#loveHE: Taking the plunge

From water-pistol mayhem to dissertation immersion, says Konnie Huq, university offers exhilaration and self-discovery

May 6, 2010

My sister attended the University of Cambridge and I went to visit her while I was at school. I really loved it and thought, "I want to apply here." I liked the fact that it is a really sociable, small town, so you can step out of your door and meet people you know.

I had done physics, chemistry and maths A levels. I chose economics as a degree because I didn't want a career in science. I didn't know that much about economics, as I hadn't done an A level in the subject.

Terms at Cambridge are only eight weeks long. I ended up more or less cramming from past papers or textbooks before exams. I did that thing of question-spotting and revising the right questions pretty well. I was quite strategic in how I did it - I do think you can play the system and get by. They give a certain amount of 2:2s and 2:1s. They don't give that many thirds.

I did a dissertation in my third year, which counted for a third of my mark, to do with consumerism in youth culture. I really enjoyed doing it - that's what happens with dissertations; you turn into a dissertation bore. You end up doing so much work on it that you eat, breathe and sleep your dissertation. Mine was all to do with postmodernism, and whether young people are dictated to by the market or have their own identity.

Some of the most important things I gained from university were people skills and social skills. Since leaving, I haven't really used economics. With TV presenters, they like to have experts on certain subjects. But yet I know someone who was a contestant on The Apprentice who would be considered more of an expert on economics than I am, with my economics degree. I think that's about perceptions.

University is great for gaining independence. To go away to university and live in a student house is a way of bridging the gap between being at home with your family and being an independent person.

My sister is now a lecturer at Kingston University and really enjoys being an academic. A lot of people from Cambridge go into academia, and a lot of people end up living in Cambridge after they have finished university. It is easy to love it so much that you don't want it to end. It's a lovely place - more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in the UK, apparently.

I was at Robinson College, which is a modern college. You get all the traditions of Cambridge life, but yet it feels more like a normal university experience in many ways. You still go to lectures in colleges with great quadrangles, but Robinson is like modern university halls with good facilities.

I hoped it would be a normal university experience combined with the Oxbridge experience, and I think it gave me exactly that. Robinson had really good, down-to-earth, sound people.

And Robinson had a really good layout for a game called Assassin, which you play with water pistols. Everybody gets the name of a person you have to squirt. Once you have got them, you take over their list of people to squirt, until there is one person left. Robinson's layout made it really easy to duck and dive, and squirt people from different levels. People really got into it and would jump out with super-soakers - there had to be "Assassin-free zones", such as the library. People used to follow their targets to lectures to soak them.

At university, you can pursue what you want to do and find out where your enjoyment lies. When you graduate, the best thing of all is to be paid to do something you enjoy. University gives you the chance to find out what it is.

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