It genuinely only feels like yesterday that I was leaving to go on my new adventure. Uni felt like this huge new thing that was extremely intimidating and scary. Full of ‘what-ifs’ and stereotypes.
Today I thought I’d go through those stereotypes and look back at my two years in higher education. Reflect on mistakes I made, what I wish I’d done differently and what I loved about them.
Uni is always painted out to be this massive stepping stone into adulthood, and in some ways it is but it doesn’t just hit you like a ton of bricks. You encounter different things at different times and that’s okay. You do you and don’t try to pressure yourself into copying everyone else.
Brief thoughts on First Year;
I think when reflecting back on first year there are a lot of things I would have done slightly differently. However, I am also a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and the past is in the past. Yet, if I can help anyone else or provide some insight into how to make your life easier then of course I will share it!
I know this is something repeated often and is probably over used in a lot of speeches. However, in the first few weeks of arriving in Edinburgh I wish I had agreed to do more things with people who asked me too. In a lot of ways I held myself back, constantly asking myself ‘why would they want to hang out with me’ or ‘I’ll just be the awkward one sitting in the corner’ so often, or more often than not, I made up an excuse. Instead I really should have looked at it in the manner of; if they are asking me to do something it’s because they genuinely want me to.
I think this grew from a place of having a solid group of friends at home, and because this quickly went away for the first few weeks purely because they weren’t right there with me, it was like my comfort blanket was stripped off and I just didn’t know what to do. I was lost and probably far too in my head. Part of me was still holding onto these friends (which I am still really close with by the way, its not like I said goodbye to my friends because I am at uni) I just shouldn’t have let that stop me from making more friends.
Alternatively, I couldn’t include this without mentioning the benefits of joining a club. If you feel like you don’t quite hit it off with your flatmates or fellow students or are just looking to expand your circle then going to a club is great! I joined Netball in my first year because I’ve been a competitive player for as long as I can remember. Finding people who like the same things as you really boosts your morale and confidence. At least this way you are broadening your friends and even if you don’t like the club at least you can say you’ve tried and who knows, you might still get friends from it.
Listen to Yourself!
If something isn’t right or you are in a situation you don’t agree with, get yourself out. Talk to anyone that will listen and if you get someone saying no then try someone else. There will always be a better way of handling things, especially in student accommodation. If something happens that is not your fault and out of your control, you shouldn’t have to put up with it. A lot of the time it definitely isn’t something you should have to deal with.
Under the same bracket, if you need some time to yourself, don’t feel bad. I often had to spend a lot of time in my room, whether that was because I had a lot of reading to get through or just because I needed to breath and rest. Everyone is different and that is fine. I am an extroverted introvert, which means I am extroverted around a lot of people (that I know and am comfortable with) but also need time to recharge and be alone. This is something people should understand so never feel guilty for looking after yourself.
Nights out aren’t for everyone. Just because it might not suit you doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in your city. I often would jump on a bus, get off at a point, and then go on really long walks. This way I found beautiful places I never even knew existed. Finding local restaurants and cafes are great and making a routine out of getting out the house is especially important. Additionally, so is letting your hair down and relaxing. Make the most of every moment because trust me, those first two years go in quickly!
First Year on my Course:
The first year of my course (English Literature) went in really quickly but that’s not to say I didn’t struggle. I soon found out who was there to be friends with me and who, in my opinion, were there to use me. Sadly, I feel like that happens to quite a few people. It’s not to say they aren’t nice people, they might just be struggling or not used to academic work. All the same though, it’s not your job to give your endless amounts of hard work to someone else because they don’t want to do it. It’s also natural to compare yourself or feel pressured to perform in class the whole time, this is not realistic and you’ll just tire yourself out. I struggle to speak in front of classes and that’s just something I’ve come to terms with. If you acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses you can work on them from the get go. I mostly look back and wish that I engaged more with my classmates, like I said before, don’t shut yourself down because of nerves. Everyone is in the same boat.
Second year brought a small wave of change in terms of finding accommodation, dealing with bills, slightly harder learning and generally getting my footing. I feel like this was the year I transitioned to seeing Edinburgh as more of a home.
I moved in with my sister and one of my best friends (Hi Mara!) after only just getting a flat before moving home for Summer. Flat hunting is a whole other ball game so if you want a separate blog post on that then let me know. I think this is the year that you become more independent and feel like more of an ‘adult’ (if that is even possible?).
Be more Spontaneous
This is a lesson all of my friends have taken away from our second year being cut short. Although third year is obviously extremely important, so is enjoying the ‘university experience’. Doing more things off the cuff and enjoying having the ability to be more free in terms of my schedule should be celebrated.
I think it is a great idea to think of things that you always put off. Go to see live music, go to the pub spontaneously, take a trip to a random place or go speed dating. Anything that you’ve always wanted to do, should be done at some point right? If you’re ever stuck for conversation at a random dinner party these will hopefully provide the opportunity to fill the gaps and put a smile on someone’s face. Surely that’s reason enough?
Use Your Voice
I was/am too scared to open up to my peers in class, constantly thinking that everyone else is a lot smarter than I am. However, your voice is just as valid and hey, people make mistakes! Even the smartest person in the room won’t always be right. Plus there is always the chance that those people who sound the smartest will struggle to transition their thoughts onto paper. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself or downgrading your opinions because of someone else.
Use your teachers and resources
For the longest time I’d dread asking questions or asking for help. I perceived it as a sign of weakness rather than using my lecturers etc. for what they are there for. After just finishing second year I’ve realised that I probably should be using the resources that I am paying for. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
I probably could go on for a lot longer but I don’t want to bore you or loose you attention. I think however, that these are the most important takeaways from my first two years.
I haven’t gone into detail exactly on what experiences I enjoyed purely because most of them won’t be happening this year, for example cocktail week or freshers week. Once they get the go ahead to return I’ll be sure to write a post all about them.
I hope this encourages you to be more open to new experiences and to take care of yourself at uni. If you’re looking for helpful tips on how to set up your new flat and what to take, check out this blog post here.
And if you aren’t going to uni, I hope you enjoy a sneak peak into what I’ve discovered about the experience and also myself. Everyone can take at least one message away from this post, whether it is applicable to you or not; be yourself and don’t waste time on worrying.
Like the cheesy saying goes, you only live once.