Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thoughts On Finishing My Second Year of University


I wasn't really feeling writing a list this week (I know, I don't know who I am either!) but I was in the mood to write and so instead I thought I'd give you a mini essay of my thoughts on finishing my second year of uni since I'm driving home this afternoon (at the time of writing) and I'm an incredibly nostalgic person.

A year ago I wasn't all that fussed about uni. Sure, I'd mostly enjoyed my first year and had met some of my closest friends now but I found a lot of it unsettling and difficult and a lot to get used to. I think underlying it all was a pressure that I had put on myself to be having the best time ever at all times. Because that's what everyone says uni's like, right? A three year long party where you have no worries and no responsibilities.

I hate to burst that bubble but it's just not true. Yes, uni is great and fun and you don't have many responsibilities in the grand scheme of things. But it's also really, really tough at times. You're living away from home (probably for the first time) with a bunch of strangers and it comes with a lot of expectations. I have no doubt that I put those expectations on myself but I think that if there wasn't such a stereotype of uni as being the best thing ever then I wouldn't have put them on myself so harshly.

Anyway, all of this is to say that at the end of last year I really thought that uni would pass me by and that I'd think of it as a pretty good experience but be very much looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life and hopefully having a great career. And then second year happened.

I have absolutely loved this year. Living in a house has, for me, been so much more fun than living in halls as I did in first year (although I think I'll now always remember halls fondly); I've enjoyed my course so much more and I've met and spent time with people who make me laugh and smile every single day. It definitely hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows but, overall, I've had the best time this year and it's made me emotional to think that in a year's time uni will be over for me.

This year I've been able to actually get to know Exeter when last year I didn't really make the most of the chance to get to know a completely new-to-me city. And I've really fallen in love with the place. It's very small compared to London (where I'm from) but I think that's its charm and it's full of cute and cool cafes, great shops and beautiful architecture.

I've put myself out there a lot more over the past few months for sure. In first year I was probably the lowest in self-esteem I've been in a long time. Which was unexpected because I wasn't shy or afraid to talk to the new people I was meeting but perhaps it was a by-product of feeling like I had to be confident all the time. Whatever the cause, this year I've regained my confidence and haven't been so afraid of trying new things and talking to new people. And I've learnt a lot from that. I'm still far from the most outgoing person you'll ever meet but I've felt a lot more 'me' this year and it's felt really nice.

I've got into a good routine with uni work, friends and everything else in second year. Last year I was unsurprisingly a bit lost and lacking a proper routine because I spent a long time getting used to everything that's involved with moving to a new place, studying in a completely new way and spending time with new people. And, as someone who thrives on routine for the most part, that wasn't the best thing for me at all. This last year I feel like I've got it down a lot more. I know that I like to do uni work like a job i.e. working on campus rather than at home and having set working hours so that when I get home I can just relax and try to not think about my impending deadlines. I know that I do like to go out (which by the end of first year I felt like I'd never be keen to do) but that it's not more than two times a week generally so that when I do I genuinely enjoy it. I know that I need to look after my body and eat what I want (within reason) because generally my body will tell me what it needs and that's the most important thing and far more important than being skinny. (Maybe more on that another time but my body image in first year was appalling and as someone who's never struggled with that it was a huge shock to me.)

Basically, this year I had the best time and I think the main reason for that is that I finally let go of the idea that uni is supposed to be one big party at all times and realised that, like anything in life, there'll be ups and downs and that's really ok. No one is having as much fun as they seem to be and the idea that they are is unhealthy and ultimately irrelevant to your own happiness. The ironic thing, of course, is that only once I'd let go of that did I start to fully enjoy and appreciate uni but that's always the way isn't it!

So I can't believe I'm already writing this but, second year, you've been a dream and I'm so grateful for all the experiences I've had and people I've spent time with. I've been so lucky to have met and spent time with the people I have this year and they're the ones who have really made it for me. Third year, here we come!

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