A Learning Curve: What this Term has Taught me

Long time no blog, I know! These last couple weeks at university have been jam-packed, to say the least, and sometimes my blog has to get popped on the backburner. However, hallelujah and praise the Christmas Gods, because the end of term has finally arrived! Before you embark on your university degree, everyone who’s been there and done that will try and prepare you for the leap between Year 13 and the first year of uni, saying it will be incredibly difficult. And yes, it is hard. However, no one even attempted to prepare me for the hellish, near-impossible leap that is the transition from first year, to second. My first term of second year has been a bladdy struggle, and I know a whole lot of my peers feel the same.

I’m very proud to say that I’ve secured grades in English this term that I didn’t think were possible for lil ol’ me, I’ve completed an internship alongside my degree studies and I’ve just been offered a paid internship for the New Year. I’m really happy with the outcome of this term, and a whole lot of hard work has gone into it, but that does not mean it’s been the most fun or easygoing term at uni, whatsoever. In fact, it’s been my hardest. But with hard times come many positive lessons; this term has been one heck of a learning curve. So, with that, here’s everything I’ve learnt during my first term of second year- ft. some v happy pics of the snow this morning back in my sleepy lil village, because I am extremely happy to have (a little more of) a break now it’s Christmas.

Living with your best pals will not be plain sailing all the time – and that is okay

During my first year of university, I lived with some lovely people in halls. We all got along, however, because we’d been placed together at random, we didn’t naturally become best best friends overnight. We’re friends and we still say hi now out and about, but I knew personally the people that I clicked with more, purely due to common interests, were my course friends.

Definitely true of English students, we all seem to have the same temperament and the same interests, which means we’re naturally going to click more than other people. So, for second year, I’ve moved in with my best pals, who are largely on the same course as me. We have the best time. Living with my best pals has so many benefits: we don’t have to leave the house to see each other, we do nothing but laugh and chat and get along. However, as term stress hit us all, it meant that we couldn’t sit in the kitchen and socialise every single evening, we could no longer do regular movie nights and we’d often all be incredibly stressed.

Last year, I found that if I was having a pretty bad day, I could hide away in my room and it wouldn’t really matter. No one would realise I was upset, as most of my other flatmates just sat in their rooms too. However, this year, with my best pals, it’s natural for us to congregate in the kitchen and have a good chinwag. This means that when you’re not feelin’ it, and you’re having a bad day, everyone realises something is up.

I’ve struggled this year an incredible amount after my Dad passed away in 2016. It’s definitely really hit me this year, and there are, quite frequently, days where I get incredibly upset. My pals are honestly the absolute best- they’re always here for me unconditionally and I know I can chat to them whenever I need to. However, sometimes you just want that space alone to grieve. And at uni, there isn’t that space.

Last year, my best pals didn’t know that sometimes I get really sad, sometimes I cry in my room and sometimes I don’t feel like life is all good and dandy. However, sharing a house with your best pals means that they get to see all the good, bad and ugly sides of you. And understanding that they really do not care if I am a crying mess one day, and only want to help cheer me up is something that I’ve had to remind myself of this term.

We can’t always be the best versions of ourselves, and our best friends really do not mind. They just want to do everything in their power to make us happy. And I’m incredibly grateful for that.

You need to separate your working day from your relaxation time

At I think a lot of universities, and particularly mine, there is a shocking amount of work to do. You could literally work, all day every day, with no social life and no extracurricular hobbies, and still not get everything done. There is a sheer amount of work to do, and it’s impossible to ever be on top of things. No matter how organised you are, you’re still treading water to keep up.

During my first year, I always worked in my room, without fail. I didn’t want to do the half hour walk onto campus just to arrive at the library and find there were no seats left, so I worked away in my bedroom. This meant that I really struggled, when the work was done, to relax in my room, as I’d associate that space with working.

And that’s not healthy.

This term, I decided the other week to take the plunge and head onto campus one Sunday. I went to a quieter building I knew many people didn’t go to to get work done, and I worked more productively than I had in weeks. Surrounded by other productive students, I felt like I was in a high school classroom again, and it propelled me forwards to get work done. There were no distractions of my pals, the internet or my phone, and I could just get on. Once the evening was drawing in, I packed up my stuff and headed home for dinner. And I actually found myself with an evening off. It was wonderful, and something I’m going to do every week in the New Year.

I read an article a few weeks ago that suggested we need to set smaller goals for ourselves day to day, because if we set large, unattainable goals, we just won’t get them done. When it comes to sitting down to relax in the evening, we’ll just be thinking about everything we still have yet to do, and we won’t even be relaxing when we should be relaxing. Our brains can’t switch off, and therefore we never feel rested.

Recently, I’ve started a weekly planner, instead of writing day-by-day lists, and this has meant that I tell myself to achieve one big goal a day. This means I get more done and can actually relax. It’s fabulous.

If things get too hard, there are people you can talk to

If you’re struggling with university workload, there are Welfare Tutors you can discuss this with. Extensions for deadlines can be put in place; there is help out there if you reach for it. I can openly say I’ve began speaking to a counsellor this term, because I genuinely found myself incredibly sad at my Dad’s passing (as of course anyone would be) but it started to affect my every day.

I’d go out for a fun evening with my pals, and any amount of alcohol in my system would make my emotions flare up terribly. I couldn’t tackle a heavy workload because I didn’t feel like I had the mental energy to get things done. I felt this unfathomable, overwhelming sadness inside that my Dad isn’t here anymore. I felt angry at the world. I didn’t feel happy.

And these feelings definitely come and go, they’ve not gone altogether, but I’m learning to process the grief and I’m learning that it’s okay to sack off work for the evening because you’re feeling sad. I’m learning, through talking to the counsellor, to not put too much pressure on myself.

It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to admit that we struggle from time to time. This isn’t just something exclusively felt by me: we all have our stresses, we all have our hard times and we’ll all get through it just fine.

Actually remind yourself of your achievements, because you’ve achieved a lot

At my university, it’s incredibly academic. Everyone else around me seems to be thoroughly enjoying every lecture and seminar and they seem to understand everything at lightning speed. Most people were privately educated, and most people applied exclusively to Russell Group universities. The university I’m at now is the only Russell Group I applied to (definitely on a whim, not expecting to get in) and I’m more vocational than my peers: I’m ready for the working world now; I’m done with education.

I am the classic example of a small fish, in a widely expansive pond.

But if there’s one thing second year has taught me so far, it’s that I shouldn’t be comparing myself to other people. Whilst some people are hitting straight firsts across the board, I’m hitting straight 2:1s, whilst prepping myself for life outside of university, by getting as much work experience as I possibly can.

I’m happy with the achievements I have made this term, and just because there are a select few that grasp degree work more than I can, it doesn’t mean I’m failing. Success is subjective, and we all have things we want to succeed, that may be completely different from those around us. We are all amazing in our own special ways.

Remember that at the end of the day, personal happiness is the most important thing

Yes, university is important. A degree opens many doors and we are lucky to be able to have access to such important education. However, our happiness is the most important thing in life.

I’ve had points this term where I felt like university was consuming my life: there was so much to do, and so little time to do it in. But I’ve learnt there are times to stress, such as when an important deadline is approaching, and there are times to relax a little and take time out for yourself. University doesn’t and shouldn’t need to consume our every waking thought. There’s so much more to life than uni. And when you realise that, you can still work, you can be proud of your achievements, but most of all: you can be happy.

And that’s what really matters.





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