The Pros: Would I Recommend Going to Uni?

It’s been more than three years since I left home at 18 and moved to a city 200 miles away that I’d spent little more than a couple of hours in. It was the start of my university career: one that saw me write countless essays, meet new people, have many ups and downs as far as my health was concerned, learn far more than I can currently remember, and spend a little too much money on books. So, with a little distance between my final deadline back in May and now, I thought I’d write two posts about the experience: the pros, and the cons. This, obviously, is the pros post. Here I’ll share what I loved about going to university, and some of the things you might be able to look forward to – or reminisce upon – about your own time at university.

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That ‘Uni Lifestyle’

In the months, and sometimes years, before heading off to university you hear many things. To name but a few: it’ll be the best years of your life, you’ll spend a lot of time partying (and a lot of time hungover), and you’ll meet friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Is it all true? No, not inevitably. Is there some truth to it? Sure! I loved moving to university, and leaving my old home behind. It was an adventure I’d been looking forward to for years, and I felt ready for it. I wanted the independence, I wanted to meet new people, experience new things, and live somewhere else. I got all of that. University is one of the biggest, most readily available opportunities for you to find a complete new start; a new environment, new people, the ability to make plenty of new impressions. Plus, freshers week? Basically a week to practice making your new first impressions over and over again before you really start to meet people the following week. Who could ask for more?

And now I’m going to try to stop saying ‘new’ for a minute.

Snapchat-2116391219Enjoying What You Do

One of the biggest factors you’ll consider when choosing to go to university will be the course. What you’ll spend your life studying or working for for the next three years (or more). You need to choose the course that is right for you, because if you like the course, you won’t mind doing the work for it. Dare I say it, you might even look forward to the work. A degree is an intense undertaking for most people and if you aren’t willing to work for it, you likely won’t finish it. So be as sure as you can, and it’ll make the hours in the library worth it.

Luckily, there is plenty of choice out there, so there probably is something for you. Some of my best memories of university are to do with the modules on my course. I studied English and History joint honours, so I had two departments to contend with. One of my first modules at university was an English Language module, much of which studied differences in regional accents and pronunciation. And as the 200-odd students in the room came from all over, every lecture was punctuated by the murmurs of students asking whoever was next to them to say something and laughing at the response. It’s not the worst way to bond, y’know.

DSC01332.jpgOther fond course memories come from a module where I basically learned about ghost stories instead of the civil war I was technically meant to be learning about; a module where I learned that in the middle ages it wasn’t unheard of for rats to be issued with court dates; and a module where I spent hours watching films in a language I couldn’t understand, a friend translating where she could.

The People

As I said earlier, going to university is the perfect opportunity to meet people – and to get used to meeting people. We all know it can be a hard thing to do, but simply starting a conversation with the person next to you by saying “hi” can do you well. It can feel strange, because almost as soon as you get to university you need to think about who you want to live with the following year, so you often agree to move in with people before you know them particularly well. Some friendships will last and sometimes you might end up with a housemate you can’t wait to leave behind, but it’ll all be valuable life experience.

And let’s not forget, while you’ll come away from university having experienced some weird things and encountered some weird people (I can guarantee you this much), all of those encounters will turn into stories you’ll look back at with amusement. For example, one of my first year flatmates claimed to have a phobia of shiny things and ended up somehow melting a neon green plastic piece of cutlery in the oven without noticing it. Extremely weird both then and now, but an anecdote which never fails to make people laugh.

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The whiteboards on our fridge in my first year flat were home to many a weird conversation

The Perfect Time to Be Selfish & Try New Things

Another thing about university is it’s the perfect time to focus a little more on you and what you want to do. It’s probably one of the best times to consider getting yourself a gym membership; universities sometimes give their students free memberships, often discounted ones, and local gyms regularly provide student rates. In my first year I was a member of a city gym near my flat; it was roughly equidistant to the university gym but cheaper and 24/7, so it was a little more flexible. In my second and third years, I moved to the other side of campus, so the university gym was nearest and I went there. With the flexible schedules most students have at university, it’s remarkably easy to fit in regular workouts if that’s what you want. And why wouldn’t you – increase your fitness, counteract the countless hours spent sitting down studying, great for your mental health…

Aside from exercise, university gives you the opportunity to explore many other things; you can try new activities wherever you live, take advantage of events the university runs, join societies… In my first year I had the opportunity to attend a radio recording at the BBC in Media City. A friend and I both came to the conclusion that we weren’t good enough at exploring Liverpool and the surrounding area during the semester, so after the January exams and summer exams we’d set aside a few days or a long weekend to do nothing but explore. It was a great help that northern trains are so cheap – I mean, £5 return for an hour’s journey each way? Yes please! Where I live, an 11 minute journey each way will set you back about £7.

Other opportunities I took advantage of included: attending John Boyne’s book launch for The Heart’s Invisible Furies; seeing ITV’s Victoria being filmed near campus (not something the university advertised, but something I stumbled across); and going to Haworth to see the Bronte parsonage and write in the special copy of Wuthering Heights that was created for Emily Bronte’s 200th birthday.

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One of the BBC buildings in Media City, Salford
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Writing in the handwritten Wuthering Heights manuscript for Emily Bronte’s 200th

A Trial Run at Adulthood

Going to university and living away from home is a little like a trial run at full adulthood. Budgeting, cooking, cleaning, getting yourself to lectures etc on time, figuring out how to self-motivate, dealing with landlords and agencies, finding places to live, finding your favourite supermarket, remembering when to put the bins out… All with just a little less pressure. By the time you’ve graduated, you’ll be ready and eager to start your fully adult life.

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So, that’s that for this blog post – all my pros about going to university! Soon will be the second post about the not-so-enjoyable parts, and whether they might outweigh everything in this post. Keep an eye out!

Voluntarily Out of Depth

This week marks the start of the second semester of my second year at uni – I’m officially half way through my degree!

The new semester means I’ve just started 3 new modules. And for two of them, I am completely out of my depth. I knew I would be, and that’s why I chose them. One of my modules isn’t even in either of my departments – I study English & History, but I was able to choose one in the Archaeology department for the history side of my degree.

I realised quite how out of my depth I was in my first lecture for my module in archaeology – on the Sumerians. The lecturer threw out a question and I sat there completely nonplussed until an actual archaeology student a few seats down from me shouted out an answer that was probably obvious to around 90% of the people in that room. I can guarantee you that his response would never have crossed my mind.

But it’s all part of the experience. The other module in which I feel I’m completely out of my depth is one on cinema & the making of modern India. I can safely say I have never in my life studied anything about India, and I’ve never even seen a Bollywood film. Thankfully though, the majority of students doing this module are equally out of their depth (the exception being my Indian friend & housemate who’s taking it with me, which is great). Our lecturer asked in our first seminar, just out of interest, why we’d all taken the module if we’d never had anything to do with the subject matter.

All of us pretty much agreed with our answers: why not?

The only reason I’m not entirely out of depth with my English module this semester (on Medieval Narratives, if you’re wondering) is because I happened to choose a history module last semester on the medieval period. That module gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of what we’re covering in the English module. (Reading Middle English is still going to be a challenge though!)

I always think that I came to university to learn about things I hadn’t come across before. I wanted a bunch of new experiences. And new experiences are going to throw you out of your depth – but that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it makes life more interesting, for one. Voluntarily learning about things you’ve not come across before broadens your horizons, and, as my lecturer for the India module pointed out, it makes you more interesting as a person.

Being voluntarily out of my depth is something I try to embrace in a lot of ways – it’s about conquering new challenges, figuring out different methods of approach. I like the challenge.

Stepping Stones & Statues

This Saturday just gone, I finally went to Sefton Park for the first time since I arrived at university. It’s one of those places people always tell you you should visit and I’ve kind of nodded along like “yes, I’ll go at some point” but been too busy to go (plus winter weather… not always great). But I woke up that morning and it was just so sunny outside, and I finally had the option of taking a day off essay writing, so I grabbed a friend and off we trotted.

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#nofilter #sun #summer #spring #liverpool #trees

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Sefton Park turned out to be about a 40 minute walk from my flat, but I was glad for the walk. Despite being here since September, I’ve yet to really branch out into different areas of the city, so it was fun to have a look around and go off in a direction I hadn’t before. Plus, the walk there was actually a lot prettier than I expected. Some of the houses were a bit of an illusion; they looked super thin from one angle but it was only because they came to a narrow corner. Reminded me of some West End buildings in London, actually.

The weather the whole day was absolutely gorgeous, and as someone who finds the winter darkness really quite difficult, I couldn’t have been happier about it (despite being of Irish descent and so, of course, got burned).

Our day at the park essentially consisted of ambling around, eating food and taking photos. It was seriously needed after the stress of the previous few weeks, that’s for sure! I brought my mini-speaker with me, so when we plonked ourselves onto the grass for a while to read (yes, yes, we still did uni reading, but it wasn’t much) we listened to a bit of Imagine Dragons – praise be to Spotify premium, which I did have on a 3-month 99p deal but have just purchased a contract to…

 

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I grew up in a town a little above London and around the corner from my house was a place we all referred to as “the lakes”, which I later realised that to every other person in the country this meant “the Lake District”, but it was basically a big park of open fields, hills, too many rabbit holes to count, and two large lakes. As such, I’ve sort of been accustomed to having wide open space near me, so this was really nice.

I would say that the park could do with expanding their Oasis Café, however. It seemed rather bizarre to have people queueing far beyond the doors and extremely little space inside. But it didn’t matter too much – we’d brought food with us for lunch on a bench overlooking the water, which was so nice.

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If you get a chance to go to Sefton Park for an afternoon, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s much bigger than I expected, and there’s no hint of being in a city! It’s like its own little world inside those gates.

Katy x