Graduating: Why a Desmond isn’t so dismal

I got my graduation classification today. I am graduating with a 2:2. Second Class: Lower Division. Also known as a Desmond.

At first, I’ll admit I was gutted. I still am a little upset. I have worked myself ill at times throughout my degree, and worked despite being ill, and at first glance it all seems for nought.

A 2:2 is regarded as a less than desirable degree classification. I get it. It doesn’t seem that great. But, and it took me a long time and a lot of people telling me it for me to really believe, it’s not the end of the world.

In my third year at university I struggled a lot. I found the jump from pre-honours to honours huge. It was hard to keep up with the workload. My mental health suffered a lot. It wasn’t the first time I’d been bad at something (thank you, Higher Maths, for preparing me for this moment) but it was the first time I’d struggled so much and felt so helpless to stopping it.

I got better, my grades went up, I started getting high Bs and As. I was happy. I was healthy. Unfortunately it didn’t last and I got ill again. I had reached out for help and received little in the way of constructive advice, so I was on my own again. But I wasn’t. I have the most incredible friends, family and flatmates that anyone could ask for, who made sure I got through it. I got a 2:1 for my dissertation. I handed in every piece of coursework. I finished uni.

See, that’s something that I didn’t realise at first was so important. I actually finished four years of a university degree. I was in two minds about returning for 4th year. I didn’t see the point because my grades were so varied in third year. I focussed on the classes I did badly in, not my successes.

I finished uni.

I am graduating. I’ll have a degree behind me, regardless of the classification. I stuck it out for 4 years despite wanting to throw in the towel so many times. I did it. I actually did it.

I finished uni.

So I’m not going to wallow in self-pity about my average grade. My grades range drastically – a 30% difference from highest to lowest. My enjoyment of university has ranged just as drastically. But my dad always stressed one thing from the very beginning:

You don’t go to university for the certificate on your graduation day.

Sure, getting your degree is great and will open lots of doors and give you a major leg up when it comes to finding a job and hopefully you learned something. But, more importantly, university is about growing up. It’s about living in a strange city with strange people doing strange things for four years.

It’s about going out. Getting drunk. Having fun. Spending too much money. Exploring new places. Having cups of tea at four in the morning. Making the most of your student discount. Debating politics at the dinner table. Ordering more Dominos pizzas in a week than a person should eat in a lifetime. Never learning to leave your card at home when you’re going to a bar or club. Getting too drunk to get into The Hive. Being too sober to contemplate going into The Hive. Library hysteria at 1am in a pod on the ground floor with your friends. Deep meaningful conversations with strangers in club toilets. Sitting in lectures with your drunk friend who’s braless and muttering insults about your lecturer while she draws cartoon pictures of you and being very proud of her artwork. Living with the same girls for four years and walking into a flat that feels like home.

Going to university isn’t about learning a degree subject. It’s about learning who you are. Who you can be. Who you are yet to become.

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Hi I’m Amy, the new Digital Intern and no, I don’t really know what that means either

I am just home from my first day at my internship and have collapsed onto my bed to write this.

Jeeeez I’m tired. And I didn’t start til midday! The offices were moving floors so I stayed out of the way until the dust settled.

I was given my own desk, had my laptop set up to the company’s network and have been given tasks, to-do lists, meetings and deadlines already. I’M SO EXCITED.

My bosses are amazingly patient and kind and funny. The company seems to be filled with bubbly, creative, engaging people and I honestly can’t wait to get to know them all a bit better.

So, what am I doing? Well, that is yet to be determined, really. I have been introduced as the Digital Intern and I know I’m part of the Planning Department. The main remit for my internship is helping to manage the social media profiles for some pretty big Scottish brands. (I haven’t exactly asked my bosses yet if it’s okay to write this blog. I’ll do that tomorrow. More deets to follow…hopefully.) As one of my bosses told a co-worker “We’ll figure out a fancy title at the end of the internship”. So yeah, I’m a digital-social-planning intern who may well be loaned to other departments, should they need the extra pair of hands.

My desk is next to a massive window that lets the sun flood in. I look out onto the Water of Leith and now feel like a proper grown up (even with my see-through pencil case that is bulging with pens, pencils and an assortment of necessary stationery).

Most of today was spent getting to grips with the different campaign strategies for the accounts I’m working on, and touring the offices shaking hands with at least forty people and that didn’t even cover every floor. There are around eighty members of staff in the company. How I’ll remember everyone’s names is beyond me.

The more I hear about the upcoming projects I’ll be a part of and the work I already have to be getting on with, the more excited I get about being a part of the planning team.

Tomorrow the real work starts. I can’t bloody wait.


Sidenote: Remember the palava I talked about regarding workwear? I ended up wearing my new black slacks, new patent loafers, a wee lilac blouse and a black cardigan. Very smart, very comfortable. And, as it happens, very overdressed. Almost everyone I saw was in jeans. Some wore trainers. Some wore t-shirts. Some dressed up a little. There was not one suit in sight. Thank goodness I didn’t end up buying 4 worksuits on Saturday! So, the dress code stress was completely unnecessary and I am going to be smart but casual comfortable. Couldn’t be happier. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some jeans to look out for tomorrow.

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Dress Code Stress

With my first day at my internship just around the corner, I realised I have very few office-appropriate clothes to wear. This is slightly problematic, considering I’ll be working in an office. So I went shopping (any excuse, right?)

There are many things to consider when dressing for work. Practicality, warmth, comfort, level of smartness, durability, crumple factor (a real problem with many of my tops), layering ability (another struggle I have – so many of my tops don’t sit right with cardigans or jumpers but I get grumpy if I’m chilly so an optional second layer is often necessary, especially if I don’t know the temperature of the office) and yawn-stretch-belly-reveal avoidance (you have no idea). I stood in front of my wardrobe and tried to conjure up as many outfit combinations as possible, but was drawing a blank because I wasn’t entirely sure what look I was going for.

I realised I had to determine what vibe the office gave off clothes-wise. Being an advertising company, I had initially assumed that just about anything would go, but then remembered that clients meet in the offices and people need to not look like they forgot to change out of their loungewear of a morning. After some deliberation, I decided on smart-casual. I didn’t see a single power suit or many pairs of stiletto heels while I was in the office – granted my interviewers were men – but I was pretty confident from their shirts and slacks combos that I could probably get away with a comfy but smart ensemble. Whatever that meant.

I have a number of smartish tops already, so I’m not so worried about my top half, it’s my bottom half that concerns me. My usual outfit choices are skirts that are definitely not office friendly or jeans, which I’m not sure are quite smart enough.  

With ‘smasual’ in mind, I hit the shops. There lay my second problem: deciding what could be classed as smart-casual. There is a fine line to be walked between looking like you’re going into a meeting and entering a Netflix marathon, at least in my case. I know things can be dressed up or down with the right jewellery and I have plenty of jewellery to accessorise a small army, but are jumpers with a statement necklace or pearls really okay? What about a white shirt, does that look too much like I’m channeling my inner Blair Waldorf sans school skirt and frilly ankle socks? Stress.

Black trousers are a staple but in the eight shops I searched, only 2 had any appropriate trousers, and only one shop stocked said appropriate trousers in my size. Thankfully, I bought one pair of standard slim leg black trouser suit pants to start off my wardrobe.

I found some funky print trousers in Zara but none in my size; and the same thing happened in Mango and H&M, so I guess after posting this I’ll be doing some internet shopping…

I got fairly lucky in the shoe department. A quick zoom around Schuh found me a smart pair of black patent loafers that will be easy to throw on and are work-appropriate without having to worry about heels. I am the reincarnation of Bambi on the frozen lake when heels are in play. I really struggle for more than an hour in anything higher than 2 inches. It’s a pain, but these loafers seem a good compromise.

Now I’m wondering whether jeans might be acceptable in the office. My plan is to wear a dress on my first day – it’s my lucky go-to dress that is smart and funky and fills me with confidence, especially when paired with red lippy and my new loafers – so I can suss out the outfit choices of the other females in the office and base my later wardrobe pairings on what I see.

My buy of the day though was a stationery haul in Paperchase. I am a stationery addict. Pens, sticky notes, funky note cards, pencil cases – I want them all. I bought myself a new pencil case because every school year should start with a new case and I filled it with two patterned pens, three functional pens, two pencils, a rubber and a packet of sticky notes for marking pages should I ever need to do such a thing.

So, while shopping was largely unsuccessful in that I only came away with 2 items of clothing, I do feel more prepared with my pencil case packed and ready to go in my handbag, along with my new notebooks I picked up the other month and have been filling with notes on clients and positive reminders that we got this to get me through my first week. Also, my lack of success at shopping this time round only means I get to give it another go next week when I’m more clued up on office dress code etiquette.

To continue my adulthood prep, tonight I am planning on being very grown up: I’ll sit with a magazine, play Sex and the City in the background, apply a facemask and paint my nails with a glass of wine and some sushi for dinner. While I haven’t conquered coffee-drinking yet, I reckon I’m making a good start as I plunge into the world of adulthood.

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