“It’s like when Rory arrives at Yale in Gilmore Girls!” is the first thing I screamed when we drove into the accommodation complex I was going to be living on. My sibling laughed, my father didn’t understand the reference, but the enormity of what I was about to embark on had dawned on me. Rory spends her whole life leading up to the infamous “college” stage in the series, yet I was feeling like I had only just finished my summer to end up at university, with only about 2 years’ worth of consideration by comparison.
I was going to study Spanish and Politics at a university in the South, but in that moment I was only concerned about decorating my room. I had decided a theme (pink), picked out the photos I would put up (friends, family and boyfriend) — everything else could wait. Subconsciously, I think I was largely also worried about the people I was going to have to suddenly have relationships with, but while my dad and sibling were still with me, I didn’t actively think about it.
So we pull up to my building, unload my stuff and start unpacking. About midway through, I got a knock on my door, where I found three guys, who were my new housemates and had come to introduce themselves to me. Thinking back, I am so glad they did that. Much to the surprise of my friends back home, who know me as a confident, chatty person, that first night was a very fragile one for me. I became deeply sad when I realised my family were going to leave me and I was going to be left to fend for myself. Who was going to tell me what to do? Who was going to hug me when I needed comforting?
Thankfully, I tagged along a group who happened to be my neighbours and soon, I was able to conjure up some “Name?/From?/Studying?” small talk. However, when I had to change to go out, that sadness returned. The minute the door closed, tears started falling and I felt completely inadequate. I missed everyone and I missed the structure that my life at home had provided me. It came at me hard and fast that I now wasn’t really able to rely on anyone for anything at this point, financially or emotionally, because we were all in the same boat and really didn’t know each other. Additionally, as much as some only repeat that boat analogy, I naturally thought myself below everyone because everyone just seemed more relaxed.
That said, freshers was as fun as it could be — there were themes (which I love), pleasant dance spaces and a million and one people to meet. I used to assume that the friends who appeared to be having a ‘mad’ time on Instagram were only showing what they wanted people to see but, after having done this too, I can now safely confirm that freshers is fun. However, feeling pressured to go out is not worth the stress. While appearances are important, they are just that: superficial and only showing part of the story. What Kelly in Newcastle isn’t showing on her feed is how many times she changed her outfit before going out and what Dan in Sheffield isn’t saying is that he vomited twice before getting in the taxi home. As for the drinking; if you’re not comfortable with it, first year honestly doesn’t revolve around constant inebriation. If it’s not something you enjoy, let your flatmates know and see what alternatives there are — movie nights, societies, drinking non-spirit alcoholic drinks as a milder substitute and still enjoy the party!
The next few days provided me with information about my course, which really excited me and reminded me why I had continued my career into higher education. I was initially nervous to go to my lectures because I didn’t think I was ready for the academic side of university. I definitely don’t yet fully understand what it is my lecturers are talking about, but I now realise that this was a challenge that had come at the right time and so far – three weeks in – I think I’ve made the right decision in pursuing this specific course. The people in my house, particularly the girls, became my friends and we helped and kept each other company. Cooking also became a relatively natural part of my routine, as well as washing up and keeping my room tidy (something that honestly could not have happened at home). All in all, that sadness had left me and allowed me to flourish sans emotional stress.
It has now been three weeks since starting and I am going to go back home next weekend. I initially did not want to go home near the start of term, because I didn’t want to be hit with the nostalgia that comes from leaving the familiarity, and natural love my house brings. However, my position has since changed because now, after nearly a month in the business, I am more reassured than ever. For anyone reading this who is in a similar if not the same position, all I can say is persevere. There will be low moments where the workload goes over your head or someone in your flat appears to dislike you but, I repeat, keep at it. This is what I am telling myself and I believe this is what is allowing me to enjoy my time here at university. While I am nowhere near a native of the campus, nor a pro at making my own meals, I do feel somewhat settled. In this occasion, time really was and is the best healer.
Written by Darcey Stickley