My first year at university was the hardest of my life. The transition to uni life was so hard to handle that I spent days on end locked in my halls bedroom, wishing I was anywhere but there. I came home at the end of the year depressed, having suffered near-crippling anxiety for much of the year. On multiple occasions I considered dropping out, transferring to UEA and living at home for the duration of my undergraduate degree. But despite all this, I absolutely cannot wait to get back to York this weekend and start my second year – so what’s changed?
This post comes out of a conversation I had yesterday with the wonderful Jess. Both of us had a pretty rocky first-year, although for different reasons, but as we talked yesterday we realised that we are both really looking forward to the beginning of term. Obviously it’s great that we’ve undergone such a change over the summer that we can actively be excited to be returning to York, but it got us both wondering what it is that’s effected this shift in mindset. Here’s my take on why we both can’t wait to start second year.
We’ll live in a house
Both of us lived in halls last year; our respective colleges were just across from each other. We both had nice rooms, decent kitchens, and flatmates we could talk to, but one thing that’s really made a difference to how I’m feeling about second year is knowing that I’ll have all those home comforts: little things like a sofa and a bath might seem insignificant, but I honestly think they could make a huge difference. Having a communal space which isn’t a clinical student-halls kitchen where we can sit and chill together with our respective housemates is so important; in halls it’s so easy to just disappear up to your room by yourself. What’s more, living within the community rather than surrounded by flats of first-year students is a far more attractive setup. I’m so excited to have a house, rather than just a bedroom (which itself felt more like a hotel room where I was jut a guest).
We know how everything works
One thing Jess commented on during our chat was how so much felt ‘uncertain’ this time last year, and I totally agree. A year ago, I didn’t know my way around campus. I didn’t know where my department was, or where my lectures were. I knew that I would be able to go to my tutor’s office hours, but I didn’t know what they involved. I didn’t know whether I could write a university-standard academic essay. I didn’t know where I was going to get my food shop, or how seminars worked. Ultimately there was no way we could have been prepared for all of those things (and so much more) because you just have to do them; a huge amount of first year is just figuring it out as you go along. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy; not knowing what to do or where to go all the time can really take its toll. As we head into second year, we both know exactly how uni works and what to do if we are ever unsure, so we can really hit the ground running.
We’ve got great people around us
My biggest pet hate at the moment is people saying that Freshers’ Week is the best week of uni. Firstly, if that’s true, why bother sticking around for the next three years? Secondly, how can that possibly be true? During Freshers’, you’re running blind. You don’t know anything or anyone, and all you can do is stick with your flatmates until you eventually begin to branch out over the first term. It’s terrifying. My best week at uni so far was my very last week of first year; having been away for two weeks to recover from the awful depression I’d been struggling with all term I returned for a fortnight, and had the best time. Why? Because I spent it with the friends I’d made over the year. Some of them I had only met that term (hey, Alice!); others were relationships I’d spent months cultivating and growing. All of them are important. What’s more, I know that the best is yet to come as these friendships become even closer. When I go back to uni this weekend I know that I am moving into a house with five of my real friends, and that just down the road and around town are so many other amazing, wonderful people I also have the privilege of calling my friends. They are the best support network I could ask for. How could I not be excited for second year?
We won’t be ‘freshers’ anymore
This might just seem like semantics but in my eyes it makes a big difference. You see, there’s a certain reputation which comes with being a fresher. People tell you it’s the best year of uni because your results don’t count, so you can go out and have fun without worrying about your grades. I’ll admit that knowing you “only have to get 40%” does take off some pressure, but it’s a dangerous trap to fall into. Not having to worry about grades leaves more time for drinking, partying and clubbing; most people hear the words “Down it, Fresher” in their first week. I can understand the nostalgia of first year once the marks start counting towards your degree and the work piles up, but it’s all too easy to forget that being a fresher is actually really hard. I’m looking forward to losing the expectation that I should go out every other night and sleep through all my lectures. “You’ll miss it when you’re not a fresher!” people tell you; second year me knows I really won’t.
We know we can do it
For me, this is the biggest change of all. We got through a really hard first year. If we can do that, we can get through a really hard second year, too – but we also know how to support ourselves and each other through a difficult time, too. You learn so, so much in your first year at university, and nothing can really prepare you for it. But as we enter second year, we feel fully set up and ready to get started. We know we can do it, and we have so many tools available to have a really great year, and make the most of everything York has to offer us.
Do you have any advice as I head into second year? Are you starting or returning to uni? What are you worried and excited about? Let me know in the comments!