It was a Monday afternoon in February. I wasn’t feeling great. Not because I was ill, but because that same morning, I had received my exam results from my very first semester at the university. They were bad. Very bad. I had failed 3 out of 4 subjects. “How was this even possible?” I kept asking myself repeatedly. ”I am usually among the top students getting high marks and returning with grade books which made my parents proud.” But, now, I had failed.
As I turned on my phone to check whether I had any messages, I heard a voicemail message from my dad. He was swearing in that terrifying way only he can do and I knew I was in trouble. My exam results had somehow been sent to Norway and now I was dead.
I felt sick for the rest of that day. I spent it either crying, or curled up under my duvet with stomach pain. My life was over. I had to leave the UK, forget university and, and, what? What was I supposed to do? I certainly wasn’t smart enough for university. How stupid I was for thinking that I having gotten good grades all my life meant I could cope well academically abroad. I had proved everyone who had little or no faith in me right. I decided to go back home and give up university.
I did go back home, but I waited seven years. I finished my bachelor, though today I’m not sure how. My failures of the first semester was due to me not having the learning material, a problem I kept facing all through the rest of my degree. But I managed to get some good friends who helped me along. Journalism students in the year above me who spent a lot of time teaching me how to write an essay, giving me inputs from their own great minds and works, helping me before exams. I could not have done it without them and I thank their efforts for me being able to proudly graduate in 2007, after which I went on to work for the BBC.
Not only did I go back home, but I’m now back in a university, something I swore I’d never do after that bachelor I somehow felt and to a degree still feel I didn’t deserve. But here I am. In Oslo my home town, I’ve just started a masters degree. This is big for me and those who have experienced being nervous about everything academic all through their degree, may just appreciate how big.
I still feel as if I’m dreaming and I’m still a little concerned as to whether I’ll do well, but all in all, I have a lot more faith in myself now. For one thing, I’m older. I am doing media studies, a subject I have both prior academic and working knowledge about. I have received computer equipment and e-books which has allowed me to start reading straight away and knowing where I failed before, I have spoken to lecturers to make them aware of the small, but important academic adjustments I need in order for me to be able to study as efficiently as my classmates.
The culture differences between the UK and Norway is also a very important factor here. In the UK, making everything accessible tends to be much more down to the schools and so how smooth your studies are going has a lot to do with how experienced or willing your university is to help.
In the socialist welfare society of Norway, there are other institutions working with the universities to make sure everything is going smoothly. For example, the school provides the syllabus, but the library for the blind produces it. For reading and secretarial help, as well as computer equipment, that’s obtained through the government.
I’m not saying it will all be a smooth game, but I think the combination of my maturity and access to literature and other help not solely depending on the school will make this experience a hell of a lot better.
And who knows, maybe the teenage girl who thought her life was over because she failed loads of exams will one day be a scholar? Besides being a novelist and journalist of course.