It would be a complete lie if I said my first year at university was everything I expected it to be. The only post you will find on my first year shows mainly negatives; I reflected on my time as a first year without such fond memories as I do second year. (Spoiler alert much!) I don’t say this with regret though as this year I have been trying, as much as possible, to not dwell on the past. I also like to think about the fact that my life has changed quite a lot, and that it would be strange if my feelings hadn’t changed after a second year of studying in Southampton.
My circumstances have certainly changed over the last year. I arrived at university as an 18 year old in a long term, long distance relationship and a dislike for the university nightlife. I wasn’t a big drinker, clubs sounded like the worst place ever and I knew I was only a 30 minute train journey from home. You would have thought, like many eighteen year olds, that clubbing and drinking would be a favourite past time and yet it wasn’t one of mine. As someone young for my year at school I only turned 18 a month before I headed off to university, some of my friends had been enjoying going out out for nearly a whole year longer than me. This meant that by the time I could, everyone was pretty bored of the one club we had back at home. So much so that I have still never been…
Having a boyfriend also saw me feeling very comfortable, not to say that being comfortable is an issue, but it left me seeing no real reason to go out and make other friends, as I knew I had him back home. Luckily, I did find a few through playing hockey, much love to Sacha and Elysia, and one from my flat, Noor, but aside from that I didn’t really have anyone. My course is rather small with only five or six of us in total, so while I am now quite close with them, last year I was not.
Fast forward to June 2019 and I am even closer to those mentioned above and have made many more friends along the way, especially you Newaj, one of the most supportive friends/housemates a girl could ask for. I also no longer have a boyfriend, which I am better for, it was a difficult decision but it was the right one for me. I am arguably much happier and it has made me take a step out into the unknown world that I was yet to explore.
Cue the first couple of months of 2019 being a whirlwind of socials and having fun with friends; socials suddenly became opportunities to meet new people and explore the nightlife Southampton had to offer – not quite the gold standard of university nightlife, (or so I’m told), but I am quite fond of a night at Jesters, Oceana or Switch.
I’ve calmed down now, the realisation that I had deadlines to make which counted set in and so the long road to finishing second year began. I think it was around the last week of Easter that it set in just how much pressure I was under. This culminated in a few days of barely moving from my room, undereating and no motivation to do anything. I was lucky enough to have friends around me to help me through a bad mental health week, which saw me do whatever made me happy or took my mind off my feelings, as ultimately, while I am at university to get a degree, my mental health is also a priority. I can admit that first year never caused me the mental health issues second year did, but it also never showed me quite how amazing the friends I have made are. Each did everything they could to make me feel better, be that listening to my ramblings through tears or coffee of a morning.
None of this has really explained why second year could be better than first year; I promise I’m about to explain. First year came with less pressure to perform academically, but it also came with the stress of moving to a new place, making friends and living on your own. Three things I’ve never done all at the same time. Second year I was ready to live on my own again, regain my independence and enjoy time with my friends. (Most of which happened from semester two onwards, notice the correlation with my breakup…)
I was already aware of how university worked and while second year had more challenges, it was just better in general. I put it down mainly to my wonderful group of friends. Everyone is so determined to make their flat group work in first year, I feel they forget to look elsewhere for friendships.
Many people will say being a fresher is the best as you have no pressure, and to an extent if you embraced that you may agree. However, my second year has been so much more fulfilling in terms of moulding me; I’ve found my place and friends for life. I know how I work best, which modules I perform well in and consequently how to approach third year without feeling like I can’t enjoy myself.
If you’re starting university in Autumn enjoy your first year as it doesn’t count. However, if you don’t find that it is the best experience of your life, don’t stress about it. Your university experience is what you make it. The only piece of advice I can give is to not worry about making your university experience like other people’s. Each experience is unique, which is why my second year has been way more enjoyable than my first. I have let myself go at my own pace and I have memories to last a lifetime.