For me, there was a huge buzz around moving away to university and effectively starting a new life. After literally waiting for months, the day had arrived, and I waved mum and dad off after they helped me move into my new uni home. That night, after unpacking all my clothes and possessions, I felt a weird feeling. I had finally got what I wanted. But it didn’t feel the way I expected it to.
It was a long, weird and wonderful few years, and by the time I completed my final year and my dissertation was submitted, I left university, having learnt a lot of different things.
Have high standards, not high expectations
The social aspect of university was much more appealing to me than anything else. So, I moved into my new house with the expectation that everybody was excited to meet me, become my best friend, and do everything with me. It didn’t really work out this way though: this will not be applicable to many people, but I couldn’t afford to live on campus or in accommodation provided, so I ended up moving into a student house.
This wouldn’t have been such a bad idea, had I moved in with freshers as opposed to 3rd year students, who had no intentions of attending any freshers’ events, or even making any new friends. There was one other 1st year student who moved into the house two nights after I did. As you can imagine I highly anticipated her arrival. We went to the first three of the seven freshers’ events together, and we had a great time. Unfortunately, this relationship quickly fizzled out, as she found more friends on her course, which had a much larger number of students than mine. Eventually, we didn’t even see or speak to each other anymore.
First lesson: depending on your social or living situation, you probably won’t make as many friends as you think. But don’t take it personally. Consequently, I learnt that sometimes things don’t turn out the way I want them to, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s life. After the first few months of university, which I found to be slow and lonely, I ended up meeting and making loads of friends. I just needed to be patient, and I was happy things turned out the way that they did.
My own company is beautiful
Having had a slow start to university life, I soon discovered that there was something really peaceful and satisfying about doing certain things on my own. I found that it was far more enjoyable to make the most of my peaceful evenings than stressing about having no plans, which I taught myself to deal with over time. Eventually, having no plans became my plans. I would take daily walks into town, to grab a coffee, or look in my favourite shops. Despite actually being alone, I eventually didn’t feel lonely. I learnt to love myself, and did things I would expect to do with others by myself.
Of course, when you stop looking for certain things, they eventually find their way to you. It was shortly after I made this realisation that I became friends with a big group of girls, whom I would eventually move in with for my second and third years of uni.
Second lesson: learning to like my own company really helped me get through my first few difficult and daunting months of university. Now, I am much more content with being alone than I once was. Of course, I had lectures and assignments to focus on the majority of the time, so in reality, I spent very little time sat around feeling hopeless.
FOMO is just a state of mind
I have always struggled with the fear of missing out, as I’m sure millions of other people have and still do. The thought of spending my nights alone instead of out with my new friends terrified me even before I began university, because it’s pretty much all I ever knew. Of course, the idea of having loads of friends and spending my weekends partying meant a lot to me and would shape my university experience, but ultimately, I realised that they weren’t entirely crucial to a happy student life. I loved the few good friends I had made, and was happy not to have plans every night, as certain things are costly anyway.
Soon, it was an unconscious thought that my main priorities at university were to make sure I was progressing with my studies, as well as enjoying my course. The fear of missing out on certain things soon fizzled away, and even to this day, I don’t feel it affect me as much as it once did.
So, lesson 3: it’s okay to miss out on certain things; more opportunities will always come! And of course, they did. I ended up going on hundreds of nights out and spent hours and hours hanging around with friends by the time university was done and dusted. Again, I just needed to wait for my time to come.
Moving away helped me discover who I was
As expected, moving away from my home town and my parent’s supervision was the best thing I could have ever done. It allowed me to blossom without constraints. I love my parents and everything they did for me, but of course they wanted their idea of what was best for me. In the end, living independently proved to be my favourite part of university life.
Unfortunately, due to covid, I needed to move back with my parents before I was able to finish my third year. But now, I am looking more and more forward to being back in my own space, doing exactly what I want to do. Overall, university taught me a lot of things, but the most important thing it taught me was who I was. Making my own decisions and choosing to make the right priorities has shaped who I am now.