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Victoria Dyer discusses adapting to university and the challenges that come with it.

University, the place you come to grow as a person and develop into the adult you want to be. The place you come and meet your life-long friends. The place you come to explore the subject you’re so passionate about. The place the best 3 years of your life are supposed to take place in.

It’s not quite like that though, is it? I mean, I don’t want to speak on behalf of the whole student population, but I for one struggled in first term, and when I say struggled, I mean struggled. The pressure on you in your first year of university is immense. Yes, nothing counts and yes, the second and third years will consider you slightly pathetic for moaning about your completely irrelevant essay. However, it is still hard. For 9 months, you vacate your human body and instead, assume the role of a headless chicken, desperately running around trying  to make friends whilst attempting to figure out how to use the library system  and make your own dinner without burning it or giving yourself food poisoning.

For 9 months, you vacate your human body and instead, assume the role of a headless chicken, desperately running around trying  to make friends whilst attempting to figure out how to use the library system  and make your own dinner without burning it or giving yourself food poisoning.

I think the hardest part for myself was transferring from the tiny pond of Cardiff where I felt like a pretty big fish, into the bottomless ocean of Bristol and feeling like a mere krill. In school, I excelled at my subject, I was the only person in my year group going to do History and because of that my teacher gave me the special treatment. I was the one whose essays everyone copied. But now, in this unfamiliar place, I was just another krill and my essays were below-average. I remember getting my first essay back and feeling as though I’d just been winded after receiving a meagre 52. 52! I’d never received less than 80 on a history paper in my life. I felt like I was drowning. I was a drowning krill.

Some of my favourite nights have been with the friends I made at university.

Moreover, seminars fried my brain. The reading may as well have been in a different language. I spent about 4 hours flicking from article to dictionary when consulting my first seminar readings. I specifically remember my first session, in which an intensely clever and overly talkative boy dominated the seminar. He eloquently told the group how he found the paper on the history of statistics very mentally stimulating and enjoyable. I, on the other hand, had contributed that my favourite food was Sunday Dinner and I really liked turtles. The krill was being eaten by whales.

Being a Welsh girl, I was a minority and I knew it. My Welsh accent has caused me to be the brunt of jokes for quite some time. Luckily I’m someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, so this was funny but wow, did I get judged. I particularly remember one boy telling me that my accent made me sound stupid. Combine that compliment with a nice 52 on your first essay and the feeling that people around you were talking in Morse and university doesn’t seem quite so nice anymore. I spent about 3 months trying to perfect Received Pronunciation and stamp my singing accent out… It never worked… I’ll be there now in a minute still very much exists in my vocabulary world today.

On top of all of that are the nights out. The first week or so is funny. Past that, your body starts to hate you and you can almost feel your liver screaming for you to take a night off. Your skin breaks out and you start to grow outwards – you curse your teachers for telling you to come to university. You’re a krill and you’re an ugly krill too!

You meet your best friends and you remain best friends because you’ve cried together about how hard university is and laughed together at how incredible it is.

Leaving the krill jokes behind, university is no breeze, it’s not as easy as everyone tells you and there will be nights when you cry to yourself or your mum or your friends. There will be days when the world seems like it’s against you because you don’t understand a word your lecturer said and then yuo came home and burnt your stir fry, but university is the best place. Of course, you have to adapt and in adapting, you come into contact with some of the struggles that I’ve mentioned in the article. You slowly find your friends and transition back to a human from the chicken you once were. You gets to grips with the marking schemes and marks in general. You begin realise that the people you once thought were talking in Morse aren’t really, they’re just using a lot of unnecessary long words to say something like ‘the British Empire was bad’. You realise that you quite like the person you are and your different accent, your differing sense of style, your differing sense of humour makes you different from the other krill. Slowly but surely the drinking calms down and your body returns to a state of moderate health.

University is a struggle but it is in this institution that you get to thrive.

University is a struggle but it is in this institution that you get to thrive. You get to read experts work and discuss it with people who care as much as you, as passionately as you do. You get to meet the most extraordinary people, people who will go onto do amazing things and inspire you in that process. You meet your best friends and you remain best friends because you’ve cried together about how hard university is and laughed together at how incredible it is. Your seminar tutors and peers aren’t there to intimidate you or make you feel stupid, so contribute, they want your opinion. You’re not a krill here; you’re a starfish, a seahorse, a whale, what you want to be. That’s the beauty of this bottomless ocean, once you’ve adapted and realised that you’re not in a pond of goldfish anymore, you see an ocean of unexplored territory where anything goes.

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Any thoughts on adapting to first year? Please let us know.

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