What Have I Learnt At University?
University was an absolute whirlwind. The words 'time flies by' proved to be accurate. The goal was always to go to uni, I never really planned what to do afterwards. But here I am, reflecting on the past three years with fondness and sadness. It's a bitter sweet moment...
I've endured a lot of emotions and experiences and achieved what seemed impossible sometimes. But I am thankful for the experience, education and memories I have made so the debt is completely worth it!
I have met the most wonderful people. Truly, I have made friends forever. University is great for meeting new kinds of people that have different perspectives and different experiences (and accents) to help you grow as a person. A huge thing I learnt this year is that you never stop experiencing even after being in the same city for two years - I discovered more restaurants and made new friends in my final year even though I already thought I'd settled in, but it just got better and better. My independence has blossomed, as has my academic and life skills.
Managing a long-distance relationship has proved difficult at points. We haven't always been successful, but I owe a huge amount of my happiness and success to Max. His love, support and work-ethic inspired me every day to be better and achieve more.
So... what have I learnt at university?
1) How to prioritise your workload - balancing multiple deadlines means you have to give each one time and effort, which is difficult sometimes. But by doing a little bit each day far in advance of the deadline means that nothing ever piles up and you have time to check through it all and make changes. This saved my stress levels massively.
2) Budget more - cliche I know, but it's vital and something I haven't quite mastered yet. Be cautious when you're agreeing to lots of social dates and buying clothes in the sale. It all adds up, even the £2.50 coffees.
3) Who I am - I've always had a strong sense of self, but the three years have taught me even more. I've chosen the energy I surround myself with, chosen how I spend my days and who I want to be. I have grown in confidence, worked hard, maintained my blog, experimented with fashion, essay topics and recipes, all of which have impacted who I am today and what I am passionate about.
4) Academics - my essay writing has improved massively. My vocabulary has excelled, and I've practiced writing every day which is SO important if you're passionate about it. If you want to be a writer of any kind, practice every day - learn more words, find your voice and create some sort of story.
5) You don't have to find your feet straight away - sometimes it takes a little while to settle in. Some people are naturally outgoing and find their place, but if you're a little more reserved then take your time! There is no shame in that. I wish that I had done a lot of the things I did in third year earlier on, like joining the student magazine and feeling confident enough to talk to new people. But I wasn't confident enough yet and that's ok, because I managed it in the end and I still had a wonderful experience.
6) Choose who you spend your energy on - sometimes we latch ourselves onto people because it's easy, like friends you meet in freshers or your housemates! But there are so many more people to find, so don't feel like you have to stick with the people you meet first! Be around people that uplift you, make you feel good, motivate you, support and love you.
7) University does not have to be a drinking experience - there were times I felt really out of place and alone because I didn't want to go out drinking all the time (not that these pictures would have you believe). I missed out on a lot of memories because of it but it just wasn't for me! I enjoy dressing up and drinking, but not every day of the week. There are tons of sober activities you can do with your friends instead like the cinema, coffee dates, lunch dates, movie nights, pamper evenings, picnics, walks, gym dates etc! So, don't feel guilty or boring for not enjoying the drinking culture! Definitely get involved in the societies or activities your uni offers to meet more people and be active.
8) Have the confidence to just do it - like I said, I wish I had been brave enough to put myself out there earlier on. I would 100% urge you to just take a breather and do it, get as involved as you can! Do something new or something you never thought you'd try. If you're really nervous then grab a friend and make them come along too!
9) Take care of your mental health - it's so easy to get wrapped up in socialising, revising and working - but I believe nurturing your well-being is the key to success and happiness. I took time out for myself most evenings and it helped my productivity levels and my body feel nourished. Reach out if you need support - there is no shame in it. Everyone should prioritise your mental health, especially when you're on your own!
10) Surround yourself with goodness - university really is like one big sleepover! My friends made everything 10x better. They made me laugh, helped me de-stress, comforted me, and supported me. I would not have survived the stress without their continual love and support. When I was feeling homesick, stressed or sad, their presence somehow made things a little better. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be put in a group with five fantastic girls and we've spent nearly every day together since. I am so thankful for their friendship and what they have bought to my life. I also made my bedroom into a little haven, so I enjoyed relaxing and spending time with myself.
11) Walking everywhere is fun - although Newcastle has a metro, everything was pretty much within walking distance and I loved it! For a little country bumpkin like me, getting everywhere was a hassle so being able to walk everywhere was fantastic. I felt so active every day and the fresh air did me wonders.
12) Harvard referencing SUCKS! - I still haven't fully learnt how to do it.
13) What I'm passionate about - there are particular essays and modules that I tried harder at, enjoyed more and particular things I was better at. That process enables you to sift out what you enjoy and don't - giving you reference to pursue those things.
14) The cliques and nasty gals went to uni too - wherever you go, there will always be people you don't like! You don't have to be friends with them, but they'll be there.
15) You can create your own path - the wonderful thing about uni is that there are so many paths to try. I took PR, marketing, magazine publishing and advertising modules alongside the core journalism modules. This enabled me to eliminate and choose what sort of career paths I might like. I discovered that I LOVED magazine publishing but HATED advertising.
16) It's ok to say no - you may be subject to FOMO, but seriously, you don't have to say yes to every single thing. Save on the money and save the energy for your own well-being.
17) Write your essay and then re-write it and print out your essays - I always go back through my essays and re-write the paragraphs because the second draft is always 10x better. Editing your essays on paper is so worthwhile because it enables you to read it aloud clearly.
18) Be creative with your meals - you don't have to live off beans on toast. Cooking can be fun, easy and cheap. Experiment with new foods and have staples in your cupboard that can be used for multiple things. Nourishing your body with good food will impact your productivity and creativity levels.
19) Learn your self-awareness - this is key to managing your productivity and creativity. Know when you work best, when you need to demolish that whole tub of ice cream, when you need extra sleep or when you need a day off. If you work best early morning then make sure you get up and early, get your work done and then have the afternoon to yourself!
20) You're good enough - no matter what your grades are or how many friends you have, you are more than enough. Your existence is enough. Be proud of what you achieved if you work hard and if you're kind.
21) You will quickly become unsettlingly open - there are new levels of closeness when you live with your friends. Forget boundaries, you learn to talk about all your illnesses and troubles. But, it's actually really fun and you discover that people are just as weird as you.
22) Seeing dogs in a student city is the highlight of the week.
23) It's far from what American movies portray it to be - movies tend to portray it as a real community but I didn't really find that. Sure, I had my friendship group, but as a whole, the university didn't really do things altogether. I loved it, but it wasn't super glamorous with super mad house parties.
24) Independence - nothing can truly prepare you for the experience. 18 years of living with your parents and suddenly you're alone. You have total control, and no one is there to hold your hand. The little mundane things you took for granted suddenly seem very important (I've only just learnt how to put the dishwasher on though). Washing, cooking and making £10 last the week becomes easy. I remember texting my mum all the time in first year asking how to do things but leaving university, I feel prepared to live independently.
25) It's totally ok to not excel in every single project - I've been thrilled with some of my grades and hugely disappointed by some, but (most of us) cannot be great at everything so let it go and continue to try hard. Honestly, I was just happy if I passed some things!
"When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognise the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises"