Advice on a Politics Degree

2014 was a strange year. 

People suddenly cared about what I, a teenage girl from a small town in central Scotland, thought about politics. It’s easy to see why that was the year I decided to study politics at university. I was 16 years old. I was passionate, fired up, and ready to change the world.

I haven’t felt that way about politics in a long time. 

Politics is exhausting. It is intense. It is one of the most emotionally draining things to become deeply involved with. It is high cost and low reward. Yet, I have never once regretted my decision to study politics. The course is fascinating and it is incredibly broad. There is no other degree where you will find yourself reading about the fall of the Berlin wall one week and the works of Aristotle the next. You will develop strong opinions on mundane things like voting systems. Your mother will impose a strict rule of “No politics talk at the dinner table”. You will be asked to predict the outcome of elections. You will be asked constantly about your own political ambitions. You will be asked about Brexit. You will be asked about Trump. You will be asked about Boris Johnson. You will be asked about Scottish independence. You will not be able to escape your degree. Politics is a process that involves every single one of us, and there is something incredibly empowering about being able to understand the inner workings of the systems that dictate our lives.

The world today might as well be decades removed from the September morning I started university in 2016. I began my university degree with a sense of optimism and hope. I’m ending my degree with a sense of anger and dread. I imagine that anyone planning on studying politics in 2020 is far more likely to be a “glass half empty” type of person than those who started this same degree in 2016. Perhaps an algorithm robbed you of the grades you deserved. Perhaps you suffered mentally, physically, or financially during the pandemic. Perhaps you were one of the students who participated in climate strikes. Perhaps you watched the police tear-gassing protesters from Portland to Hong Kong with a cold sense of fear in the pit of your stomach. In short, you are probably angry. That’s normal. Who isn’t angry in the current era? Anger can even be a good trait to have in politics. You can use that anger to push for the change you want to see. 

I would never have predicted that my degree would span so many major events. I’m sure the next four years will be smoother sailing for you. Things were starting to shift even before Covid. Our generation is behind that shift. You have been forged in hard times and you will be the ones to forge better times. 

[Luisa Barclay – she/her – @luisabarclay]

[Photo credit: Lum3n]

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