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I can recall first coming to Lancaster as if it was yesterday. I remember being driven up into South-West by my mum and dad and being greeted by scores of Freshers’ Reps who were waving makeshift “Welcome to Lancaster!” banners at us. In the days that followed, I encountered a barrage of new and unfamiliar faces in the madness Freshers’ Week. I remember getting lost trying to find County Bar, making friends with a random Norwegian fellow whilst trying to find the toilets in Furness, and waking up in my room wondering where on earth I was; before remembering I had finally arrived at Lancaster. Back then, I had an acute sense that my life was going to change forever. After all, it is commonly said that university is a life changing experience. Yet, now as I am soon to graduate, I start to question this assumption. How much does university really change you?
Five months ago I went into my old sixth form to give a talk about university life. Before I came to university, I certainly wouldn’t have been willing to stand up and talk before even a small class, but due to my experiences working as a tourguide for the university I was easily confident enough to address a crowd of students. After the talk some of the students who remembered me whisked me off to socalise with them, something I was more than happy to do. But as I talked them the differing levels of maturity became readily apparent, especially when their riotous conversations kept on revolving around the uses and abuses of bodily fluids. Certainly, I think going to university makes you more of an adult than you were before you came to university, and by that I mean you become more mature and more confident. However, becoming more mature and more confident doesn’t necessarily mean you yourself as a person has changed. Your hobbies, interests and your personality is what makes you who you are, becoming more mature and confident is simply an improvement on who you already are.
Take music taste for instance. Unless the band’s music is excessively themed around teenagers, I find myself still listening to the same bands as I was when I was 16. Since finishing my exams, I’ve used my copious amount of free time to catch up on some animes I’ve been meaning to watch, an interest I owe to my ex-girlfriend who I started going out with back when I was 16. After school, I used to go to friends houses and play video games such as Tekken 5 or Time Splitters. Now when I finish my university work, I’m playing Skyrim or Battlefield 3. The games themselves change, but the gaming habit itself does not. When I think of my friends at university, their hobbies and interests don’t appear to have changed either. My housemate used to play table tennis before coming to university for instance, and when he came to university he played for the university’s table tennis team. My other housemate was, and still is, into American animated sitcoms such as Family Guy or American Dad, although I will admit since coming to university she’s picked up an interest in Taekwondo.
My point is that when you first come to university you are already are a fully formed person. Unlike in your teenage years, you’re no longer the social sponge you once were in high school. However, university does help you mature, partly because you encounter and socalise with people who wouldn’t have been part of your old high school clique. When you graduate from university, you’ll still be the same person who graduated from sixth form, only more mature, knowledgeable, and perhaps a little bit wiser.