Wednesday, 31 August 2016

What University Taught Me

So I've only gone and graduated from Northumbria University, not only with a first class honours but some life long friends and important lessons about myself, other people and the kind of person I want to be. I know people always say university is the place where you find yourself but as cheesy as it sounds, I think it really is. Three years ago I was so young and only a fraction of who I am now.  You're pushed out of your comfort zone, you get to try new and exciting things, you fly the nest and have to learn how to be yourself without your parents... though they're never too far when you need them. University taught me so much, not just how to construct a strong argument within an essay but also how to enjoy my own company, how to push myself to be my personal best and how to live with other people but still be friends by the end of it. So I thought as the new freshers intake this year, and all you lucky second and third years head back to continue the party I thought it would be a good time to share with you all what I really learnt during my time at university.

Expectations vs. Reality.
It's not American Pie but it's not Fresh Meat either. When you start university you'll have this preconception of what you're experience will be like. Now forget it because chances are it will be far removed from that regardless of where you go, what you do and what you expect. There's only so much you can do to prepare for uni, it'll be a jump just like A-Levels were from GCSE but this time, you're starting in a new city, without your friends and without your family. And while I know that's not true for everyone for the majority of you, however, it will be. It's a scary time starting out on your own and after the mayhem of freshers has passed life will seem different from what you expected.  But push yourself to mix with new people, push yourself to go to every lecture even though you know it doesn't count, push yourself to make the most of every second of this experience because when it's over you'll miss it, trust me.

You won't find your life-long friends immediately, even if you think you have.
People at university will surprise you and friendship is one of those things that you just can't predict. You'll encounter such a vast array of characters and who knows who will be with you at the end of your three years. There's people I met in freshers I swear I'd never be without and now I haven't heard from since halls, people who I tweeted before I even started uni and now can't imagine being without. People like the ones in first year I signed for a house with and now barely speak to vs people I didn't speak to until third year who now I class as a life long best friend. University friendships are always changing and you have to just go with that. As people grow up they also move onto new people and sometimes you will just stop talking for no real reason at all but at the end of the day, you'll find a few good eggs who you will want to keep around even after university has ended.
Halls can be so fun, but also hell. Don't panic if you're not loving life.
I know so many people who lucked out in halls, met amazing people, had a ball and all that jazz. For me not so much. There were issues with my flat, to say the least, so much tension ahhh. I hid in my room a lot, avoided the kitchen where possible because it was a cesspit, left and then moaned about passive aggressive notes. My room was nice, the en-suite made life very easy but living in the more expensive halls also cut me off a fair bit to other people in the building. If you live in the party halls it's easier to mix and make friends but in the 8-bed ensuite flats, it's a lot harder to mix with other people in the building. So if you -live in one of these halls and you're not loving life in your flat don't panic, start talking to other people in the building where possible, join clubs and societies to mix with a wider range of people and you'll meet friends who will make it bearable. I made friends with the flat upstairs and spent so much time there it didn't matter I didn't have a great flat. And if things do turn sour my top tip is just try to be nice and be the bigger person where necessary. The thing is you're simply not going to get along with everyone you meet in your life. Plus with all the stress of uni work and being hungover 99% of the time who even has the energy to fall out or have feuds. Just be civil and have a good time.

Budgeting and saving makes this scary post uni bit a little less scary.
When you're at uni the last thing you really want to be thinking about is money and budgeting but by doing it it'll save you a lot of stress. When my loan came in I'd always work out what needed paying; bills, rent, etc and taking that straight out of the equation, I opened a second account to hold that money in so I never touched it. Then I work out how many weeks till next loan and what that would roughly give me to live on weekly if I was to spend the entirety of my loan. Some weeks I went over my rough budget but I knew this just meant living off beans the next week to even out the books. I didn't restrict myself based on my budget but knowing there would roughly be enough money in my account to tie me over till my next student finance payment saved me a lot of panic. It also meant I never touched my overdraft to the point of being unable to pay myself off, which now after finishing means I'm not pained with the panic of having to repay it before I start getting charged interest. By  budgeting, I was also able to set aside a little money each year to keep me living happily over summer and afford the odd little holiday and weekend break. The money I managed to save is now tying me over till I find myself a job and also funding my post-university travels so try saving money where you can.

Times will get hard but don't give up
Whether that's with university pressures or just with your own issues, don't give up. You'll get homesick, it's a given. You'll feel you don't fit in and want to leave. At times you'll struggle but trust me everyone does. During second year there was a really rough patch for me I was in the middle of a very messy relationship, struggling with work and issues with my self-image and felt like I didn't have anyone I was actually close friends with. I was catching the train home every weekend, crying constantly and making myself poorly with the amount of stress I was dealing with. I wanted to quit university and move home but my mother wouldn't let me, she forced me to carry on telling me it would get better and I'd be ok. What do you know, she was right. I ended the relationship, put work into my friendships, took the time to sort my head  out and focused on school. I got through my rocky stage and I'm so glad I didn't give up, not only did  I come out with a great degree at the end of it and some fab friends but it made me stronger as a person. I realised I won't break as easily as I think I might and that pushing through struggles will not be easy but worth it the end. It taught me the importance of perseverance to a level I didn't expect university to and I'm grateful for it now. It taught me how to be myself and enjoy my own company even when I do feel alone and not to be scared of that. It made me revisit who I wanted to be and what I wanted from my university experience. So if you ever start feeling like your head is a pressure cooker about to exploded or you just aren't enjoying it, then don't just accept it. Make a change, learn from it, push yourself and you'll overcome it, it might take a little bit longer than you'd like but it'll all be fine at the end of the day. Maybe you'll look back like me and realise without the climbs, the downhill rides wouldn't seem so sweet.... I apologise for that cringey analogy.

Work hard, play hard.... but actually do work hard.
I know everyone knows the reason you go to university if to come out the other side with a degree and all of us enjoy playing a lot, and I mean a lot along the way but trust me when I say nothing has ever felt better than the moment I opened my results and saw the words 'First Class Honours'. In first and second year I finished on high/medium 2:1's, not too shabby. Third years different, though, you actually have to work to do well. What you could have smashed in a day or two at the library in second  year, just won't cut it in third year and this is when it really counts. Luckily I realised this and pulled my finger out, and while I'd still have been thrilled with a 2:1 because I applied myself and pushed myself I managed to do something which I honestly didn't know if I could do. Despite being dyslexic I managed to write essays that scored 75% and created performances that I'm not only so proud of but that have also won at an international theatre festival and performed to hundreds of people. I worked so hard in third year, I locked myself in the library for days on end, I did 12 hour days when I wasn't even timetabled for one, I read so much I didn't understand and kept persisting but at the end of it, it was all worth it for that moment I graduated with the highest possible honours. I really do think university is as much as what you put into it as what you get out from it, so work hard and you'll reap the rewards, my girl gang and I are living testimony to that.
Third year is hard work but also a lot of fun!
 Now I've banged on about all the hard work you actually do have to do in final year, I think it's really important to mention this year has been the best year of my life. In third year something seems to click. By now you've ironed out any housing issues, found friends that actually will be friends forever, have a relationship with your tutors and realise work and play can go hand-in-hand. I worked bloody hard this year but had a total blast while doing it. I went to some of the best DJs and events, I turned 21 surrounded by my very drunk friends and I drank far too many trebles. I went off on little day trips and weekends away, I performed in Croatia and Northern Stage, I explored the city I called home and I just had a really good time doing it all. When I started this year my lectures told me this was the time to buckle down and give up my social life, but actually this was my peak of my social experience at university and my friends say the same. In your final hours of university you realised this is your last chance and that this period of your life is over (cry) so yeah you can go a little crazy; enjoy it. Find the balance and make memories that will last a lifetime.
University taught me to be a better version of me. It made me an independent young woman who now knows the importance of family and the people who you chose to surround yourself. It taught me the importance of a positive outlook and persistence and ambition. It made me realise what I truly value in life like proper cooking utensils, indie music and watching theatre. It made see what I'm good at and where I need to work on, where I can be better and why I should be. It made me unapologetically me. University does change you, simple as that, but be open to it and embrace it for everything its worth and you'll come out the other end with a deeper understanding of yourself, of others and the world you find yourself within. Thank you Northumbria, you treated me well and for that, I'll be forever grateful. So good luck to all you little baby freshers, what I wouldn't give to be in your shoes starting out again. And to those returning, make the most of it because when its over it's not half as fun. Enjoy university my loves, you'll learn much more than just a degrees worth while you're there.

What did university teach you? Are you excited for university?
Let me know in the comments below.
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