What I thought I looked like heading off for university.
It’s nine years this September since I packed up my belongings and took the two hour drive over the Pennines to Manchester to start my first year of university, nervous excitement fluttering in my belly.
I grew up in the sticks, and I mean the sticks. The village my parents chose to reside in was made up of three small roads, a handful of houses and a distinct lack of a shop, pub or public transport links. The nearest big city was well over an hour away so I had lived 18 years of a sheltered small town existence.
That said, at that point in time I did not know I had lived a sheltered existence. There was me thinking I was fashion forward with sophisticated taste and a worldly open mind; and compared to the majority of customers in store where I had my first Saturday job, I was. But moving to Manchester and living with a group of strangers from far corners of the country presented a huge shock.
Like most others I chose to live in halls of residence with other freshers. My parents helped me out to pay for this and as such I had a budget, I was really keen to have an en suite but to afford this I ended up in a location quite far away from the university. In hindsight this wasn’t important and I kind of wish I was a bit more in amongst it all.
My flat only housed four people, many others here in Manchester have you sharing with ten people and sometimes more. I think each have their perks, in a large flat you meet lots of people but they can get pretty disgusting having to share kitchens and bathrooms with that many people with many students having no concept of cleanliness. Although I had a nice clean and tidy flat I didn’t actually get to meet that many people within the halls other than my flat and the flat next door.
That said, I lived with three amazing girls all completely different and all made me realise how sheltered I’d been up until this time. The first girl came from another big city, her mum had a top job in fashion; she was effortlessly gorgeous with a huge designer wardrobe. Next up was a chick who had livedaway from home most of her childhood having been to boarding school and had just returned from a gap year travelling the world with loads of amazing stories to tell. Finally there was a party girl, a fantastic spirit who had experimented with pretty much every drug going before even starting university.
Me, I was the geeky girl from the country who had barely been abroad, had no idea what kind of trip you got from LSD and thought her French Connection jeans were the height of style. I must admit, I felt pretty out of my depth. I did my best to integrate with group and we were all great friends, but I was hell bent on finding ‘my kind of people’ and as such isolated by self from the group a bit.
Here’s the thing I later discovered… everyone is my kind of person. Everyone is unique and individual and of course I wasn’t going to get on with everyone but I should have been more open minded at the very beginning to try and get on with everyone. I met all sorts of awesome people with a different story to tell and together we taught each other. Being at university is all about the experience and helping you grow as a person, so in my opinion the more variety can get the better and these people have helped shape me into the person I am today.
No bridges burnt though, I loved the girls I lived with in first year and we kept in touch throughout uni. We had many amazing adventures together some more lame than others. One time we spent the whole day in bed watching film after film, then in the evening we thought we should probably get out of our PJs and go out and do something… so we went to the cinema and watched another one! We also had many crazy drunken nights and brought home the obligatory traffic cone.
Most of my good friends however were on my course. If I can give one tip for anyone going to university it’s get together in a big group during registration. I grouped together with a couple of people but one ended up dropping out after a couple of weeks and the other was living at home and as such wasn’t around after lectures for afternoon drinking sessions in the pub. Luckily I managed to latch onto another group pretty quickly after sharing several seminars with the same bunch of people, otherwise I think I would have been a bit lonely.
Going to university poses all sorts of challenges for different people. The experience taught me far more than just what we covered in lectures. By the time I got to my final year I was so comfortable in my own skin, I had the best time and I met people who I now count as my closest friends. It also prepared me for travelling to the other side of the world on my own, something I wouldn’t never have been able to do four years earlier.
I’m an awkward sort at times. Meeting people new makes me wary of who to trust, I don’t mind it easy to open up. In retrospect I just wish I’d jumped in feet first; no matter how isolated it might feel sometimes, or home sick, it won’t always be like that. Taking the rough with the smooth and throwing yourself into it is the best guarantee you’ll have the time of your life.