By Sarah Dalton, First Year, English Literature
Considering the effects of first-term loneliness and the anti-climax after freshers week, one first year shares her experiences at Bristol so far and offers some advice for those who have not quite found their footing yet.
‘University will be the best days of your life.’ I don’t doubt that is a phrase we’ve all heard at some point since receiving our university acceptance letter. Whether from reminiscing teachers dreaming of a life before moody teenagers and 6am starts, or tired parents trying to live vicariously through us all. It’s a stereotype pushed repeatedly by all– the wild nights, the crazy stories, the carefree lifestyle. Maybe right now university is the best days of your life. Maybe it will be soon. Maybe it won’t.
If I were to sum up what I’ve learned in my first term at Bristol, it would be the prevalence of timelines - those set by others and those set by ourselves, and just how dangerous they can be. For me, the first two weeks at Bristol were bliss. I floated in and out of crowds, in a rush of nights out, plant potting (yes, I was that person), freshers fairs and casual conversations. Sure, I didn’t really know anybody, but who did, right?
But as if some omniscient being had set an alarm that rang bells in the third week, the ‘I can just walk up to anybody’ feeling came to an abrupt end. With this came the self-questioning. ‘Why don’t I have friends yet?’ ‘I should have settled in by now.’ ‘I've been here three weeks, why don’t I feel like I belong?’ ‘I’ve been here for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, why do I still feel alone?’
Delighted to see Bristruths welcoming all the freshers to Bristol Uni in appropriate style pic.twitter.com/e4ztRMbdeL— James Heale (@JAHeale) August 16, 2018
Maybe right now university is the best days of your life. Maybe it will be soon. Maybe it won’t.
This was only reinforced by social media images of laughing friends at other universities with their Instagram group selfies, arms wrapped around each other, tagging new friends in their inside jokes. I became increasingly aware that I had passed the unmarked date that I had, without realising, set for myself. The date when I’d start feeling happy at university.
Little did I realise at the time, this was something most people were also experiencing in one form or another, with their own personal deadlines looming, far scarier than those set by our tutors. By week two, I should have friends, by midterm I should be having the time of my life, by Christmas I should have a house for next year, by this date I should have an internship, by this date I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend, by this date I should have a job, by this date, by that date…
The social media whirlwind of story highlights does nothing to help the feeling that you are inherently doing something wrong. That these are not yet the ‘best days of your life’ because you haven’t conformed to these invisible deadlines.
Whilst I could write essays about all the things I shouldn’t have said, my biggest regret of first term is not drinking too much or the lectures that I missed or buying far more microwave meals than a human being should ever consume. It is failing to realise for so long that this timeline does not exist.
We are made to feel that it does, by the people around us, social media, books, films, images of the perfect university experience; but in reality, we are all carving out our own unique timelines, and that should be okay too. Maybe you found your true friends in week two, maybe it was week six, week nine. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it feels like it never will. But as any final year facing the reality of a life outside the Bristol bubble will tell you – nothing lasts forever, and that includes the good and the bad.
If I were to sum up what I’ve learned in my first term at Bristol, it would be the prevalence of timelines - those set by others and those set by ourselves, and just how dangerous they can be
Sure, going into second term I fully intend to embrace the spontaneous nights I didn’t plan, become far too acquainted with Lizard Lounge, laugh with my lecturers, question the meaning of life at 3am and continue to break promises to myself that I will get up the next morning in time for breakfast.
However, I’ll enjoy all this with the knowledge that it is okay to feel lonely in a crowd sometimes, that the good days will come with the bad days, that sometimes social media can suck, and that if you are expecting the best days of your life to peak at the age of 20, maybe it's worth re-evaluating what exactly it is you are living for.
Featured: Epigram/ Robin Connolly
How was the first-term of this year for you? Share your thoughts with us below!