An Honest University Chat
Hellooo lovely people! Okay so, the topic of 'university' is something I have been very nervous to discuss over the past year but with the start of a new academic year being here now, I wanted to finally rip off the university-sized-bandaid I've been sporting for the past few months. Honestly, I'm just hoping that this post might be able to reassure anyone who's experienced a similar thing to me (fingers-crossed though that everything is fabulous for any uni-goers reading this) or simply to discuss some advice I would've loved to have had as a fresher.
So... here goes nothing...
University is not everyone's cup of tea and while I blummin' love tea, that just hasn't been the case for me with university. I do love my course, don't get me wrong, it's so interesting and provides such a wide variety of paths for someone who enjoys English Literature to go down, but sadly that's the only aspect of university that I'm head-over-heels in love with at the moment. First year for me was very lonely which was a real shock to my system as up until leaving for uni I've never really been someone who struggled to talk to people and make new friends. However, from Freshers week onwards I found myself caught up in a world of clubbing trips until 5am and the mad scramble to grab as many people to befriend before second-year housing choices were made. That certainly isn't the case for a lot of people, which is a real relief to me because the idea that university is 'some of the best years of your life' is something I really want to believe in. I've just yet to experience that.
However, this year I want to change this. So returning back to the tea metaphor (pfft what a typical English lit student), I want to sweeten up this year by focusing on five things which I hope will make my university experience a happier one - adding sugar cubes to the tea you might say. So let's start heaping in some sugary goodness, aye?
I did actually join the pole dancing society when I began my first year and I loved it, we even got put into pole families and I got given the most fabulous pole mum, which gave me such a confidence boost. What I also realised over time though was that I am quite possibly the w o r s t pole dancer ever, I mean 0% upper body strength, floppy monkey bad. So, unfortunately, I fell behind and stopped going. But I still indisputably believe that joining a society helped me to meet new people, so this year I plan on joining two or three to try and meet some more lovely students and I highly urge that you do the same if you're at university regardless of whether you're a first year or a third year. At my university alone there are over 160 different societies so there will almost definitely be something that will suit you and allow you to meet people with similar interests.
I would urge you to try and experience every aspect of the university lifestyle, even if like me you aren't into wild nights out and your ideal downtime is watching an episode of Bakeoff (who's excited about it being back aye?) with a slab of cake, because you might find that you enjoy both. Quite honestly, I had some less than lovely experiences when out clubbing which stopped me from going a lot. But I am going to try and venture out into the world of strobe lights and vodka filled plastic cups this year ... just at my own pace this time. I would urge anyone to not limit themselves at university by not trying things that may be outside of their comfort zone, but just try to find the right balance of scary and enjoyable things for you.
Sadly, me and quite a few of my roommates didn't gel in my first year, which was a real shame. They were by no means bad people or anything of that regard, we all just had very different lifestyles and ethos's which meant that we barely ever hung out (besides myself and Chloe of course, shout out to my home gal woo). That's not to say that all people don't get along with their roommates, I know quite a lot of people that have made friends for life in their first-year accommodation and that's amazing! But if you aren't best friends with your flatmates, that's okay too. I was actually given the option to leave my flat and even though I decided to stay, if you ever did find yourself in a flat that you were very uncomfortable remaining in, the majority of student accommodation services allow a 'room swap' option as a last resort. However you don't have to rely on your housing situation to make friends, there are so many incredible people you can meet on your course or even just around your uni's campus, I definitely managed to do that over time and aim to continue trying to meet new people this year.
A New Place
Moving two and a half hours away from home was a really hard decision for me, especially moving to a city I had only visited very briefly once before. Homesickness was something I combatted constantly in my first year, even up until the arrival of summer break but something that really helped me was biting the bullet and just exploring my new hometown whenever I had a chance. Whether that was walking a different way home or looking through the location tag on Instagram to find new spots to take pictures, learning to love my place of study was definitely the smartest thing I did because while I was homesick, I still managed to love my new home. So while I am nervous about moving back, you better believe I'll be exploring all of the new shops and cafes that have opened up over the summer to brighten my days.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Facing up to the fact that you're struggling is difficult, I understand that entirely... admitting it to other people can be even harder, but at times it is definitely necessary. In my first year I held out until the very last moment, which looking back now, wasn't a wise move at all. I allowed my mental health to hit rock bottom and while I don't feel entirely comfortable discussing my medical history with the world for now, I do want to say that it was extremely unhealthy in many ways.
There are so many people at university that will be ready and willing to help you, I can promise you that. Whether it's concerning homesickness, confusion surrounding work or something slightly more serious there will be people at your university standing by with a blanket, a comforting drink and some well-needed words of wisdom if you are ready to ask for it. At my university we are all assigned a tutor at the beginning of the year and mine is absolutely lovely, but I waited until Christmas to tell him I was struggling and once I did not only did he step in to help immediately, but all he asked of me was to tell him sooner next time so that he could help like he wanted to. In addition to that my university assigns peer mentors to first-year students to provide support in their transition period - I'm actually going to be a mentor this year so if any of my mentees are reading this "yo yo waddup"! I messaged my peer mentor several times in my first term at university and she was such a helpful voice to have on harder days where workloads and homesickness had become too difficult to manage. So if you have either of these options available to you at your university I would urge you to seek them out if you ever do need help. If not I've attached some helpful online links below for anyone concerned about going to university for their first time, or any returning students like me with the pre-uni jitters.
NHS Student Stress: Self-help Tips - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/student-stress/
Prospect: 5 Ways to Manage Student Stress - https://www.prospects.ac.uk/applying-for-university/university-life/5-ways-to-manage-student-stress
Student Minds - http://www.studentminds.org.uk/
Final thoughts ...
For me, deciding to dig my heels into the ground and stick out my first year was a good idea. I love my degree and only plan on leaving university one way - strutting out with my gown and cap on in style. However, I want to point out that there is no shame whatsoever in dropping out of uni... much like I contemplated doing many times during my first year. Doing whatever is going to make you happy is the most important thing to focus on, just as long as it's going to give you long-term happiness as well as the short term. While my first year didn't meet the hype of the 'best year of my life', it did end with me having met some wonderfully lovely and intelligent guys and gals, as well as giving me a newfound love for my new second home.
I hope that this post helped in some way or another and that you have a lovely week.
Lots of love, hugs and happy reading,
- E x
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