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Welcome Freshers’ week, if you somehow hadn’t noticed it was that time of year again. For those of us who are long past the lazy, hazy, crazy days of first year; coming back to university for the start of a chilly (inevitably rainy) Michaelmas term is either a blessing or a curse. Writing as a jaded, and quite frankly, sleep-deprived female heading into her third year of undergraduate life, the thought of going out drinking every single night for an entire seven days makes my head throb in anticipation of a hangover. Drinking aside, there’s so much more to student life than just bars, boozy nights and waking up looking like the lovechild of a panda/prostitute with eyeliner smudged all down your cheeks – which happened to me a lot, I might add.
University life will quickly begin to shape who you are and who you will be in the future. It will show you what life is like without your parents constantly being there to do your washing, cook your meals and bail you out if you find yourself short of cash. Essentially, university life will either make you into an independent, self-sufficient human being (or what I like to call, ‘a proper grown-up’), or it will make you want to curl up and cry because you miss the comforts of home and the simple joy of those long ago days where the most responsibility placed on you was remembering to feed your respective pets. The most important thing to remember though, if you ever find yourself feeling low during this wonderful university experience, is that probably every student has been there. Especially during your first year, you’ll have moments – most likely on cold, dark, miserable winter evenings after a particularly dull lecture – when you’ll barricade yourself in your room, create a duvet cocoon and wax nostalgic over how much you miss your fluffy pets/widescreen TV/friends.
I promise you though, those moments won’t last long. By the time you reach the end of first year, you might find that going home is one of the worst things that could ever happen to you. Personally, living without parents for a year and having a full-time job up for grabs in Lancaster over the summer made the thought of returning home for three months hard to stomach. Some people discover that once you’ve had that taste of freedom and independence (ice cream for breakfast anyone?), there’s simply no going back. Having parents around telling you to set the table and wash the dishes makes you want to run screaming back to your messy student kitchen. There’s no reason to feel guilty about if you find yourself choosing a cosy weekend with your flatmates over going home every single weekend. If anything, it’s probably the most natural thing in the world. Even baby birds have to leave the nest at some point y’know.
For those of us in advancing years, this advice is something that you’ve probably already worked out yourself by now. If you’re anything like me, you’re approaching your third year swamped by scraps of paper that are really important for reasons you forgot three months ago, deadlines, and you have so many books lying around your bedroom it’s like a literary bomb went off. We’ve all seen that irritating tweet circulating lately, which basically says something along the lines of “1. Sleep, 2. Social Life, 3. Good Grades – YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE!!” – like some diluted student version of Saw. Unfortunately though, it probably is the case. When the proper grown-ups of the world think about students, they tend to stereotype us as lazy, drunken layabouts who are doing their very best to dodge paying taxes for three years. Actually, it seems like most students I know of are trying to juggle studying, extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs just to stay afloat. So take that, grown-ups.
Which brings us to the side-effects of university that nobody ever told us about and are definitely not alcohol related: nausea (at those deadlines that never seem to go away), fatigue (because you stayed up all night to write that essay, again) and that ‘recommended’ reading list your tutor gave you that would genuinely take you the next 40 years to plough your way through. What can you do? Well, you can join the student newspaper and write a really long article complaining about it. Or, you can make the best of it – as I plan to do right after I’ve finished this.
Every single graduate will tell you that they miss university, purely because it offers you so many different opportunities to do what you love, and meet people that will have a huge impact on your life; be it a new best friend or finding that special someone. Yes, I just used the phrase special someone. Whatever stage of Lancaster life you’re entering this year, be sure to embrace every second of it.
Motivational speech over.