My graduation was on Monday.
I am officially no longer a student, I’ll have to get a “proper” job and I can’t use “But I’m a student!” as an excuse for multiple Italian takeaways, bottles of vodka and bars of chocolate. In the words of my boyfriend, I have officially become a “real” person. (Apparently, before Monday I was a pseudo-person but now I’ve been upgraded to ‘full-on human being’ status.)
When I look back at the three years I’ve spent as a student I realise that under the University of Hull’s watchful eye I have changed in ways I never could have anticipated. It has taught me a lot of lessons (not just of the scholastic kind) and has given me swift kicks up the bum and a stern talking to when I needed it most. For this, I will be forever grateful.
But the most important lesson University has taught me is the value of independence.
I am a twin and so throughout my life I have always be compared to my sister and she compared to me. She was always there in my lessons at primary school, always there in my form at secondary school and always there in all my A-Level classes once we reached Sixth Form. We shared a life, a bedroom and friends.
I’m not sure I can really explain how comforting yet continuously frustrating it is to be seen as one half of a pair as you’re trying to grow into your own person. This made me determined that when I went to University, I would move out into student accommodation to finally have my own space and my own life.
When I was in year twelve, studying my AS Levels, I picked my most favourite University as my first choice through UCAS: The University of Lancaster. At the other end of the country to where I live, it would take three and a quarter hours on a good day to get there by train and, according to the AA Route Planner, about two and a half hours by car. I was convinced this was the perfect distance from home.
But results day brought bad news.
I didn’t quite get the A-Level results I wanted. So, instead of the University of Lancaster, I was going to the University of Hull.
Hull is my local city, only about fifteen minutes away by car. The prospect of seeing the same people and the same sights, using the same shops and the same buses I’d always used didn’t fill me with warmth. I wanted an adventure, to move somewhere completely new and exciting and see only completely new and exciting things.
But after drying my eyes, I squared my shoulders. After all, I could still have my adventure, I could still move out. I spent the rest of results day looking around The Lawns – part the University’s student accommodation – to decide on which building I was going to be living in.
On the Saturday I moved in to my student room, I pressed my key into it’s lock and promised myself two things. One, that I would make friends with everyone I met. Two, that I would throw myself into the life of a student.
But it was hard. A lot harder than I had imagined. It was hard waking up in a foreign room, using a foreign bathroom and being surrounded by people foreign to me. It was hard being away from the comfort of my room, my routine and most of all my family, especially my sister who had always stood by my side and braved every battle with me.
I broke down crying during my first week and asked my Mum to take me home. When I returned I was determined to stop being so silly.
But being away from home heightened all my insecurities and doubts. I was crying myself to sleep almost every night and felt I was worse than worthless. On Halloween, with my sister visiting me, I told her I wanted to move back home. She asked me if I was sure, if I was one hundred per cent positive that I wanted to leave. I hesitated, looking around my room. But I told her I wasn’t.
So, instead of moving back home, I emailed the University’s counselling service. I began weekly fifty minute appointments that I attended throughout my first year and into the summer holidays.
And slowly, steadily, I stopped crying and started to enjoy University life. I liked the freedom of coming and going as I pleased, being able to pop into town on a whim, being able to stay out as late as I liked and meet my friends whenever I wanted.
All in all, I liked my independence.
But it was still a struggle. I still had sad days and better days and days where I felt nothing at all. But I made sure to see my Mum and sister at least once a week and to come home whenever I needed to.
And soon I no longer just liked my independence, I loved it. And soon it was no longer frightening but freeing.
What has University taught you?