweet me @ConorClark.

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Album Review: ‘Natural Causes’ by Skylar Grey

Skylar Grey’s sophomore album, which dropped last September, offers something quite different to her first. Natural Causes provides consistency in a way Don’t Look Down failed to by setting the tone from the beginning of the first song and keeping it going right until the final track.

If you haven’t heard of Skylar Grey, that’s unfortunate, but not surprising as her most famous work is usually sung by other artists. She’s responsible for writing some of the biggest hits we’ve seen during the last decade, such as Love the Way You Lie by Eminem feat. Rihanna and Coming Home by Diddy – Dirty Money feat. Skylar Grey, so it’s hardly surprising that her own album is so powerful.

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Natural Causes cover, courtesy of www.skylargreymusic.com

The album opens with the eery Intro – Wilderness which features little besides Grey’s vocals, which sound electronic and make the listener feel like they’re alone in the woods with the “wolves” Grey sings about. Jump, the first full song on the record, features lyrics that revolve around feeling free, which is emphasised by the basic beat and hand clap combination on loop in the background.

Lemonade, the strongest track on the album, serves as a breath of fresh air when it opens with the strum of a guitar combined with an up-tempo beat. But, don’t be fooled by the sound as the lyrics hint at an unhealthy relationship Grey was in. She sings that she could have found “someone who wouldn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth,” but implies that she really enjoyed the torment of the relationship as “it’s all worth it” in the end. The track is placed perfectly as the third on the record as it offers something different from the first two to the listener without straying from who Grey is as an artist.

Kill for You (feat. Eminem), the fourth track on the record, opens with the sound of guns being fired in the rain, making it immediately clear that this song isn’t going to be any lighter than the first three were. The song has a strong beat behind it and its implications that Grey is being manipulated by her lover are reminiscent of her 2010 hit Love the Way You Lie. The song was originally going to be given to Rihanna, who tweeted lyrics from the chorus back in 2014, but Grey eventually managed to keep it for herself which she was “secretly happy about”. 

Come up for Air showcases Grey’s vocals as she sings about waiting for her lover to return to her. Grey’s pain is amplified by a heavy drum beat that can be heard throughout the song as her words echo as she sings. This echo makes the listener feel the longing that the lyrics portray as Grey sings of waiting for the person she misses to “come up for air” so she can be with them again. 

Despite featuring acoustic songs such as Moving Mountains, the second half of the album shows Grey experimenting with new sounds that are unlike anything she has ever released before. Straight Shooter experiments with rap and is a tongue-in-cheek song that is reminiscent of Grey’s 2012 single C’Mon Let Me Ride. Picture Perfect boasts a hypnotic beat and begins to bring the album to a close, but not before Grey delivers two more acoustic songs to solidify Natural Causes as one of the best albums of 2016.

We Used to Be Bad is a song that makes the listener reminiscent of a childhood they never had. It paints Grey as someone who lived dangerously, “burning through daddy’s cash and our nana’s cigarettes,” and is now nostalgically reminiscing about the best time of her life. The final track, Closer, closes the album in a way that is similar to White Suburban (the final track on Grey’s 2013 album Don’t Look Down). Like White Suburban, it was written and produced solely by Grey and it features little besides her voice and a piano, ending the album on a soft note and leaving her audience eager to hear more.

The album is available to buy on iTunes here and signed copies can be purchased on Skylar Grey’s website www.skylargreymusic.com.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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