Experience and Tips on Beginning University

Now that I have finished my second year at university I feel capable(?) enough to pen this kind of post, having a decent chunk of experience under my belt. We’ll see how this compares to when I graduate in another 2 years.. But after completing 2 years of the library-load of emotions of arriving, leaving and returning that comes with it, I feel like I’ve learnt a few things that might just come in handy…

My University Story Thus Far:

I’m originally from Lancashire, but currently live and study in Glasgow, and when applying to university in Scotland I really didn’t care or think too much about the distance. I knew for definite that I wanted to leave my bleak northern town for the heady heights of a bustling city, wherever that may be (NOT down south I was told by the parents), so instead I did the opposite and headed even further north. I’ve never really felt homesick, or clingy or overly-attached to my parents, and enjoyed being on nights or holidays away from them, (and actually due to the final two years before heading off to uni being pretty rocky in our relationship terms, I found myself saying to a lot of people “I want to go, I need to.”) Sidenote: moving away has been the best remedy for mine and my parents’ relationships. But that was because I always knew that I’d be coming back to them, and the familiarity of home and the comforts it brings that would always be a safety net in times of need. Although I have always appreciated everything they had done for me, I never felt like I had to be in constant need of their presence or words, and actually it was far easier most of the time telling them as little as possible about my more private/personal life. lol.
So having said this the first semester of my first year of university was a bit of a shock. I soon came to realise that I really didn’t enjoy my course (which involves doing 3 subjects, 2 of which I felt I hated), and the constant question of “Why the HELL am I in Scotland?” often circulating my head on a daily basis. I didn’t feel settled, and to be honest even now I sometimes feel a bit like an outsider (which technically I am), but I arrived naively thinking there would be far more people from England which might make me feel a little more “at home”, and also perhaps because I hadn’t a desire reaally to continue living here once graduated, so thought I didn’t need to bother about fully settling in. I actually really like the idea of staying on and living in Glasgow in the future, how things change.

I was living in a flat with 4 other girls in first year, and we all pretty much got on, a few tiffs here and there but it was fun. Yet when they began to head off to visit home friends and loved ones, or the latter came to visit and I saw that home pals at other universities were doing the same thing, I became really weirdly down and sad, particularly after I spent a short weekend at home at the end of October for a friend’s birthday. I sat tearing up on the train back to Glasgow shouting over and over in my head: “Why am I at uni in Scotland?!” “Why am I even at university full stop?” and so suffice to say first semester became a pretty dark time for me, but I pulled through. (Hurrah!)

I’ve now realised that after every time I go home, be that for a weekend, a week or even the 4 month summer holiday, these same old questions will probably pop up at some point, and the niggly thoughts most likely won’t ever leave. However I’ve also learnt that as times goes on, it does get easier like so many things, and you just have to learn to deal with it and prepare yourself for when these thoughts do next come a’knocking, ’cause they no doubt will.

Even now I do still have the odd moment where they tumble around me all at once and I stare around my uni room wondering what I am doing and if I am truly happy. Nonetheless, this second year has been far better course and studywise – flatmates have been amazing and our new flat is pretty faab. Despite English Lit tutorials being absolutely torturous both semesters, I knew what to expect, I knew how the courses were laid out, I knew the whole drill of assessments, and realised that actually time flies by so ridiculously quickly if you don’t think about it too much, all of a sudden you’ll find yourself back home, a term or a year over and done with thinking; I made it. That wasn’t so bad after all. 

4 Top Tips On Dealing With University:

1. Be absolutely 100% certain about your chosen university course

Although I know it is possible to change courses at your uni, or even change universities altogether even after moving in to your first choice, it is a lot of added-on stress you don’t need if you do want to move. I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I wanted to do as a career, and as being a lover of English I figured studying that would be pretty versatile and open for many jobs. Turns out I strongly disliked uni’s take on English Literature and am eternally thankful that the uni’s regulation of studying 3 subjects may have actually saved my life – I am now going on to study Single Honour English Language. Phewf.

2. Be absolutely 100% certain that the town/city/country you are applying to study in is where you truly want to  live (or if living at home really is what you think is best.)

Of course this is a tricky one as visiting a uni several times on open days to actually living there 24/7 are on 2 completely different ends of the spectrum, but gaining an understanding of you living in that particular place is useful. If you’re driving in the car on an open day but would actually be using public transport when visiting family and friends, do the return trips a couple of times to get a feel for the type of journey you’ll be taking to gauge an idea of the duration and geographical span between your two “homes.” I’ll be honest, when I first visited Glasgow I really loved it. You only really hear about the bad press but it’s the perfect sized city and is buzzing with culture and comfort. However, my mum certainly played a big part in swaying me to apply. I knew I wanted to apply, but she properly fell in love with Glasgow and the university having its fantastic reputation. It was only when as mentioned previously I was aware of everyone else visiting friends and family so frequently that it became clear just how geographically far away I was. (Sob story over.)

3. Understand that this is a big change to every aspect of your life, and that you are not alone. 

Sometimes it’s easy to allow yourself to get swallowed up by the physical moving of habitats, the moving on from home life and relationships, living with strangers, making new friends and perhaps realising that the course wasn’t what you quite expected etc. etc. and that’s OKAY, and several hundred thousand other teenagers are going through exactly the same thing. Remember, it may feel like there are so many other people enjoying their university experience more than you, but there are also so many others who are having a hella worse time, and *cheesy American life-coach voice*: this is all just character building. And it is; you learn from and can better everything you do ready for the next week, the next term, and the next year. Ultimately, everything’s gonna be okay.

4. Change is experienced both ways. 

In connection to the previous point, although you yourself have embarked on a new chapter of life, the people you leave behind will also feel the change in their own lives. It has been difficult for me as my two closest friends didn’t go to uni, which meant that I don’t think they properly understood empathetically what I was going through as they weren’t sharing the same kind of experience. Our friendships strengthened in second year, but first year was certainly tough because whilst I thought that they no longer cared about keeping in touch or my decision to continue higher education, they were probably feeling a bit left out or replaced, as their pal departed for a new life of adventure, having to rapidly make new friends in a parent-free/no-rules new life. Make a conscious effort to plan Skye dates, phone calls and let them know they are appreciated, even if you feel it’s you who has to make more effort.

I feel like this may have been rather preachy preachy, but I just wanted to get across how important it is to be as certain and prepared as you can – granted, things will never quite turn out to be what you expected. I also don’t want people to hinder potentially really great experiences and moments because their process of choosing uni and course wasn’t dissimilar to ip-dip-sky-blue or parents perhaps giving a little too much input of their personal opinions. Be confident, be positive, and if you’re gonna dive straight in – remember that snorkel, just in case… 


6 thoughts on “Experience and Tips on Beginning University

  1. Great post! Definitely something to think about when making a decision to study further. I actually DID study English Literature for my undergrad haha. I thought it would offer me diversity. Finished uni & had no clue what to do next. I'm all figured out though (for now) but it was scary at the time. I really advise not only deciding on your course but weighing your options for the future before you make the move.

    Yasmeen x


  2. Thank you! It was pretty long and there was still probably lots more to say haha. Ah, we are in the same boat.. Good to hear! Yeah that's a really good point too, thank you 🙂 xo


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