Highs, lows and sweet freedom
The university experience has been mythologised in countless movies, books, songs and TV shows. We all know the script - this is the best time of your life, a thrilling whirlwind of hedonism, romance and debauchery, with a little learning thrown in too. For some people, it will be like that. But for most people, university is like the rest of life. There are ups and there are downs.
Our first graduate, India Garrett, gave us some great insight into her experience of first year. ‘I found myself surprisingly lonely,’ she said. ‘University is a very strange experience. It’s something that is built up so much but when you arrive, it can actually be very different from what you expected.’
This isn’t unique to India, either. In fact, a recent Guardian survey suggests that 33% of students suffer from loneliness often or all of the time.
Whatever you face at university, freedom and independence is yours. India says, ‘I think the whole format of university and the independence that comes with it was the most important part. The studying was great but I think it’s everything that happened outside of that which has helped me to grow.’
Everyone’s different but we’re united by Freshers’ Flu
There are students who are happy to go out drinking, dancing and enjoy seeing the sun in the early hours of the morning. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time – but it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s lots of people at university who prefer to socialise in other ways.
Our second graduate, Jack Harriman, explained the importance of societies. ‘I made some of my best friends joining the a cappella society. I strongly urge everyone to join at least one society to meet like-minded people and make amazing memories.’
Extra-curricular activities are often the source of good friendships and form an essential part of the university experience. We’d probably join a sandwich society if there was one. ‘I still feel the most rewarding thing about studying was the friends I made and the experiences I had,’ explains Jack. ‘There is so much to take away from uni and the mark you achieve is only a small part of that.’
We’re all different and will have different experiences of university. Whether you enjoy partying or not, it seems as though all students are united by one major hurdle in their first few weeks. Freshers’ flu. Our third graduate, Fiona Copas, gives her advice on how to cope with this ubiquitous campus menace. ‘I don’t think there’s any way to avoid Freshers’ flu. Just make sure you get lots of fluids, medicine and, most importantly, rest - even if it means skipping a night out!’
Life after university
For some, post-university plans will change over the course of their time at university, while others will continue on the path they’d planned for themselves. One thing is for certain - there’s no single way forward after university. Expectations change and you never know where you’re going to end up.
Take our three graduates. Fiona has stayed true to her plan of applying for a graduate scheme, though not in the area of academia she expected. India is also following a pre-planned route. She’s currently saving for a year abroad in Australia. Bonza!
Jack originally applied for an integrated Masters programme but was forced to change plans due to his 2nd year grades. ‘At the time I was disappointed and thought that all my plans had failed,’ he explained. ‘However, I’m now taking a year out to save money to do a masters degree. It goes to show that even if everything doesn’t pan out exactly as you planned it, you’ll always land on your feet and in the best place for you.’
You are not alone!
Everyone has a unique experience at university. For some, it’s the best years of their life. For others, it’s a stepping stone towards a career that will provide enormous satisfaction. With the help of Fiona, India, and Jack, hopefully we’ve provided you with some insight into the way three recently-graduated students felt about their experience.
University can be hard. It is for most people, at one time or another. Just because everyone looks like they’re having a wild time, doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling inside. But it can also be an incredible experience - particularly if you do it your way. Which is what Fiona would have you do. ‘My advice would be to be true to yourself. Try your best and give yourself time to adapt.’
If you’re heading to university or are already into your first few months of studying, we wish you the best of luck. Do you! If you’ve found this blog helpful, we’d love you to share it with other freshers, students, and graduates. The more we hear about diverse university experiences, the more we demystify the university journey and will be able to survive and thrive.