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I had always wondered what would have happened with my life had I decided to drop out of university in the first year. I will never know what that feeling is like for myself. I had to settle for second best, an in-depth conversation with a drop out. Making my way to Leicester and, as I arrive, I find Tiago with a smug smile on his face leaning so suavely against the wall of Leicester Train Station. Is dropping out literally this laid back?

I am walking past the marble buildings as Tiago and I are walking through the city. Stretching my legs after the train ride, I did not expect Leicester to be such a big place and I wonder if this swayed his choice to drop out. We make our way to a small local coffee shop and have our chit-chat about travelling and dramas that have been happening in each other’s lives before we are both thinking – ‘let us do the interview now, more time for beers after’.

He looks at me, grinning “are you prepared to hear me talk a lot?”

What made you want to drop out?

He paused for a short time.

“For me it was a personal choice, I want a relatively calm lifestyle. With university it was like you do it or you are f***ed for life, that’s how I saw it. When you’re constantly dealing with that on a day to day basis, it f***s you up. I realised that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted something that would allow me to explore a little bit more, notice what’s around me.”

How did you find university?

“University was excellent. I loved every moment of it. University was an expansion of your social self. I wasn’t depending on anyone. I had my ups and downs there, but you sort of learn from your mistakes and get yourself back up. It was an incredible experience in terms of gaining knowledge. It was a great challenge.” He looks at the table smiling “I do miss uni so much, f***ing hell”.

Did you have a set plan coming out of university?

He has a massive grin on his face before letting out a light chuckle.

“Not at all. I kind of woke up at one point, I did the usual, I smoked a joint and I just thought no I’m done with uni, I’m alright, it was a very sudden decision. My mum is my best friend but I didn’t even tell her until I did it, it was a shock on all sides. It was an impulse decision, I wasn’t going to be happy, I had to shift before it was too late.”

Do you regret your decision at all?

“No, not at all. I miss it because of the friends I made there and the going out, being by the sea, that sort of thing. Leaving uni was what made me go rather than four years of stressing over projects, I was thrown right into the real world. My mum bluntly told me, ‘I’m here for you, very happy to keep you at home and I’ll always support you but if you’re not going to be at uni, you do need to support yourself as well’, he knocks on the table twice, ‘so find a job’. “Everything I’ve been taught so far, that’s bulls***, you need to make up your own mind, go and see things for yourself. I realise I’m very naive when it comes to people, I see the best in people everywhere but there’s a lot of dark as well, that’s something that a lot of people are blind to, they think the world is happy colours and flowers and love and the reality is, there’s a lot of f***ed up people out there. But no, it was good, I don’t regret it at all.”

How did it feel going into work when you expected to be in education for three years?

“Mate, it was, I was a pile of nerves on my first day, I wasn’t even working, I was getting trained on how to use the coffee machine, it was closed, there was no one in there. But its human nature and it gets even more enhanced when you’ve got your insecurities about the social aspects of life, you're getting dropped into a new environment that you’ve never been in and you don’t know what they’re expecting or if they’re going to like you and that sort of gets in your head.”

Would you not relate that to going to university, dropped into a new environment?

”Yes, but for me at least, at university you’re surrounded by your peers, everyone is an equal, you know, everyone is the same age, they’re all doing the same thing basically. You go into work and there’s people who have been in the industry for 20 years and they just see you as a kid and that can be daunting because first of all, its trying to realise whether the person is worth earning your respect, or not and then obviously working towards that. If you feel that they are worth earning your respect, and enough so that they can reciprocate, then obviously that’s when you commit yourself to the job. It was very stressful because it was a different environment to uni, I didn’t feel like I was equal with everyone, I didn’t like there would be times where I was looked down on and its like you gotta work through that.”

What is your future plan?

His eyes go wide, lets out a big “oh” and, looking at his watch he quickly says “you’re gonna have to give me a bit of time to think on that”. He gets up and goes to leave the coffee shop before saying “I feel like Harry Potter when he was interviewed by Rita Skeeter in The Goblet of Fire… lets go get something to eat.”

An hour or so later and we evidently end up in a beer garden, in January… He sparks up a cigarette, his face turning slightly to the side and blowing out the smoke. He looks at my notebook and instructs me “dude, ask me more questions”.

Would you ever consider going back to university?

Almost in an instant reaction, he nods blowing the smoke out of his mouth. “Yeah definitely, from the moment I was told the limit to attend university was 65, I was like at some point yeah I’ll go back to uni probably.” He looks down at the floor after finishing his sentence.

If there is someone reading this, wondering if university may not be for them, how would you advise them to make the right decision?

“I would tell them two things: being happy and by yourself is more important than having an education because you can still have an education by living out there in the world, by having experiences, by being put in different environments, whether that’s work or social. You don’t necessarily need university for that, in fact I find university shelters you from a lot of things, so first and foremost be happy, education is a sideline, its very much optional. Although it feels like its mandatory and there’s a lot of pressure, that’s the just the way our society is built, so if you don’t feel happy at uni, leave, find your own path. Second thing I would say, instinct these days is underrated completely, people have forgotten about it, we might be humans, we might be extremely intelligent, extremely developed but we’re animals like any other animal on this planet, we’ve an instinct. If you’ve an instinct telling you you’re not supposed to be there, you’re not supposed to be there.”

So you would say just follow your instinct?

“Follow your instinct, yeah.”

“Did you want to get back to the future plans question?”.  Christ, this guy should be interviewing me.

“My future plan right now is to acquire as much knowledge as possible from the world around me. I think I’ll eventually go back to university but my main priority is to see this massive big blue sphere that we live on, do you know what I mean? I was given this analogy once and it was very interesting, somebody said that ‘being born, growing up and dying in the same city is an absolute waste of your time’ its like being in your bedroom and not seeing the rest of your house, you can do whatever you want, people get caught up with social insecurities and money and this and that and they’re like I’m probably better off staying here. You’re missing out on everything!” he emphasises this by stretching his arms out, his hands far, far apart. 

He sparks his cigarette that has gone out, sits back in his chair, happy with what life will bring him whilst looking at me until I catch his glance “are you satisfied?”.