I can admit it now: in the months leading up to university, I was extremely skeptical about it all. I loved my old school and leaving had been an emotional struggle.
I knew I would miss my close friends, the support from my teachers, and the community feel of my sixth form. I wasn’t ready to let that all go.
But I had to let it go and, like so many other 18-year-olds, throw myself into an alien learning and living environment.
Everyone said hello to each other in those first two weeks, starting up conversations wherever possible - in my case, that meant calling ‘HELLO!’ after a girl who was walking ahead of me on my second day.
I’d been told I would make friends for life in freshers’ week, that my children would be friends with their children, and that future Sunday afternoons would be spent together at National Trust properties. In truth, I met dozens of people in that first hectic week but my closest friends appeared a lot later.
If you’re nervous about making friends at university, please remember that it’s completely normal if you don’t find your best friends during freshers’ week. You’ll have so much other stuff to think about, so try not to add this pressure into the mix too!
One of the reasons I applied to Exeter University was that I’d been told it had a community feel. And it’s true, people are generally friendly and the campus is small enough that you bump into at least 10 people you know every day. It’s nothing like the school community of 500 that I’d come from, and this remains one of the things I miss most about home, but I’ve enjoyed being surrounded by so many young people. The atmosphere plus the independence equals a truly pleasant experience - and one that feels safe.
Also coming to Exeter was one of my close friends from home. I was warned that the two of us would probably never see each other in the chaos of university life, but I was convinced we’d be the exception to the rule. Alas, we’ve met up a couple of times but our different courses and accommodation mean our paths rarely cross.
They say the workload takes a step up from year 13 but I found the opposite, as did lots of my friends. A Levels are much more intense and degree work, in the first year at least, is just easing you into the system. As a result, we have time for personal and social development which, after having been introduced to such a new and even surreal environment, is so important. I’ve been able to exercise regularly, something I was really bad at doing in my final two years of school. Now, I’m actually quite good at finding time to exercise at least five days a week.
So much of what I loved at school was replaced by newness, just as I’d feared. And in the first week I wanted nothing more than to be back in my room at home, getting ready to drive to school. I miss my friends, but I’m still in contact with the majority of them. I’m not as close to my lecturers as I was to my teachers, but the conversations are interesting and engaging.
And as the weeks have passed, I’ve learnt to love university - not despite the differences, but because of them.