Entering my final year of university and undergoing a lot of changes in my life, I feel a growing a sense of nostalgia for my more naive, younger self. Specifically, the younger self in my first year of university.
It’s funny nostalgia, isn’t it? If we knew what we know now back then, how things would be so different.
But I try hard not to dwell on regrets. I do my best to acknowledge what went wrong, and spend a lot of time soul searching and self-reflecting so that my present and future self can do better.
I like to believe the things that have happened to me had to happen exactly when they did – no matter how inconvenient this may seem – for a reason that I hope to discover in the future (so far this post sounds like I’m doing an awful lot of mental time-travelling, but bear with me here).
I’m not saying I wouldn’t have changed things, because I definitely would have, but what is in store for me is hopefully just as good, or even better, than what could have happened if things turned out differently.
But for the sake of indulging in what I could have changed, here are a few things I believe I may have done differently if I was speaking to my first year of university self now. And hopefully any students reading this about to start university for the first time can take what I’ve learnt on board, and apply it to your own lives.
It’s Okay To Be Homesick
Leaving home for the first time, especially if you’re a creature of habit like I am, is monumentally hard. No-one talks enough about how the weight of the emotional burden which comes from missing familiarity can become seriously crippling.
Don’t feel like you’re the only one going through this. Just because those around you don’t seem like they’re suffering, it doesn’t mean that everyone is doing fine. People often put up a front for social media, and though it can feel like everybody else is having the best first few weeks of their life, it doesn’t mean that they are. And it doesn’t mean that you will always feel like you are missing out.
So stay off social media, call home if you need to, cry on your painful mattress that doesn’t feel the same as your own, and don’t be ashamed of being homesick.
Don’t repress it. Acknowledge it, and let it be. Missing the comfort and safety of your own home never truly subsides, but it will fade into the background over time.
Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone & Try New Things
Stepping outside your comfort zone will make the biggest change to your life. Fact.You’re scared of what people will think of you, I know. You want to make friends and fit in. You think you’re not good enough to play a sport, or join a club. But so what? Do it anyway. You will literally never know until you’ve tried. Ignore the overwhelming noise and crowds that come alongside freshers fairs and the like, find something you want to try and just try it. It sounds so simplistic and like such a basic bitch quote, but that’s because it truly is that simple.
If you don’t like one of the things you go out of your way for? Try something else instead. University is so big – it’s a completely different ball game from secondary school. I can promise you that no big group of girls is going to make fun of you for not being good at something straight away. And if they do then jokes on them because they have the same mental capacity as a year 9 student.
So just try something new, before crossing it off completely.
Don’t Give Up Opportunities For Anyone
Friendships or relationships that you thought would last a lifetime, sometimes don’t. For this reason, I can’t stress enough how you should never ever pass up any opportunities for the sake of staying comfortable and overemphasising the familiarity of these relationships. Make new friends, travel to more places, apply for a year abroad.
If there is one thing I wholeheartedly would have done differently, studying abroad would have hands down been it. At no other point in your life will it be this easy to live somewhere else, looked after by your institution, travel without the hassle of working visa’s, and most importantly, learn more about who you are, in a new country, making new connections, and having careless fun.
Don’t stay put in the hope of keeping these people in your life. If they don’t leave now, there is always a chance they will leave later. Make peace with that, and make decisions that will ultimately serve you best.
So don’t give up opportunities to try and maintain these relationships. If people are going to leave your life, you must let them walk away and do so, while you take on your new adventures. If they are good enough friends or partners, they will be supportive and waiting for your return, ready to stand by your side again. Just go for it, and you will soon find out whether they were supportive enough to wait for your return or not.
Take A Chill Pill
It really is true what people say when they tell you not to worry too much about grades in your first year. Obviously, try your best, and don’t do all-nighters, as you will soon learn the hard way. But don’t fret too much. Take a chill pill every now n then (and by chill pill, I mean sleeping in til midday, watching Season 1 of Friends back-to-back and ordering a pizza).
You’ll know if this degree is right for you or not, regardless of the work you put in. So use this time to do other things you enjoy away from the degree.
Work on things you may never have the time again to work on. Practice a language, get on a train and just travel somewhere new, find a new hobby. Or just sleep in all day and indulge in the comfort of relaxing. You have 2 more years of trying to nail your degree – don’t worry too much about it now. As long as you feel confident that you understand what you’re learning, and your grades reflect that, then take it easy.
But even with all of this knowledge from my future self in mind, I’m sure you’ll make mistakes along the way, just as I did – and never feel guilty for that. We learn, and we move on.