I don’t know about you, but when I arrived at Nottingham I expected it to blow me away. Everyone says that university will be the best years of your life and Freshers’ Week the most fun you’ll ever have. To be precise, I was expecting a paradise of non-stop hedonism where I lived in a commune of free love and all I ever did was get drunk, be merry and have promiscuous sex with top-heavy stunners. For these exact reasons I, like most, was looking forward to university immensely; and to be honest, it was virtually what I had hoped for. Sure, I never got round to shagging a Pamela Anderson lookalike, but the drinking, joking and general frolics – or ‘banter’ as we are all now legally obliged to call it – was delivered in bucket loads. There was so much partying it was almost absurd and everyone was really friendly and up for a laugh. I was aware that I was supposed to be having endless amounts of fun – I was going out every night, meeting new people, discovering a brand new city and doing very little work. On paper this was the paradise I’d dreamt of, but somehow inside I felt a bit empty. I wanted to be enjoying it, but somehow I wasn’t.
The weird thing was, from the very first week I did make friends. I’m not shy by any means and I quickly got established into a group of great people. However, I didn’t really know if I fitted in properly and whilst we had a great time together, I was never quite at ease or content.
Basically I was homesick, and although it must have seemed to everyone else like I was loving life at university, it was just a front. In actual fact, I missed my home, friends and my family, as well as the comforts of my house, my city and my school. Everything was simple and easy the previous year, but now I was in this crazy place where everything was new. Some people find this exciting but I was just petrified.
I decided that I couldn’t quit, as I would have felt like a bit of a failure if I’d just given up straight away. I thought I’d give it until Christmas and see how I felt then. I also decided not to go home for the first 6 weeks despite how hard they were, because I knew that would only make it worse. So I struggled on through the first term, and gradually things did get easier. I stopped getting lost on campus for a start, and I began to acclimatise to having lectures. I settled in to my hall a bit more and, although it still didn’t feel like home, it wasn’t as alien as it first was. By the week before the Christmas break, I had a good group of friends established and I was beginning to drop the front and just have fun.
In the second term I really got into the swing of things. It was weird because there was no explicit turning point; I suppose gradually my nerves and the constant lonely feeling that I’d had just disappeared. I started to really enjoy uni and embrace it as much as I could. The people I’d been hanging out with in the first term became genuine friends and the rest of the year just flew by.
During my second year, I decided to do more extra-curricular activities, so I started playing ‘Korfball’ which was fun and it didn’t seem to matter that I had the ball skills of Stephen Hawking. I also started at URN – student radio for Nottingham. Here I was more successful: getting a show, becoming an assistant programme controller, making new friends and even ‘courting’ the head of the station. Pretty good going really.
Not everyone loves the beginning of university, so if you’re finding the first few days or weeks a struggle then you’re not alone. My advice is to simply plough on and not to give up and it will get easier and more fun. In fact it will get better and better until, like me now, you bloody love it. People say Freshers’ Week and the first term are the best and for many people this is true, but not me. I played the long game – I started low, but kept rising and rising and even now at the start of my third year uni’s still getting better!
So my theory is just to stick with it. Most of you will be thinking that you love uni anyway, and that’s brilliant. But for those who don’t, I’m sure you will. Give it a term and before you know it you may be bent double doing alarming things with your very own Pamela lookalike.
Good luck, and enjoy the journey. In the end you’ll adore every second.