I remember myself two years ago, slumped in the back of my mum's Mini with so much stuff piled around me I may as well have been part of the luggage. Uni was a fresh start and I was ready to embrace the inevitable changes that come with independence. Though one thing I didn't bank on is how much I'd age before my 21st birthday.
Someone actually told me this would happen just before I set off, but I dismissed it in my naïve freshers mindset by thinking "Nope, I'm staying this way forever." Evidently this did not happen, and I find myself looking back on those early days of independence and thinking "Christ, I'd hate to be that guy... again."
Earlier this week I had my first encounter with the new intake of freshers and subsequently tweeted my thoughts about them. Whether it's because I'm nearing the end of my uni life; I'm subconsciously jealous of their bright, young faces; or they are objectively as annoying as I thought they were; they annoyed me, especially the ones who had so obviously reinvented themselves from the week before in a bit to become the epitomal 'uni lad'.
I'll admit I purposefully changed certain aspects of myself in order to fit in too, but nothing too drastic, and it happened after I'd started uni, not the night before arrivals day. I toned down my alternative style in order to not look too 'out-there', and listened to a wider variety of music. As my personality evolved I still kept aspects of my pre-uni self rather than disregard who I used to be. You shouldn't change your entire personality before you come to uni because it'll probably happen naturally, and the second- and third-years also find it annoying.
Unlike most students, my uni life started in a house instead of halls and none of us knew each other, besides a week-long conversation we'd set up on Facebook. We stayed in that house until the end of second year, encountering numerous problems that I won't go into detail about, and we initiated a complaint that has still not been resolved. It's a sad truth but a lot of students will, at some point, face a landlord who only cares about the rent they pay them, or at least know someone who's been conned.
Having to deal with real housing issues, involving legally-binding contracts and enough money for several nights out, came as a shock to us, and will to anyone who has the misfortune of doing it. But even though it's a horribly awkward thing to do, it's also the perfect example of what uni life is all about: being thrown in at the deep end and coming out with experience.
Another thing most will learn during their time at uni is time management. I'm currently the head of Hull Uni's radio station and this is taking over a large amount of my life, to the extent that I am using a diary - I've never done this before, despite getting a free one in first year. Like the unexpected, you have to learn to roll with the punches, and while it's far from the most exciting thing in the world, it's also a necessary evil. I also appreciate just how old I sound right now, sorry about that; what did I tell you?
Perhaps the most important and frustrating thing to learn during your first spate of independence is proper money management. You're never going to have copious amounts of money to spend and you will need to budget. It's arguably the most stressful thing to learn, and any cock-up can have serious (and possibly long-lasting) consequences. Money management is also the largest indicator of how much you've aged during your Uni life. Trust me, there will come a day when you say "no" to a party/night out because you simply can't afford it, thinking "my god, I'm old."
I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed my time at uni, far from it. Getting into Hull through clearing was the best thing to ever happen to me. I'm just saying that there will be a few unexpected surprises around the corner, things that you will have to adapt to quickly and learn from, be it dodgy landlords, time management, or other miscellaneous happenings. For example, my room once flooded during an exam period, which was an inconvenience at best. But to be honest, it does make life more interesting, and the point of university is to ready you for the real (and scary) world beyond education. You'll definitely have a blast at uni, but remember, it does have a serious side.