April 10, 2017, by Siobhan
First Year Reflection: A Transition
The past seven and a half months have passed by quicker than I could ever have imagined. I know I’m not exactly old, but I realise how true it is that time seems to fly by as you get older. There’s no more sitting in classrooms struggling to keep my eyes open on a Friday afternoon, only to then come to the heartbreaking realisation that it is in fact only Tuesday. Instead, I seem to blink and an entire semester is almost over.
I wanted to write something a bit more personal, about my journey from being a frightened fresher in late September, to a happy, confident university student now that teaching is over and we’re on our Easter break. It really has been a transition; when I think back to how I was those many months ago, I barely recognise myself. And it truly is for the better.
When I arrived at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 14th September 2016 at around 2pm, I had all my family with me, my boyfriend too, and I was so excited I resembled a 5 year old who looks down at the end of the bed to see a filled stocking, and they realise Santa has been. I was in a nervous, excited bubble; I couldn’t stop talking (much to the displeasure of my family, I’m sorry) and I felt as though I was in some sort of hyper-reality. Once we had unloaded the car of my eighteen years worth of belongings, it was time to say goodbye. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I gave my mum a final hug, and they all left. I felt truly alone. It’s hard to describe really, but with my arms round the woman who I’d never spent more than about 3 weeks away from, I realised that for the first time in my life, I was just that. Lonely. All the excitement disappeared, and I knew I had to go inside and start to make friends. It was the most daunting experience! All of us had just been smushed together at random and we were now expected to spend every day for an entire year all together? Most of my friendships at home had curated over a number of years. My girls at home (who are absolutely amazing, might I add) have formed our friendship over about five years, and in reality I had a week to form bonds with all these strangers with weird accents and alternative pastimes. How was I supposed to do that?
It turns out, it’s not quite as daunting and horrible as that. Everyone is feeling the same way, a bit lost, sad, excited, anxious. Everyone wants to make friends. The best bit about it is that no one at all knows who you are; no one has an agenda, no one has a clue about your past, that embarrassing thing that happened to you, nothing. You are free to be who you want to be. I’m not saying that university is a time to ‘re-invent’ or ‘find’ yourself, because lets be honest, that is disgustingly cliche. What I’m saying is that its a time to be true to who you are. Throughout sixth form, I would never go into school without perfect makeup, or a beautifully put together outfit. The most important thing to me was the way I was perceived by others. Within a few weeks of being at university, I realised how unimportant it is for people to like me for what I look like, and instead I should prioritise actually liking myself, and who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love doing my makeup and throwing together a nice outfit (if you know me, you’ll know I’m ALWAYS late because I’ve spent about six hours creating the perfect cut crease), but there are other things that I value too. I’m not scared to go out without a full face of makeup, and I’ll happily go to lectures in a pair of leggings and a ‘should have washed about a week ago’ jumper.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that university is terrifying to begin with, at least it was for me. I hated every second. I woke up in the mornings with a feeling of pure dread in my stomach, and I felt as though I was floating in the middle of the ocean with no one to help me, to care for me, completely isolated. I felt like this for a long time, but soon, I made some amazing amazing friends who I soon learnt felt very similar to myself. Top tip: a little self disclosure will work wonders when it comes to settling in. Gradually, I began to love my new life in Nottingham. I had freedom, independence, and I felt truly happy. Something that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. Like I was saying, who I am now, is virtually nothing like I was. I’m confident, comfortable in my own skin, and I’m happy. I’m studying a subject I love, on a beautiful campus with even more beautiful friends who I treasure. I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel sad, to miss home, to get stressed, but also that it’s okay to be happy, to enjoy your own company, to spend a little bit too much money and to get into some delightful messes that you’ll look back on fondly in the years to come.