I don’t know about you, but 2017 has gone so quickly! It’s already 2018 and suddenly, long-awaited talks of dissertations are fast becoming a reality and my third (and final year of my degree) is edging closer and closer. It’s made me feel very reflective of my time here so I wanted to share some of the things that uni has taught me so far!
Firstly, and most importantly, uni has taught me that it’s okay to be yourself. Contrary to what freshers might make you believe in your 1st year, it’s okay if you’re not going out all the time or if you don’t fit into the rather narrow ideal of what a student should be. I’m so glad I’ve learnt this now, because otherwise I would have driven myself crazy! The truth is, I’m not a very good [typical, idealised] student at all. Sure, I love being independent and living by myself but other than that, I don’t really fall into the ‘student’ category very well at all.
I’m a lover of my sleep for starters. It turns out that what I’ve always considered as pretty ‘normal’ for my weekly bedtime (11-12), isn’t very normal for the student standard at all. Of course, if I need a lie in then I will have one but for the majority of the time, I love getting up early in the mornings to make the most out of the day, especially at the weekend. So no, I don’t sleep in till the afternoon and that’s okay because this is my university experience. I’ve learnt to love cooking as well at uni and as a result, my student diet doesn’t compromise of pot noodles or meals I can put in the microwave (shock!) I love eating healthily, being creative with what I eat and stretching my weekly food budget to see how much I can save and seeing what I can get for my money.
I could go on and on about the ways in which I don’t fit into the typical student mould but the point I’m trying to make here is that just because you’re told what the typical idealised student experience is, you really don’t need to act up to that role. Before you start uni, you’re constantly told that all students are lazy, that they go and get pissed all the time, that they can’t cook for themselves and that they definitely don’t learn how to budget properly.
Well call me boring but, why should I live up to all those stereotypes?
Sure, this is the most freedom I have ever had and it will prove to be the most flexible time of my life, before I venture into the big adult world of employment, taxes and all sorts of other scary things which are pretty alien to me at present. But looking after myself and honing in those kind of independent skills now certainly couldn’t hurt me right? I want to be able to cook [cue all kinds of ‘women belonging in the kitchen’ jokes] because being able to cook for yourself is a valuable life skill which I am going to need for the rest of my life. I want to be serious about financial budgeting because due to my circumstances, money isn’t some kind of inexhaustible resource which will be instantly replaced at the snap of my fingers (nor will it be for the rest of my adult life, so I better just get used to that now. C’est la vie).
And as for the going out all the time part, the way that (and I’m ashamed to admit it) clutching a cheap bottle of wine at an out of control house party was a big part of my adolescence, could possibly suggest that maybe I’m simply growing out of clubbing? And I’m okay with that. The novelty of clubbing had passed pretty much a month after my 18th birthday (2 whole years ago, bloody hell!)
So yes, I really would take a cramped house party in the name of nostalgia or a boozy pub night over a sweaty and sticky club, any day of the week!
Another thing uni has taught me (and I hate this expression but oh the truth in it!) is that you may have felt like a big fish in a little pond by the time you reached sixth form, but now you’re very much a little fish in a mighty ocean and that overwhelming feeling is never going to go. And that’s okay.
I certainly felt overwhelmed, frustrated even at how big my new surroundings were when I first started uni. I came from a sixth form environment where we were all incredibly close and got on really well. It was so nice to be able to walk into the study room and know everyone in that one space, which is something I really miss at uni.
But the facts are these. You’re never going to know absolutely everyone at uni (but good luck trying) and you’re never going to be able to magically master the hacks to doing well first time in your assignments and exams. A Levels were so very different to what’s expected of you at degree level. You were once expected to learn everything by the textbook and now you’re reading for a degree in your chosen subject, you’re expected to do exactly that! You’re expected to read widely and engage deeply with readings for your degree and do everything independently (dammit!)
I’m in second year now and just to put things in perspective, I’m still not completely sure what a perfect essay looks like or quite what’s expected of me from an exam answer/the final moments before my hand falls off, RIP hand. But the most important thing is that you utilise your first year and that you don’t punish yourself for making mistakes, because you’re allowed to not get it quite right the first time you attempt something.
Even now as the, ahem, mature and well-read second year that I am, I still marvel at my own stupidity of not proofreading my essays to the extent I should have done and I pleasantly surprise myself from time to time in essays which I struggled with at the time but did well in.
Uni is teaching me so much and I’m really enjoying the university experience, even all the bits which I struggle with. Who knows what’s around the corner for me in my uni experience but one thing is for certain, I’m a very accomplished tequila drinker and that’s something that I will take with me and cherish for the rest of my life…
*This is a guest article by Antonia who runs her own blog AntoniaWrites.