Just like that, my university journey has come to an end. After studying journalism and media for three years in the city famous for its cathedral and its ring road, the next stage in my life is set to begin.
I've had a lot of ups and downs throughout those three years, but I would say overall it has been a great experience. I've met some wonderful people along the way, all of whom I would like to wish all the best for the future, whatever that may bring.
The first year was a mixed bag. In the early stages it was incredibly difficult to find my feet and homesickness was definitely playing a role. Despite my home city of Leicester only a bus or train ride away, I felt as though I was thrown into the wilderness. I was constantly thinking about the last time I saw my closest friends and those tearful goodbyes. More than once, the thought of dropping out crossed my mind; I was struggling with the high pressure workload as well as my own inner battles.
But I stuck it out. From somewhere in my mind, I found the determination to keep going. I knew that if I did pull out I would regret that decision. Upon returning to Leicester for the summer, I gathered myself together, rested, and got ready to embrace the challenge of Year 2.
This was the hardest of the three years. I recently wrote about how the Tarot cards helped me with my battle against depression - a battle that became a war during my second year. The step-up in workload was intense and, too often, I gave in to 'the urge' to self-harm as I called it. But I fought back against them with the help of the amazing people I met on my course.
One highlight from second year was a 12 minute documentary I filmed on mental health in students. I wanted other people to know that they were not alone in struggling at university (I learnt that as many as 1 in 4 students could experience a mental health issue) and that there is help.
This video is just one example of work that I am proud of from my second year. My work with Coventry University's news blog, iCov, was not only educational, it was great fun! I worked with the first year journalism students by editing their content and giving them some advice. To this day, I am still in contact with them. After working as an editor, I then turned my attention to feature writing. This gave me the opportunity to write about interesting topics including the changes in the book industry and how Coventry was planning to celebrate World Book Night.
Year 2 was also the year that I completed Heartbound and started working on the sequel to Blue Eyes Behind the Mask. It was not uncommon for me to be in my university building an hour before the lectures were due to start, and it was exciting when my coursemates started asking me about how my work was going. More than once, they congratulated me on my novel work and determination. This support meant so much in my darker days.
So into Year 3. The majority of my focus was on my Final Year Project or FYP. Ironically, this was a radio documentary on self-publishing (I wonder where I got that idea from!) and I achieved 74%, or a First, for this. In other words, it was pretty darn good!. Year 3 also proved to be a breakthrough year, with Heartbound being made available in ebook and paperback form, and the launch of my copy editing business, D. Burton Editing.
Away from my FYP, there were other modules I had to contend with. A large proportion of the year was dedicated to producing a series of audio podcasts. I loved producing these; working in a group of talented students and some of my closest friends on the course, the podcasts were amongst the best pieces of work I produced.
The final module of Year 3 was a great way to finish the year and the university experience. Five influential media figures descended on Coventry University for an academic conference on the future of online video, affectionately known on Twitter as #CovFlov. I worked in a small team to promote the conference, which proved to be an enjoyable and informative discussion, and also reported on the event by live blogging. My fingers really did not like me after that! Again, I would say that this was another highlight of my time at university.
Year 3 also marked a turning point in terms of my depression. I came off my medication in November and May 2015 marked a whole year since my last 'relapse'. Even with the pressure of the deadlines and looking for work after university, I kept strong thanks to those around me who knew of my struggles.
So what happens next? In truth, I haven't got a clue! What is certain though is that I will be returning to Leicester. From there I will try and build up D. Burton Editing and continue my writing. Nothing is set in stone at this time, but I am looking ahead to the challenges that lie in store.
My time at university has had its difficulties, but they have made me a much stronger person. Once again, the best of luck to all my coursemates. I know they will go on to bigger and better things. If you're starting university this September, I hope you enjoy your time there and keep at it. These years will test you, but they will make you the person you want to be. Enjoy them, and embrace them.