Why I’m ‘Dropping Out’ of my Postgraduate Degree (and why that’s nothing to be embarrassed about)

When I started my postgraduate degree in International Criminology, I was full of excitement and determined to enjoy learning even more about crime after graduating from my undergraduate degree. My other blog posts on this page explain how I did not have an easy time during my undergraduate degree, and this made me really want to get the most out of my masters and try to overcome the issues that had worsened so significantly throughout my previous education. Fast forward eight months; I’ve been on a ‘Leave of Absence’ since March and have decided that I don’t want to complete that degree, so you could say that my original plan wasn’t a great success…

Pretty quickly into the first semester I started to fall into old habits. I wasn’t motivated to do the readings and my anxiety about going into seminars was the worst I had ever experienced. Every time someone asked me how the degree was going, I’d make something up about enjoying it and finding it really interesting. I was embarrassed to say that I actually didn’t like the degree at all, as if this was something to be ashamed about. I was regretting my decision to do a postgraduate degree more every day and I said many times that nothing good had come out of me moving to Sheffield (apart from meeting my boyfriend). It was the failure of one of my assessments that forced me to realise that something wasn’t right. This shocked me to the point where I began to question whether this postgraduate degree was even worth it or if it was the right path for me and, after several meetings with my department at university, I found myself officially on a Leave of Absence. I was forcing myself to carry on with this route in life because I couldn’t see any other options. Looking back now, whilst I am still absolutely fascinated with crime and those who commit it, I can see that I don’t have to make a career out of it. Plenty of people enjoy history and read books about it whilst working in a completely different career, such as finance.

At first I was committed to returning to complete the degree once I had taken some time off to gain back some control over my anxiety, but after a month I began to explore other options. I began thinking that surely there was a degree or a career option that didn’t cause my mental health to deteriorate. A logical idea seemed to be a role within the media. I’ve always enjoyed being creative and it’s a career that involves high levels of pressure but is also enjoyable (which would be perfectfor me). After exploring potential routes into this career, I’ve decided that I’d loveto do an MA in film directing. Every part of the degree appeals to me and I can completely imagine myself being much more engaged with the course. I’d be spending my time doing something that I love whilst also gaining a qualification that could assist me in doing it for the rest of my life.

Even though it sucks that I’ll have to pay back student loans for a course I didn’t complete, I’m still glad that I had this experience as it led me to the realisation that working in the film&tv industry is the right route for me. I’ll definitely still read crime books and watch crime documentaries, but I’ll be able to enjoy them more because I’m not associating them with a career path that isn’t the right fit for me.

It’s very daunting starting fresh. Since a very young age I’ve been interested in working in either one part of the criminal justice system or another, so the decision to move away from that entirely has been a difficult one. However, I’m relieved to have finally recognised that it is not the right path for me and that thinking it was has been a significant trigger for my anxiety. I was temporarily worried about what people would think when they discovered that I had ‘dropped-out’ of university as there has always been a form of stigma around it. However, why do their opinions matter? I am doing the right thing for me, and everyone else who has ever left university was doing the right thing for them. The words ‘drop-out’ don’t reflect the full situation and I, along with my close family and my boyfriend, know that pursuing a different degree or career is by far something that is going to drastically improve my life. I already felt a reduction in my anxiety levels since making this decision and since starting to write again, whilst also realising that I’m able to have a career in it.

What I’m trying to say with this article is that if anyone reading this is contemplating leaving university or changing their course in order to better their own health or simply because it is not the right path for them, then don’t feel ashamed or held back because of what others will think. Taking a short break from studies can significantly improve both success and your happiness and, if after starting university you realise it just isn’t for you, then it’s okay to just leave! It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it simply means university is not the path you are supposed to take; there are plenty of other options and university is notthe only way to have a successful career. So, if you’re thinking about any of this then talk it through with people you trust and do what’s best for you, rather than what you think everyone else wants you to do ✨



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