Hello, so something a little bit different from me today. I know that lots of people will be starting University in September and I just kind of wanted to talk about my University experience, the things I'd have done differently, how I feel about it all and maybe offer some advice too so that you don't make the same mistakes I did!
- Choose the right accommodation - So firstly, choose the right accommodation. This may sound like an obvious one, but if I could change this I probably would. At my Uni, you get put into accommodation and I chose to be within a building called Charles Morris - Charles Morris as a whole is nice, it's catered which means no cooking and my brother was in here too so I assumed it would be good, he made so many life-long friends. What I didn't realise is that Charles Morris is split into sections, my brother was in one of the older sections which is apparently full of out-going people (it's known for this) and I was placed into the newest section, which is known as the Made in Chelsea of campus apparently. I was advised by lots of people not to go into this section because apparently it's extremely unsociable and quite hostile, I wish I listened. I honestly feel like if I wasn't in this accommodation my whole uni life would have been better, don't get me wrong, I've met an amazing boyfriend and some amazing friends through the accommodation, but my friends who were in other accommodations met so many more people and I do feel quite lonely sometimes as I met hardly any girlie friends in my accommodation, most of my friends at Uni are boys which is very hard for me as I'm such a girlie girl. The accommodation was gorgeous but I sort of wish I chose substance over style.
- Accommodation and friends - It's really hard to be put into a random building with random people and be expected to make best friends with them, don't force friendships but also, don't try and guess what your friends are going to be like. Friendship happens naturally. I really expected to meet friends like my friends from home and actually, my friends at Uni couldn't be any more different from my friends at home - this isn't actually a problem at all, it's really good because I now have lots of different friends from different areas, different backgrounds with different life experiences. A great thing about University is that it really does broaden your horizons and make you see the world differently.
- Choose the right course - I was convinced that my course was the right course for me and some days I really think it is, but then some days I think it isn't. I do love my course but then at the same time I dislike it other times, I guess I just like certain elements of it but no-one is going to love every single moment of their course. A lot of my friends dropped out of first year and started again because they didn't like their course, make sure you do really good research into your course before you apply. I ended up changing the course I applied for literally a week before my application was due in. When you're 16-18, it feels far too young to be thinking about what subjects to take for which degree.
- Get involved - If you're in the situation like I was, with not many friends in your accommodation, you should definitely get involved in things. I did try to make lots of friends in my accommodation, but people kind of already had their own friendship groups as a lot of people in my accommodation knew each other from school. I didn't get involved in anything outside my accommodation, I just kind of hid in my room which obviously meant that I didn't make as many friends as I would have liked. I'm an extremely sociable person and spent most of my time crying on the phone to my best friend about how lonely I felt somedays. I wish I joined societies, a great way to make friends and went on socials with my course, another great way to make friends. Seriously, if someone asks you to go out for a coffee, go. If someone asks you to go for a drink, go. I seriously wish I could re-wind first year, I was really sociable when it came to my group of friends, but we really didn't expand it enough. Don't worry if you start to feel lonely, this is kind of quite natural, you've been taken away from your childhood friends and a secure environment, you're fending yourself for probably the first time ever - things do fall into place and will work out, so don't take it too seriously. Branching out is important, I still feel like there are so many amazing people that I haven't yet met at my university.
- Don't take first year too seriously - I took first year extremely seriously, I wanted to get a good grade even though it didn't count, getting a first (A*) in first year, as well as working part time and running a full time blog took it's toll on me, I was told by the doctor that I had exhaustion. I am a complete perfectionist though and I like to do well. Looking back, I put far too much pressure on myself to achieve and I really didn't let myself breath. If I wasn't blogging, I'd be doing an assignment, if I wasn't doing that, I'd be at the gym, if I wasn't at the gym, I'd be working. First year at most unis, doesn't count, it's just a way to ease you into the university system so seriously, use first year to make friends and make memories and get settled. Don't worry about working and don't focus on your degree too much, focus on getting great experiences out of your time at University. Work hard and prove that you should be at University but don't over do it.
- Don't let anyone hold you back - Don't let anyone hold you back, this means parents constantly panicking about you (I know my Mum used to be worried every time I went on a night out, it made me feel really anxious sometimes). Definitely don't let boyfriends/girlfriends hold you back, I know a lot of people who didn't go out much and make friends in first year because they spent more time with their boyfriends from home. I went out for about 14 consecutive nights when I first started University and it was so much fun - even if you don't drink much, try and socialise! I wish I went out more after freshers week!
- Take any opportunities that come your way - It was only in second year that I realised just how many incredible opportunities are available at my University (and there will be at your university too!). I got involved in some amazing societies and found a really cool part of the University which help students who run businesses (in my case, LVNDR). It was great to finally meet like-minded people and get some support. Hunt around your university for societies that you like the look of.
- Talk to people on your course - I spent the whole of first year feeling extremely lonely every time I went to a lecture because no-one on my course spoke, everyone was quite close already and I felt extremely intimidated - it was like an episode of Mean Girls, or at least in my head anyway. I've never been in a situation before where people are so stand-offish. I wish I didn't let my fear get the best of me though and I wish I just tried to speak to people a little bit more, in time that confidence has come and now, some of my best friends are on my course, I only wish I met them earlier and actually felt the exact same as me! Remember, everyone is feeling the same, so make the same move.
- Don't take the easy route - I'm a big believer in facing your fears. I don't think anyone from my high-school goes to the same University as me, and that's scary, it meant I went to Uni completely alone. I was really tempted to just take the easy route and go to Newcastle, after all, 90% of my friends from home went there and they're all still in the same friendship group now. I often look at them and think how much better it would have been if we all stuck together, but to be honest, I'm so proud of myself for starting fresh, meeting new friends and having new experiences. It's great to have more than one group of friends, I'm still friends with my friendship group from school but I've also got some incredible friends at University too.
- Be good with time management - I often wonder what it's like to be a student who doesn't write a blog, if you're reading this and you're a blogger you'll understand how time consuming blogging is, but honestly, I wouldn't change it for the world. I am so passionate about blogging that I would honestly choose it over my degree and that's probably the hardest thing for me, having to manage my time whilst studying and aiming for a first, blogging full time and running my business, LVNDR. Not forgetting exams, tutor meetings, coursework and more. I also have to fit in my social life and the gym, phew, it makes me tired just thinking about it. I'm not sure how I did all of that in first year with a part-time job too! Time management is something I'm really bad at, I tend to stay up til 3am just to get things done but honestly, you'll tire yourself out. Make lists, write down what's a priority and if something doesn't matter, cross it off and go chill out. If in doubt, just go out with your friends in first year and take some time out. I wish I did this more.
- Budget yourself - Make sure you look after your money, I get the minimum loan and I don't even see it, this goes towards my accommodation. I physically don't understand how people can spend their loans on clothes, I know a lot of people who go clothes shopping with their loans and then have nothing to live on for the next few months. That's obviously their choice but to me, it's irresponsible, a loan is there for a reason, not to buy clothes with. If you want to buy clothes, get a part time job. Rant over. It will really set you up for the future if you learn how to budget properly.
- Not everything happens instantly - As mentioned, don't expect everything to happen instantly. Someone may be your best friend in first year, but then, this might change in second year when you meet new groups of friends. You may see someone all the time in first year, and not realise, but they may end up as your boyfriend or best friend in years to come, for example I lived with my boyfriend and didn't even realise he was going to end up being my boyfriend. It's funny how things work out. Choosing a house in second year was particularly difficult for me as your friends change throughout the year so you may end up living with someone that you're not actually that good friends with anymore. Have an open mind, that's a really important bit of advice, just keep an open mind. Don't judge people, like I said, the people I'm friends with are very different to my friendship group at home but I love them all equally. As mentioned, I'd say I only really met my best friends in second year, trust me, things change, things happen and every mistake is a learning curve. After all, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.
- Everyone is different - This guide may just not work for you, everyone is different so don't worry if you do things differently, you don't have to do it this way. I guess there is no right or wrong way to 'do university'.
So now another life changing decision has come to me, do I take a year out this August and travel Canada and America or do I get my degree over and done with (I'm about to go into my third and final year). I wanted to take a year out initially so that I could focus on my blog and LVNDR, but unfortunately, University wouldn't let me (another thing which upsets me quite a lot and something I don't understand really). I decided that going into third year, the hardest year when I've got so much other stuff going on, just isn't for me, so my only option instead of going into third year, is to travel for the year and study abroad (a pass fail year, like first year, minimal work but a great life experience). I decided to apply for the year abroad so that I can take my blog with me and focus on what I really want to do for a year, rather than writing a dissertation and being under immense pressure throughout third year. Part of me thinks that just getting Uni over and done with is the best bet for me, but then part of me thinks that I might finally get to meet some more amazing people on my year out and obviously, I'll have life changing memories (that I can share with you all!). I still feel like University hasn't fully fulfilled me if that makes sense, there's so much more that I want to achieve and do, so many more people out there that I would love to meet and so many more memories that I want to make. I feel like I can correct my mistakes that I made in first year, by going on a year abroad and being active, being sociable and documenting it all on my blog. Plus I can check out what America has to offer in terms of beauty and fashion and I can blog from New York! (the very thought gets me extremely excited). But then I get scared that people might stop reading my blog if I'm not based in England for a few months! What would you do?
When I really look back, I probably wouldn't change that much about my University life. I would have just definitely been more pro-active when it comes to making friends, after all, there are currently over 28,000 full-time students at my university, I haven't even met 1000 of them yet. But, I did meet my boyfriend in my accommodation so it can't have been that bad after all?!
I hope this blog post helps at least one person out. I'd love to know about your University experiences, did you go? Didn't you go? Why? Are you about to go to University? Do you agree with anything I've said? I'd love to know what you think about University.
Lots of love, Em x
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