My best friend is starting Uni in a couple and I wanted to give her some advice from hindsight. I’m so friggin jealous that she gets to see London from a fresh perspective, if that makes sense, if I could Men in Black style erase my memory and see it all over I totally would.
But Uni wasn’t my favourite time in the world. I struggled immensely throughout and either planned on retaking the year or dropping out at least twice a week. Saying that, I grew in so many other ways than academically. And for that it was the best time of my life.
(*If you can.) I understand that moving away from home isn’t feasible for everyone for whatever reason, but if you can, embrace that change. When I was choosing universities, people would screw their face up and ask, ‘why London?’. Well…why not? Go hard or go home kids. I moved from Wales to the Big SmokeTM and at first it was like a small fish in a big pond, I was scared of stepping outside. But what I did learn throughout my time was how to live by myself, live with others, how to become comfortable with loneliness and that sometimes eating chicken nuggets, beans and chips was the only way to stay sane during the tough times.
I can count on one hand the amount of friends I made in Uni. Moving far from home and ultimately having to live with strangers or, through working a full time job alongside studies, myself, made those three years a real struggle in terms of feeling as though I was actually enjoying my Uni years. But the independence I gained through having the rely on myself and putting myself out there to have a good time solo wouldn’t have happened. Often I have friends who say they couldn’t go for dinner alone, travel alone, even for coffee. For me, those things I had to do. You have to grow and adapt and look at the bigger picture. This leads me onto my next point…
If you already have MH issues or feel you will struggle, reach out to your wellbeing services ASAP.
My first round of counselling began about two months into my first year. I wish, wish, wish someone had told me that this can be the prime time that many struggle and therefore many others also reach out. Wellbeing services are provided for any reason, one friend of mine went to discuss their dissertation ideas to form a better understanding of what they wanted to do. I quickly became anxious and constantly felt isolated. It felt like everyone around me was thriving; going out, making friends and enjoying themselves, all of which I wasn’t (although after an honest discussion, it turned out that this was such a common feeling!!). Through counselling I realised that certain things I was prioritising such as dating and daytime naps were ways of isolating myself from these things. It also made me realise that I have an issue around people wearing ridiculous socks, I mean, who the fuck would think wearing striped red and black socks with a suit is appropriate but moving on…
What I’m trying to say is, if you know that you’re struggling already, make that appointment as soon as you can. I know, I know. You can wait, you don’t feel that bad right now and someone else probably feels worse. And that my friend, is the critical point at which you must make the appointment. Someone else’s struggle does not invalidate your own. Just because right now you feel okay, when you’re calling home at 5am in a wreck, are you still okay? Don’t struggle and most of all, don’t struggle in silence.
Travel a bit, if you can.
This one is mainly for Lu, because I know she’s gonna be in London and it’s so cheap to travel there. Having little friends, a few days off a week and a little left over mulah gave me enough time to travel just a bit. In 2016, I had two goals: live by myself and dedicate my time to travelling. People would ask me how I could afford and have the time to travel. Well, hit Skyscanner, find the cheapest flights from London to anywhere and live off streetfood and hostels. When I went to Budapest, I had Tuesday and Wednesday free of work and school but had to work at 2pm on Thursday. Okay, I missed statistics on Thursday morning but I was in work at precisely 2:01pm (yes, I pride myself on that). I’m also a cheap bitch when it comes to spending for myself, I tried to keep every trip little more than £100. All in. If you’re going out every week or paying out the ass for rent, it’s probably not possible without getting into debt.
But if your social life is deader than a dodo and you have the opportunity, then do it. This is what I mean about looking at the bigger picture, you have to accept your circumstances and then find ways to make it better. Travelling became my most looked forward to ‘hobby’ in a way, I loved the excitement of a new city, the constant rush between work, school and then getting on a plane every month. Work with what you have, be it 2 free days or £75. Don’t go every few weeks. Don’t stay in 4* hotels or even 1*. Research the best and cheapest places. But if it’s something that you want to do and can do, do it.
One website: Citethisforme.org
This one I don’t really need to say much about, just that it saved me a lot of tears and frustration when using different referencing formats and citing like 500 articles (none of which were Wikipedia).
University is a bubble.
What I mean by this is that everything feels so much more intense. Loneliness, freedom, depression, boyfriend(s). It’s so easy to forget that it’s not the be all and end all. During my second round of counselling following a difficult breakup, my counsellor helped me to realise that Uni years are kind of a limbo where you’re not quite an adult but you also are and that everything feels 10x worse because Uni becomes your life. Being in a new place without familiar faces can feel like you’re completely alone, but life still happens outside of it. Your friends from home still exist, your support system still exists. It’s so easy to forget this in the rough patches.
On the other hand, embrace this bubble period. You get a few years to be selfish, probably the only set amount of time you will have until retirement or winning the lottery. It’s still socially acceptable to eat pasta from a pan and spend 95% of your time on your own interests. One thing that follows me from Uni is the feeling of becoming boring and losing any interests of my own (though that may be from trying to survive the three years more than enjoying it). It’s something that I’m trying to make up for now however I have new responsibilities and less opportunities. We have this stigma against the word ‘selfish’, as though it’s bad to take time for you and your own wants and needs. Being selfish, in my view, is to remember that this is your life and fulfilling it how you feel is right. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.
Lu, you will thrive in London. The future doesn’t exist without you making it so don’t dwell on what ifs, just go with what you know now. Thank you for all the times you came to see me and our hungover harvies breakfast tradition, I expect this to continue and I will be bringing my blow up mattress to ya.