In a couple of weeks some of you may be off to University! The big 3 year adventure that throws you into what can only be described as a bubble filled with takeaways and drunken Monday nights. I thought I’d give you a run down of my 'starting uni' experience, which might help you and hopefully ease some of those worries you may have!
Around this time exactly 6 years ago, I did the typical student Ikea trip that I see 18 year olds doing every single August with their parents- oh the nostalgia! Back then I had only just got Facebook. I didn’t use twitter (no-one did!) and there was no such thing as Instagram! I had a basic Samsung phone (not a smart one by the way), and the only way to get a glimpse of what your Uni was really like was IF someone had made a facebook page for it. Luckily, someone had made a page for my course and had started a chat with the title ‘Who is starting BA Fashion Design 2009’ or something like that! I got chatting with one girl who happened to live in a town close to mine, so we instantly bonded over that. We arranged to meet as soon as we moved down there! Then there was this other girl who had applied who was moving all the way from China and had written a comment on the post. I think I was the only one to reply to her so we decided to meet up on our first day and walk to Uni together. This girl eventually became one of my best friends Suz!
So I left home in September 2009, packed my bags and drove to Kent! I remember that day being super stressful. I have always had really bad anxiety when I’m in a strange situation and out of my comfort zone. I even get it when I’m excited about something- I get myself worked up over it. I sometimes get so anxious that I’m sick, and that was one of those days. I said an extremely tearful goodbye to David, loaded my life into two cars, struggled to find my new home, unloaded my life into a little student halls of residence, and said goodbye to my parents. By this time it was about 11pm. As I was moving my boxes into my room, I’d failed to notice that everyone around me was in fancy dress. I was stopped by ‘that confident guy who shows you the ropes despite being new himself’, and he invited me out with everyone…but I just declined. I sat alone on my bed in shock. I had moved out. I was all alone and knew no one. Absolutely no one. And then I threw up.
The next day, I had calmed my nerves and ventured into the kitchen. My flatmate Nev was sat at the kitchen table drinking tea or coffee or something, still dressed up in last nights fancy dress costume (a wolf in case you were wondering). We traded stories of our background whilst we filled in our halls of residence papers and agreed to go out that night. One by one the rest of our flatmates arrived! We had a complete mix of every student stereotype in our flat, including the one who never leaves their room! If you don’t know what I mean, you should watch ‘Fresh Meat’ on Netflix! It’s actually a really accurate and funny representation of Uni life!
Nev was the only one in my flat who was on my course, so along with Suz and a couple of others we walked up the giant hill from halls to Uni together for our first day! It was amazing and overwhelming all at the same time. You sort of think it’s going to be like school/college, but it’s actually far more laid back. Gone are the days or Mr and Miss, and whether you turn up or not it’s completely down to you. Luckily I enjoyed my course, so turning up was never an issue for me!
At school (and even college), I was a nervous public speaker. I didn’t like sharing my work or reading out loud, and I was never the first one with my hand up. But as Uni was a fresh start, I thought fuck it! No one knew me, they didn’t know I was a shy person…so just pretend I’m not. After that, I constantly put my hand up and went out of my way to get involved in things, which actually turned out to be the best advice I’ve given myself. It made me so much more confident, and really shaped my personality as I grew into an adult.
My Uni was an art Uni, predominantly fashion students of some sort. It sometimes felt like everyone needed to dress 'avant garde' all the time, or at least when we went out. Even though I LOVE experimenting with style and was trying to figure out what MY style even was, I spent a great amount of time in Uni in harem pants, no makeup with my hair in a top knot. I read a quote in my first year that said “Designers are often the worst dressed in a room because they are too busy thinking about how to dress others” which I think helped me not become sucked into the disingenuous vortex that fashion can be. I feel like I (eventually) surrounded myself at Uni with like-minded people who were the kind of down to earth folk I prefer to be with. My best friend from home (Stacey) had already pre-warned me that the people you hang out with in the first 3 to 4 months, you will hardly speak to them by the time you start second year. And she was pretty much spot on! When you start Uni you are thrown into a weird situation where you spend 24/7 with strangers who you become immediate friends with, and sometimes it takes a while to get to know who your real friends are.
My advice is this!
- See if you can contact/make friends before you go! It’s nice to have someone to walk to Uni with on your first day.
- Calm down. It’s natural to feel nervous, but once you get there you’ll be ok!
- Uni is a fresh start. Be the person you really want to be…because you can!
- …however, always be yourself! Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, because that will get exhausting! Just be the best version of yourself- the one you’ve always been afraid to be because of what others thought of you.
- Enjoy every moment of it! They are the best 3 years ever, and you’ll have a million stories when it’s all over…and it IS all over quicker than you can imagine.