When you think of university, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Yes, I know... Alcohol. Halls. 24 hour partying. More alcohol. Noodles and beans, accompanied by alcohol. Most people imagine some sort of insane freedom where you pour a pint on your Frosties for breakfast and rock up to a lecture in last night's clothes, emanating a smell that is definitely not legal. After completing a year at uni I can safely say that only a percentage of students go through this fantasy experience during their first year.
Here's four things that I now know about uni:
1. It's ACTUALLY hard. Seriously
2. You don't make a million friends in the first week and go out drinking with them every night
3. It CAN be the loneliest experience of your life at times
4. Half of Starbucks' gross income is made from students
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that going to university isn't one of the greatest experiences of all time. It's new, it's life changing, and it's stomach butterfly exciting. It's just that... sometimes it's really not. I've lost count of the number of times I sat in my room during my first semester watching Prison Break on my own whilst tapping in my debit card number in to trainline.com. One way ticket home, please? I know you're probably now thinking I'm a socially inept loser and saying to yourself: "OF COURSE everyone makes tons of friends at uni and drinks vodka for dinner every night."
Yes, I made friends, and fortunately I found people that I actually really love, but often we were all so bogged down with work and assignments that we could only see each other for a quick cuppa during the day. To those who told me first year was a breeze, I'm holding a grudge.
It's just a game of luck really, I suppose. After securing your place and spending HOURS of your summer on the phone to student finance, (who, can I just say, have got to be the most incapable company on the planet) you arrive at your new home to find your flat mates locked away in their bedrooms with absolutely no desire to chat, or in my case, even say hello.
It's not like I WANTED to stay hidden in my room, emerging only to shove some toast in the toaster and switch on the kettle only to realise there's no milk. But at the time it seemed that everyone either lacked the ability to speak or had grouped up in cliques not so dissimilar to school (which, just no.)
The expectation of coming to uni is, in my opinion, hyped up to an almost unrealistic level. People that recommend it without hesitation have in actual fact just blocked out all the bad memories, leaving them only with reminiscent thoughts of unsupervised debauchery.
You could (and most do) argue that having only six hours worth of lectures a week is a blessing, but sit back and ask yourself: is paying roughly £80 per hour to watch a five page Powerpoint slide REALLY worth it? "I'm so glad I spent nine grand to come here and sit in my £6,500 halls..." is a phrase that I hear only too often.
And then there's the age old debate about whether having a degree is a must in today's society. Do employers really care? Can't they just employ you on wit, charm and tea making skills? It's a bit of a Catch 22 really - you MUST get a degree if you want to earn a good salary, but as soon as you start actually earning a good salary, you have to pay back £40,000 worth of debt. Not to mention the countless strikes that lecturers do throughout the term. Sorry, but can I have that £80 back? Thanks.
A message to all first years: stick it out. The first two months of second year have dramatically changed my perception of university life. I'm happier now than I have ever been. I now live in an perfect location, in an amazing flat with best friends for neighbours. Even the actual, physical act of getting out of bed at 7am and going in to uni doesn't seem so hideous anymore.
Relationships with classmates and lecturers become stronger, more familiar and in many cases, peers become friends. Even a three hour lecture that relies solely on PowerPoint doesn't seem so daunting anymore. Except on Monday mornings, obviously.