Good Afternoon Readers,
If you are reading this you may be somebody that has continually followed my blog posts and articles as I’ve journeyed through university or you may be a first time reader – whoever you are, I appreciate the continually (or new) support that you show me by viewing and reading my articles.
As it’s coming up to Christmas and I’m freeing up some of my time I’ve found myself having more inspiration and motivation to get some content on this blog – as so far through Third Year it’s been scarce to say the least. I’m sitting in my university library and was contemplating what I could possibly write. I considered doing a ‘reflection’ piece on my time through university but came to the conclusion that it would be more appropriate to do that at the end of my journey. Then I considered doing this, an article unlike any I’ve ever wrote before (in some respects) – so far, my articles have been my own personal, some what raw, experiences, hints & tips and more regarding university and my experiences of it – however, I’ve never really gave the bare bones of being a student. Or the change from being an A-Level student to a Degree student – because believe it or not, they are extremely different and I was not prepared for that change. I was chucked in at the deep end and had to learn everything I knew from the foundations up – to where I am today. To be honest with you, I’m still not entirely certain what it is to be a student because again, being honest, I am nowhere near being a ‘perfect student’. Therefore, sit back and enjoy my personal raw truth of being a student – I’ll attempt not to scare potential students – but honesty is the best policy.
In the beginning… (e.g. all through my educational career) I always knew that I was destined for university as it just seemed like the logical next step and that’s what I wanted to do. I was always working for university and never thinking much further than that (which I really should have done) and suddenly, before I knew it, I had to apply and actually go to university – terrifying.
I’m going to get this out straight away – A-Levels in no way shape or form prepared me to be a student, no matter how much they claimed they did. Everything they did to ‘prepare’ us was no true reflection of being a student or what student life would be like. They focused on preparing us right near the end of Year 13 and that was nowhere near enough time to actually be prepared to start this life-altering journey. They didn’t teach us about student finance or finances, they didn’t teach us about cooking or recipes, they didn’t teach us about housing contracts or living alone, they didn’t teach us about the work load or how to write academic assignments, they didn’t teach us how to reference or how to submit assignments, they didn’t give us any kind of knowledge – all they ever said was “just you wait till you get to university, it’ll all be different then, you won’t have time to mess around!” – Geez, great advice. Thank you – not.
Basically what happened was, one day I walked into Sixth Form and they were like “today, you’re going to apply for UCAS – we hope you know your choices!”. Bloody hell, I’d barely prepared for my upcoming exams let alone that next step. Sure, they took us to university fairs and allowed us to go crazy like a Black Friday sale of picking up free pens and prospectus’ – you know, the ideal things. 99.9% of that university fair was completely and utter crap. However, because my universities stall stood out from the rest and had a student to actually talk to me about courses as oppose to the others just saying “read the prospectus” – it wasn’t a total bust. (It was very close though). We were packed like sheep into an ICT suit and all herded like cattle through the UCAS process – having to make one of the most important decisions of our lives in an hour PDP session, it gave me whiplash. However, before I knew it, I’d applied to five different universities with the intent to actually only go to one if I were accepted and that was were I am now; Bishop Grosseteste University.
The week before… was establishing I’d gathered everything I needed to move away from home and attend university – after, you know, not being prepared to be a student. As far as I knew, it was going to be like being a A-Level student with more independence. So, the week before was checking I’d packed everything I needed, all my paperwork was in order to move into halls and everything was finalised – I then used the remainder of my time using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and The Student Room (and occasionally YouTube) to meet people who were going to my university, to talk to current students and graduates and more in order to gain as much knowledge as I could in order to prepare myself for the big change and yes, I will not sugar coat it, it was a big change. That week was a mixture of fear, excitement and absolutely crapping my pants thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong – also buzzing at the idea of Fresher’s Week and all the prospects that held. It was… an intriguing time of my life – it was also a miniscule period of my life where I was literally living in the unknown.
The night before… I started this very WordPress account and posted my first ever entry; which you haven’t done by now, you can read here. (Okay, upon finding the link to that article I realised it wasn’t my first ever article, it was my second, but close enough). That night I laid in bed scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and every other form of social media in order to delay sleep as much as possible whilst looking around my room at the suitcases and packed boxes and the realisation set in that I was actually moving away from home after 18 years of being in the same house, with the same family and never leaving home for more than week at most. This was real. This was happening. It was time. I was diving into the unknown and the only way was forward – I was not prepared, in the slightest, I was just going off other students experiences and tales as their years or memories – that they shared with a happy delight or a painful shudder. We all come out of university with scrapes and bruises of the situations we’ve fought through. (Yes, I’m making it sound dramatic, yes university is dramatic. No, it has nothing to do with me being a drama student…).
The first year… at university. Right, you may ask why I condense all of my First Year into one experience as oppose to the short ‘time limited’ sections I’ve done as above, well, I do this mainly down to the fact that there are countless articles that I’ve posted that outline Fresher’s Week and my experiences in more specific articles – where as this is about the whole truth of being a student.
So, First Year. First Year was… it was like getting hit by an endless succession of cars but not actually noticing the devastation until the end of the year. If that makes any kind of sense? It might only make sense to fellow students – who knows. Maybe it’s just me. Why do I use this description? Well the ‘endless succession of cars’ is every single struggle that you face within your First Year but sort of do so by taking it head on or not at all. That’s the easiest way to put it. Now, personally, I didn’t ‘really’ struggle with finances within my First Year. With how much my accommodation was and how much student finance allowed me I could actually live pretty comfortably throughout my First Year – whoever, with how reckless I was (even though I thought I wasn’t) this didn’t help me in the years to come. To be honest, buying an iPad Mini out of my overdraft in First Year should have been an indication that I shouldn’t be allowed (or trusted) with an overdraft, but, it wasn’t. Unfortunately.
What did I struggle with then? Moving away from home, cooking for myself (you know surviving), juggling the work load, learning to read books upon books and (bloody) reference them, balance university work and a social life and so on, so forth. Doesn’t sound too much, right? Wrong. It consumes you’re (well, my) entire life trying to do all of these things and you’d think you’d pick most of it up within a year. HA. Jokes on you (it may not be) – for example, I’ve only just learned (IN MY THIRD YEAR) how to go through a lot of books for an assignment and got a lot of quotes very quickly.
In essence… this was my life. Moving way from home shouldn’t have been such a big deal for me as I was 18 years old and completely prepared to move away and be independent (or so I thought). Once I actually got to university I realised how much I missed home life (to make clear – I did not miss my hometown, I loathed that place) and my family was there waiting for me. It all hit me within my first hour of being alone in halls. There I was, all alone, my family and friends had left and I was sat in this room that now had all my belongings in there… but some how, it still didn’t feel like mine. It was then and there I didn’t think I was cut out for university. (I know right, how pathetic within the first hour!). However, I stuck to it and hit Fresher’s and Fresher’s hit me right back. Now when it came to cooking, I wasn’t a completely novice. I could cook basic meals but the problem is learning to cook a variety of food and not living like a Celeb in the jungle and living off rice and beans all the time. (And pasta – you can never forget pasta). Even though I had three student cookbooks – I never actually took the time to read them and prepare meals… so in essence, I did live like a Celeb in the jungle. Fantastic. So again, in recap, my diet was not the healthiest. OH! Wait, I did have variety. I had takeaways often – and not always the same… that counts for something, right? Right, the workload. Now, at Sixth Form they’d always said how much the workshop was going to increase but they don’t really tell you how. So by the time I got to university and was experiencing juggling a billion assignments and a billion and one practical’s (yes, I’m being dramatic) I didn’t really know how to plan my time or organise myself and I understand this isn’t really something you can teach as every individual person is different, but, you can still provide some help. Therefore, I was getting snowed under the work and attempting to do my very best to understand academic structure and writing. I could go on but you’re getting the picture.
Before I move on, it’s all well and good writing about the academic and educational side of university (as that’s obviously the focus) but there is an awful lot more going on for students when studying. As I mentioned – social life. Now, again, I understand that everybody is different – everybody priorities different things and juggles things differently and so on, so forth but this is what I experienced – and I know that other students have experienced the same (not the majority, but the minority). Where to begin for this part? Well, relationships. This is something I have NEVER (really) spoken about in an article on my blog. Relationships can be difficult at university. Some people come to university in relationships and those relationships sometimes don’t survive where as others come to university and it makes their relationship as they can stand the rest of
time distance. In my personal opinion, I don’t believe anybody should come to university in a relationship (especially if you’re moving away from home) as personally, you are moving away to find your individuality and ‘find yourself’ – if you believe in that cliché view of university. At the end of the day – if you’re in a strong relationship, sure, you probably can do that whilst with something – but personally (keyword here is personally) I just don’t believe it can work. Maybe I’m just sour because I’m single… who knows? (… All of us).
This next part hits home for me and may hit home for some of you readers, so I do give you a warning for this next part.
I’ll start this section by saying the following. Recent studies have shown that students (from university and such) have the same mental readouts, stress and anxiety levels and more as mental patients from the 1960’s (don’t quote me on that, that may not be extremely accurate – especially the date – but you get the idea). For a lot of people (the majority) university is not a walk in the park. However, on that point, some people do swim through university, keep on top of their work and do pretty well (these are the weird people) but the rest of us, we all struggle in some way. The stress gets the better of us and it is not fun. For me personally, this personified itself in the form of anxiety. More specifically, at the end of Second Year, I had a ‘bit’ of a breakdown that ended up with me in A&E thinking I was dying – a night I never wish to relive. It was a massive struggle and left me to have a very difficult summer. Everyday was an uphill battle of trying to stay calm and not letting my anxiety get the better of me – even though I felt I had nothing to be anxious about – but it continued to battle and still does to this day. However, I managed to get counselling through my university and six sessions of this helped me more than I ever could imagine it would. (This was really surprising as I was extremely sceptical about counselling). Let me get something straight, I AM NOT saying that university was the soul cause of my anxiety. I believe it was a mixture of things but university was a contributing factor. It’s down to the person and for me, I didn’t talk about my feelings or what bothered me until the last-minute and bottled it up, I suppressed everything about myself and just let it all build up (and left everything to the last minute which never helped). This leads me onto my final section for ‘Part One’ of this truth about university students from my experience…
What they didn’t tell me was… that university lectures and the support team would be some of the loveliest, most understanding people in the world. (I should mention, this is not all, just some). From my work on The Student Room and hearing other people’s experiences, some lecturers do not care about their students and the support teams are crap – in made me reflect and realised I was quite lucky with my university, but at the same time, I believe my university is like that because it’s fairly small – as is the campus and I think this is what drew me to here. The point is, it’s always worth talking to the people who are teaching you if you are struggling with anything – they’ve seen students come and go and whatever your problem is, they will not think it’s silly (unless they are an
arsehole). I’ve received a lot of support from the people around my at university and it really is heart warming and comforting knowing I can turn to them and trust them with whatever is going on within my life. They always understand, or if they don’t, they at least try too. It’s made university a lot easier in that respect, but not to the point that university is ‘easy’. I should make that clear.
There we have it. This concludes Part One of this article. We’ve established, that especially from my point view, being a student is a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, but, worthwhile in the long run – from what I can conclude so far. This is probably the most ‘brutal’ I’ve been with my experience… and it’s weird to think that I could be deeper but like I said, I have to try to avoid scaring potential students away from university but as I said at the beginning, honesty is the best policy – even if the truth isn’t as light as you thought it would be. The media likes to sugar coat being a student but I can tell you now, and tell you truthfully, I’ve never experienced being sat on some patch of grass on campus on a sunny day with my multi-cultural group of friends, laughing and joking – I’ve sat on the benches outside the SU on a warm summers day drinking cider. That’s more realistic.