This month, we’re shining the YPI Spotlight on regular Kickback participant and YP Insight Family member, Rhianna Benjamin, who defied her own expectations and rose above her hatred of studying to get a BSc (Hons) degree.
My name is Rhianna, and I’m 24. I find it hard to describe who I am in words, but to put it lightly, I am an advocate for love, a believer/follower of God, a mental disorder survivor, a poet and graduate. I joined the YPI family, as my sister is the founder and I resonate with a lot of the topics YPI aims to address. This post will focus on my university journey, as I recently graduated from the Open University with a 2:1 in BSc (Hons) Psychology.
Going to university was something I never wanted to do. If I didn’t need a degree to get into the career I would most like to do (counselling), then I would never have gone. Studying is a HUGE chore for me. I despise it. What’s interesting is that I actually enjoy discovering things, depending on the subject. I love psychology generally and what it teaches, but I think that the concept of studying and being in an academic environment made the idea of going to university to study psychology unappealing.
During my GCSEs I didn’t apply myself much, I just couldn’t be bothered. I chose subjects I knew I would enjoy, as my mind was already set on studying psychology in the future. Again, I did find learning some things interesting, but generally I didn’t care for it. I generally enjoyed taking exams, I just didn’t like studying for them.
My teachers always said I was a good student with potential but “Rhianna doesn’t apply herself enough”. I knew this, my parents knew this, my sister knew this, but I didn’t want to study. The bare minimum of studying was enough for me, and generally enough to get me a B if not a C, which I wasn’t too despondent with. The rare times I did receive a D grade, I would retake those exams and received better grades, even receiving an A* on a piece of History coursework.
I reluctantly chose to stay on at my school’s sixth-form, as I didn’t explore my options and didn’t want to go to college at all, but I felt like I was obliged to go to college because that’s what you do – go to school, go to college, go to uni, right? Long story short, I dropped out of sixth-form after one month of (barely) being there. I felt so depressed and underwhelmed there.
I then was stuck on what to do, knowing I didn’t want to study anymore but I still wanted to be a counsellor and get into the psychological sector. I also knew I couldn’t just sit at home and ponder, not doing anything. So, I decided to work for my dad for a year. However, it still didn’t give me any idea on what direction I would need to go in to achieve the career I actually wanted.
So, I thought about what I like doing and what I’m good at, which didn’t include me having to go to university. Suddenly it came to me – “I can be masseuse”. I liked to give massages and I was often told that I was good at it. I looked into courses that I could do to get into that industry and ended up attending the London College of Beauty Therapy for two years, receiving a Level 3 diploma in Beauty Therapy and a Level 3 Retail Knowledge certificate.
However, while doing my course, I discovered that I don’t like touching people and I didn’t have strong wrists to be massaging others full-time. Again, I was at a standstill wondering where I wanted to go next, then it dawned on me – I had to bite the bullet and go to university to study psychology. I wasn’t happy with this realisation, but this was something I needed to do for myself.
I enrolled with the Open University, which is an online university. I opted for the online alternative, because I knew I wouldn’t be motivated to go to lectures, and as an introvert, I find it overwhelming to be around people often in that kind of setting.
My journey with the Open University was challenging, interesting, character-building and rewarding. I started my university course part-time, because I was working whilst doing my degree and thought it would be a lot to handle, but I upgraded to full-time on my second year. I must admit, the jump from first year to second year was overwhelming and I wasn’t expecting it. During my four years at university I cried loads of tears, had tantrums, and contemplated quitting more times than I can count. I’m sure my tutors must have been tired of me putting myself down and asking for extensions when I felt too overwhelmed to complete an essay. Thankfully I passed every assignment, even if the grade wasn’t the best or exactly what I wanted.
University is hard. My journey was hard. But I’m so thankful that by God’s grace, I did it and I passed. I never went into university expecting a first, and by my grades I was never going to achieve one. That’s not me being pessimistic – it’s the truth. But I feel so blessed to have received a 2:1, as it was unexpected and I was mentally prepared to receive a 2:2.
When I was asked to write this post, I didn’t want to initially because I thought “What’s so special about my journey?” and “Everyone receives a 2:1, it’s not a big deal.” But when I think about it, I have achieved a lot and I’m proud of what I’ve done, especially because the Open University isn’t a walk in the park.
For everyone who doesn’t want to go to university, this post isn’t to say that you have to. If you can get into the career you want without going to university, I would highly recommend that. But if you do need to go to university to achieve the career you want, I would say bite the bullet and do it. Believe me, the rewards are worth it. University isn’t easy but believe in yourself, find support in someone, apply yourself, find a balance between life and studying, and don’t compare yourself to others. Learn about yourself and embrace your capabilities.
Your journey is your own, so take control of it. Trust the process, and God.
Stay updated with what Rhianna is getting up to by following her on Twitter (@NyNyDumplings).