Updated: Oct 19, 2020
The University experience- the awful term bred from movies, literature, social media and everything in between. I am here to tell you that none of it is true. University can be absolutely bloody brilliant; it can also be absolutely bloody hard.
I’m still not entirely sure what the ‘Uni experience’ is but for me it conjured images of halls, drinking, partying and an endless reel of socialising and success. Well, I was already on a bad foot because I didn’t live on campus but in my entire first year I never went clubbing on campus and the only time I went in the SU bar was for a society meeting.
For a long time I hated myself for not being the ‘typical student’ but going into year two, I can look back and see how much I was defining my year by what I felt I should do not what I felt happy with. I went to the pub with mates (just not from university) every week, I had a society I loved attending, I went on some weekend trips, I had the best movie nights with course mates, I danced the night away numerous times in a non-campus club, I cooked delicious meals, I binge-watched Glee and every day I got to do a beautiful walk to and from a beautiful campus. Oh, and I also did a degree (noticeably absent in the movies.) Most of my time was taken up with reading, studying, lectures and essay writing. Not the stuff films are made of but nonetheless a year I enjoyed.
But, for a minute, lets wind back to day one of University. If we really want to talk about how unlike the media University can be, I feel the need to enlighten you on just how bad my first day was.
My first lecture was at 10 am. I was at the bus stop at 9 am. My bus did not turn up for half an hour. Bear in mind this was my first day- I knew one person on my course. Luckily, she managed to save me a seat in a lecture I had to run to (through a campus I didn’t know.) I got there just in time for the start, but it wasn’t exactly the ideal beginning. A few hours later we had a mini-lecture before the dreaded group task. Our groups had been assigned earlier that day- I was with my friends, all was good. That was until they changed them. I was assigned a new group, with no friends in a building I had never heard of.
I left the lecture ended up tagging on to the wrong group, realised too late, found my way to the new one and entered the classroom late- again. I then proceeded to realise I couldn’t breathe. Yes, you’ve guessed correct- I had a panic attack. After a sobbing fit in the corridor, I made my way back to the room where I had to field off well-meaning questions about whether I was ok, before finally thinking I was free to leave and see my new friends for a bus tour around the city.
I was wrong. Turns out I had an adviser’s appointment that day- they’d not been able to get them on to our timetables and a few of us had received emails telling us to check the school’s office for further details. Luckily, my friend had noticed my name and managed to let me know I had a meeting in an hour’s time. I made my way there, got lost (I was on floor 0.2 not 00.2!) and eventually ended up missing my appointment. A member of staff bumped into me and told me to go home and rest as I looked ‘exhausted and done in.’ I got home, grabbed a gin and my phone buzzes.
To top it all off someone from the earlier group session had accidentally picked up my welcome bag which had my purse and keys in (my bus ticket is on my phone and my boyfriend had let me into the house.) I got it back the next morning, but I was forever scarred by the least ‘uni experience’ first day ever. It might seem scary to read that, but my point is that after my horrific start I was terrified. It felt like the end of the world but knowing where I am now and have met other people, I realise we all had days like that- mine just happened to be the worst timing. There is no ‘perfect’ experience because life isn’t perfect and sometimes you are going to have awful, awful days but that doesn’t mean the experience as a whole is going to be terrible.
Within my core friendship group at University there are two other commuters and one person who went home almost every weekend. We all had vastly different experiences of University and we all had varying hopes and expectations. It strikes me every time I’m talking with them that despite us all being brought together by University, course and friendship we all have had our own ‘uni experience’ and perhaps, just maybe we should all stop using the term, because really what are we defining?
If I have learnt anything about this year and my expectations, it was to slow down and take things for what they are. My University experience so far is clouded by a pandemic, spikes of awful anxiety and some really difficult times but it’s also been one of joy, friendship, community, togetherness, learning and contentment that no film will ever capture.