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Meet The Student Who Went Out So Much He Failed First Year Twice and Got Kicked Out of Uni

You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times: “first year doesn’t count”. But you do have to pass it at some point. Nicholas Chu couldn’t.

Nick failed his first year at the University of York twice and had to switch courses – and eventually unis. He’s just finished his third attempt at first year at Newcastle University and is waiting for his results. I spoke to Nick to find out what went wrong, and if there are any positives he’ll take away from it.

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Nick applied to study Business Management at the University of York, but he didn’t really think that much about what the course would involve before he went. He went to school in York, had friends there and partly applied because he felt he had to.

“I just wanted to get the degree and get a job like normal people… having a degree is crucial as a head start,” Nick says, “I didn’t think much of it… my friends were sticking around and I just really loved the city.”

And though he didn’t think about York or the course that much before he showed up for Freshers’ Week, university life was exactly as Nick imagined it. “Uni was 100% what I expected it to be. I expected it to be fun, to be meeting all sorts of different people from different places and to be going out a lot.”

“Having no family in the country means my replacement for that is to have lots of friends.”

He quickly dived into student life, but didn’t have the easiest time. Nick’s family are based in Hong Kong, so he didn’t have them to fall back on in the UK. He tells me: “Everyone had family helping them to move in and I didn’t.”

In his two years at the University of York, Nick would go out with a different group of friends most nights. Drinking is clearly a big part of uni life for a lot of students; occasionally being hungover in lectures is inevitable. But Nick was going out so much he barely studied at all, making it to about six lectures and going to the library just three times in two years.

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While most of us are able to find the right balance between social life and seminars, Nick’s priorities massively favoured one over the other. Unsurprisingly, attending just six lectures proved not enough.

Nick tells me that after he failed fresher year the first time, he actually started going out more. I ask him why he didn’t see this as a warning to slow down and stop going out so much. He turns back to me with his own question: “Let me ask you, what stops you from going out?”

I have serious FOMO.

“The only things that stop students going out are lack of money and uni work. I never really went to lectures, so I never really confronted the fact that work exists – well, I turned a blind eye to it! And money-wise, I get into clubs in York for free and usually get drinks pretty cheap too.”

Nick gets free entry and cheap drinks in most of the clubs in York because he worked in promo. He was on the tills, doing promotional work, or giving out club stamps almost every night of the week at York’s four main venues. He’d finish work at 2am and would end up going for drinks with friends he ran into on their way into the club.

“I’m already out so why go home?! It’s a really fun and sociable job, you meet so many people. I was basically paid to go out, paid to party.”

Nick got to know all the regulars at York’s major clubs, so he constantly had an excuse to go out – or he’d end up feeling like he was missing out on the night his friends were having without him. He says he has “serious FOMO”, and couldn’t turn down a night out, or just walk away from the club when he finished his shift.

Nick shows me this video of a time he bought 120 shots on a night out. 

“I was revising but going out so much too,” Nick says. He doesn’t think he failed because he isn’t clever, but because he didn’t try. “I failed because, deep down, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t motivated enough.”

He adds: “I had no boundaries. I had no parents in the country telling me ‘don’t be an idiot’.”

I ask how his parents reacted when he told them he’d failed university the first time. 

“They weren’t happy,” he admits, “but they kind of took the view that what’s done is done. They were mostly disappointed because I’m a bright lad. They said I’ve wasted time, but hoped that maybe I’d be more mature after making my mistakes.”

And when he failed the second time round?

“That was kinda expected. I was too big-headed thinking I’d be fine because I’d revised more. And they were literally like ‘we saw this coming’. They’re very calm, I think they thought there was no point shouting at me and that it was better to act fast and get me to apply to retake the year as soon as possible.”

When Nick failed the second time he had to leave York and try to get into another university and start over.

He says York Uni wasn’t interested in giving him another go at his exams. “No chance. They pretty much said good luck to me. I regret every single bit to be honest. I was so lazy… I could have managed my time better.”

If I fuck up again, I’ll be doomed. There’s no way I can afford to fail again.

I ask Nick what it was like finding out he couldn’t stay at York, a place where he had made a name for himself and loved so much, he says: “I was disappointed in myself and felt helpless, of course, because I couldn’t change anything. It was too late. I went out that night and drowned myself in alcohol, then woke up in the morning thinking ‘why on earth did I not even try putting effort in?'”

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“I’m pretty confident this year.”

After Nick’s nightmare at York, he managed to get into Newcastle University and switched from Business Management to Marketing.

Making a new start in a new city and on a new course has been going well so far for him. In his first year at Newcastle he had to take 6 modules and has already passed 3 of them. He’s now just waiting to find out about the rest, but he thinks he’ll finish the year with at least a high 2:2. He reckons it’s gone so much better because he isn’t partying so much.

“I made the decision during [Newcastle] Freshers that I wouldn’t go out much and I didn’t intend to make more friends than I needed. So in Newcastle I have less temptations to go out… If I fuck up again, I’ll be doomed. There’s no way I can afford to fail again.”

I suggest that it would never have worked out in York, with all the friends he had there tempting him to go out, and that he should perhaps have started somewhere else in the first place.

He disagrees: “Yes, but I could have fought [those temptations]. I would choose York if I had the chance to do it all over again,” he continues, “York wasn’t the problem, my attitude was. I was lazy and I underestimated the outcome.”

Nick tells me about a time the staff at a club he worked at tried to help him (and his degree mark) by not letting him in. He was trying to get into the club to go out the night before an exam and one of the women who worked there stopped him.

“She was like ‘Nick, you’re going to regret this’… Then she stopped me from going in and I went home.”

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“I’ve just finished first year again and I should have been graduating.” 

I ask him how he feels about those two years at York now:

“It’s pretty embarrassing to be honest,” he tells me, “I see people graduating now and it’s embarrassing. I’m clever. I’m actually very smart, but I’m lazy and I wasn’t motivated. I could have done it and probably got a job by now.”

After two years at York and one at Newcastle, Nick will hopefully find out he’s passed his first year of uni soon. If all goes to plan, he’ll be graduating in 2018 at 23 years old. He hopes to pursue a career in sales or marketing.

Nick finishes our conversation by saying:

“Everyone deserves a second chance I think, especially with this… It’s never too late to make a change and mend your mistakes.”