I'm posting this since #Freshers is currently trending on Twitter. I remember the joys of Freshers week. I arrived at my student halls and moved my stuff in. My mother, ever sweet and never ready to give up a parenting experience, made my bed for me before she left. She wanted to make sure that I'd be sleeping on a ready made bed. This was her way of caring for me once she left as she'd be happy in the knowledge that she'd done her final part. We shared a teary goodbye and I went up to my room and sat quietly for a moment. I then realised I didn't want to spend my first night as a student sat alone in my room. My prime directive was to go out and make friends. I'd noticed a "Goths v. Chavs" themed night at the student bar at our halls. My interest was immediately sparked because I'd long been a fan of gothic rock and deathrock music. It seemed like a great excuse to pull out my New Rocks and corset. When I turned up, however, I felt very disappointed. There was no actual "Goth" music being played. Where I was hoping for Siouxsie and the Banshees or March Violets I was greeted with Blink 182 and Rage Against The Machine. Also I was the only sober person in the building. People were falling all over the place and so it was hard to properly socialise with anyone. I made some conversation with my new flatmates and ended up leaving quite early.
During the university application process we're told that our time at uni will be the time of our life, something we were similarly assured about secondary school, but we're hopeful nonetheless. It's a wonderful time to seek and explore our independence. It gives us the chance to move away from where we've grown up and 'find ourselves' in a new corner of the world. It allows us to learn alongside other fine minds with wonderful lecturers and resources so as to better ourselves and explore our own mind and human conciousness. We're told to enjoy this so called 'student experience' that lies ahead but is the student experience a great time for all of us? As someone coming out of the other end of the university experience I can safely say that the 'student experience' isn't the same for each student.
What drew me to the University of Huddersfield was the feel of the town. Cast against the rolling hills of Yorkshire it had a quaint charm similar to the small, sleepy town in Hertfordshire where I'd grown up but with the feeling of a small city at the centre of the town. I visited the town the day after my 18th birthday. I can recall meeting for drinks with a friend after the open day where we sat at a bar called Dogma, now called 'The Zetland' having changed hands many times over, and legally being able to order myself a cocktail and feeling very proud of my new rights.
When I started at the university it was an exciting time. I was in awe when I entered my first proper lecture theatre. In pursuit of quenching an academic thirst I tried to soak up the experience around me. In my first week in student halls I was invited on a night out where, when speaking to people and exchanging the usual pleasantries of 'what course are you doing?' and 'what inspired you to come to university?', I didn't always found the answer I expected. Quite a few people stated that they wanted the 'student experience' and to have three years to party and let their hair down as some sort of rite of passage. The "student experience", for most people, seemed to mean drinking and partying with no one to set rules for you. You'd see posters around the town that boasted about the 'student experience' or making statements about how students should be out doing stupid, crazy things. Many came to university because it seemed 'fun' or they didn't know what they'd do otherwise and university seemed the default option. I worry that a lot of people coming to university come for the wrong reasons: to experience this freedom to party and live alone and be without rules or perhaps because they didn't know what else to do or where else to go. A student is defined as someone who is studying, a person in the pursuit of knowledge and an education, but so many saw the three or so years of study as a gateway to adulthood. It was a time where they could get funding to live in their own place and drink, party and be wild as their hearts should like. Sooner or later the responsibilities and realities of university hit pretty hard and over my three years of study I saw people fail and fail hard at their academic pursuits because they'd been so focused on other things or not really known why they came to study in the first place.
I feel a lot of these people, even myself, may have benefited from simply taking a year out to solely focus on their own desires and pursuits rather than plunging into something blindly or entering for the wrong reasons. So many go to university expecting the wild and hedonistic student lifestyle only to be utterly bewildered by the demands of a university education. The friend I met for drinks with on my first visit to Huddersfield for the University Open Day sadly did not graduate. There are many that stood with me in the Creative Arts Building on my first day weren't in the graduation ceremony back in July.
I suppose what I'm saying, to you as a reader, is that if you are going through the university application process or considering study question why it is you want to study. This will be a challenging time in your life, but hopefully vastly rewarding too. Was university difficult for me? Yes. It was the biggest challenge I've faced yet. Was it worth it? You bet it was, but it's only worth the energy and effort you put in.