Most students, whatever year of university you are in, get to exam season and suddenly realise just how quickly the last academic year has zoomed right on by.
For some, it's an exciting moment, a chance for them to 'move on', for others it's nothing more than a daunting reality and for the rest they know that more hard work is just on the horizon.
I remember what my life was like around a year ago. I had already decided that one university just wasn't for me, physically or mentally, and I had gone about finding ways to resolve my unhappiness. I attempted to take the plunge, crossing my fingers and what felt like begging another university to let me in. Thankfully I was lucky they did, and suddenly I actually could see a future and there was a point of carrying on fighting through each day to get to that point.
This time last year, I literally didn't care if tomorrow never came, if the world just stopped. I had lost all hope that my life could actually be anything other than a friendless, lonely, sad and cold world, I couldn't remember my life being anything but, all the darkness had consumed me and somehow the few people around me didn't get too frustrated with me (even if I didn't trust them through paranoia that nobody wanted me in the world).
Looking back now, I realise just how depressed I was. But I just assumed that life was like that and I had done something to deserve it. I never thought that the sadness and darkness was anything but natural. But now, I'm surrounded by people that I really trust, with friends, with happiness, belief in myself and knowing that I have an end goal for every single day - not to give up.
As my first year at university has drawn to, an albeit very stressful close (four exams in five days who thought that was a good idea), and I've had chance to reflect on my own life it's surprising how much not just myself, but others around me have changed too.
I'm still a very pessimistic throwing doubt over everything I do, but, most of the time at least, I know that what I am doing is because it's what I want to do and that it makes me happy. But I've found a strength in me that people always told me existed but I never believed, I figured out how to push through the pain and difficulties and not just give up when trouble was on the horizon. I finally feel like a person.
Those around me that I've known for a while have changed too, many have become a lot more serious and grown-up, especially those I know that are finishing their undergraduate journey. I see their jokes about what comes next, but because I'm not in that situation myself, I can see that at least some of those jokes are coming through the terror of mystery and uncertainty. And that, for a first year student, is something terrifying to consider.
First years, yes, have had a fair amount of work to do and exams, but in most universities it counts for very little in terms of the actual degree and we still have a couple of years left before the end of the road. But, the end of the road is approaching far quicker than even I would like to imagine. It doesn't feel like two minutes ago since freshers week and awkwardly standing around making friends, but it is, it's months ago.
The end of an academic year is a chance to reflect on not just our personal development, but how those around us have changed and what we've actually learned. I know that at times I felt like I've discovered very little new things this year, but on serious reflection, I've learned a lot of academic based things without even realising.
But above all reflecting is important as a chance to figure out what you can do better next year, whether it be doing more reading or making better notes, or spending more time with friends out of university or getting involved with more societies, or whether it's just continuing to find yourself and love who that person is. Without reflection we learn very little about ourselves, not everything we learn we will like, but without it any improvements to ourselves and our lives are limited. Reflection is a form of self-care (taking time to look after you now and in the future) and without self-care what are we to become?