Moving into my second year of university has made me somewhat nostalgic about the last year, about all the great bits, the tougher times and all the bits inbetween. I’ve learnt so much in what felt like a very short amount of time – not just about myself, but about how to self-motivate and work under pressure; how to deal with tricky and challenging situations; how trust is built; and just how important it is to have people to fall back on.
I think it’s safe to say that going away to uni, rather than staying in the same old little town where you grew up, where everyone knows everyone, definitely teaches you a thing or two. It teaches you the hard way, but I think that’s the important part – mistakes and recoveries, and learning how you deal with them, are what make you you.
I quite fancied writing a bit of a survival guide, but considering I’m still learning myself how to get through this huge thing I’ve got myself into, I decided that maybe that’s not the best idea. So these are instead just a few of the most important lessons I’ve learnt, and what I would tell my pre-uni self if I could.
University is the ultimate mix of people: This, for me, was one of those broken-record repeated things that I kept hearing on the lead up to leaving for my first term, “Ooh, you’re going to meet so many new people, and make so many new friends!” The number of times I heard it drove me insane, it just sounded so obvious, and particularly for someone so shy, I was terrified.
But it’s so much more than just meeting new people. It’s mixing with a variety of places, backgrounds, experiences, and it’s personalities too which really make and create the differences. People who have grown up with completely different values; who will question what you’re interested in, your hobbies and what you consider important. And sometimes that’s good, we need to be challenged in order to realise what we actually do think, but it can also sometimes be a negative thing. What I didn’t realise, initially at least, is that it is inevitable you’ll meet people you don’t like, but that’s okay, you don’t have to get on with everyone, (even if they’re the ones you’ll be seeing a lot of for the next year).
You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to change who you are to get people to like you (That’s exactly the opposite of what friendship is all about): I feel like living in university halls, it’s easy to get swept along with the crowd, but one thing I wish I’d known is that you shouldn’t feel guilty about not fitting in, or wanting to do things that other people do.
You won’t necessarily meet your friends straight away, and that’s okay: It’s actually quite impressive if you do become friends with the hundreds of people you meet in Fresher’s Week, and even more so if those friendships last past the start of lectures. Despite what people think, it can actually be quite difficult to make proper, solid friendships at uni (particularly if you’re not a big party-er), as you only see course mates a few hours a week, and even then you’re sat in silence for the majority of the time, listening to someone talking at you. The whole process can be intimidating, but it’s okay if you don’t find “your sort of people” straight away, because you will find them. Even if it takes most of the year.
Being a responsible adult is scary (and life is so expensive): Rent, food shopping, textbooks, laundry – all things that you take for granted while you’re living at home and your college provides the majority of your core texts. You will run into Reality head on, kind of like that time Harry and Ron tried to get onto Platform 9 ¾ and the portal was shut (but less cool, as you can’t ride away in a flying car).
I’m not exaggerating – last year I was reading a textbook online for an essay, which sounded perfect for the module topics I was studying that term, but when I looked at the price, it was £99. For one book?! What student can afford that? That’s what I want to know!
Milk theft is very real: And can prove a very emotional crime. Especially when you get in from a long day of lectures, dying for a cup of tea, only to discover on opening the fridge that the milk you left there that morning, all safely tucked on your shelf, has disappeared.
You will never know how much food is actually a portion: For such a stereotypically “university student” staple, no one will ever be able to judge how much pasta they eat in one meal. I’m usually left either with not quite enough for how hungry I am, or with enough leftovers for the next 2 days.
Ironing is not your friend (And it doesn’t need to be): I’m actually incredibly proud of the fact that I got through the whole year without ironing a single item of clothing, yet remaining pretty much crease-free. (My mum, on the other hand, was not so pleased to hear about my lack of domestic ability). This was probably just as well, considering my previous ironing experience has not gone so well – let’s just say large burn marks are not what I usually look for when picking out clothes!
Tip-top tip: if you live 2 minutes from the halls laundry room, you can get it all from the dryer, into your room and folded/hung whilst it’s still all warm. Voila, no creases.
No-one else knows what they’re doing either: The dreaded question that always pops up at family events will also be one of the main ones you will get when you meet people for the first time (which is a lot, trust me). It typically comes just after “What course are you doing?” and “Where are you living?” And what’s worse than admitting you don’t know about your future plans and stressing about it later, is that you will turn into the thing you hate the most, and find yourself asking others, “So, do you know what you want to do when you graduate?” But there’s no need to dwell, it’s still early days, there’s no need to worry about it now, you still have plenty of time.
Don’t live just within your comfort zone: It’s pretty easy to become a hermit, but the harder way can often be the most fun. Surprise yourself: join random societies, do something new and don’t worry about what you look like. University is so big, you literally might never see those same people again!