So here it is: part 2 of my uni life series. Having just completed my three-year English degree, I’m looking back at the experience and thinking about what it’s taught me. I’m looking at living in halls, friendships, holidays, the academic side, and the top ten things I’ve learnt about myself.
In this post I’m thinking about friendships, both making new ones and maintaining your ones from home. I love my friends, but I also like knowing exactly where I stand with people, so the thought of being thrown into a sea of new people and new experiences, not yet knowing who I would click with and who I could trust was more than a little daunting. As I discussed in Part One, my friends were definitely not the people I ended up in halls with, so I had to open myself up to trying more new things on my own until I met more like-minded people.
The first thing that I pass on now to people who are nervous about starting university is simple, but often forgotten: everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is moving away for the first time, most people know nobody, and everyone is desperate to make new friends. It’s not like changing schools in year 9, where everyone already has established friendship groups.
You will not meet all of your best friends in freshers’ week. In fact, you’re very likely to meet none at all. There’s so many new things going on, a lot of excitement, a lot of drinking, and it’s easy to cling to people for fear of being left alone. And that’s fine. Just enjoy the beginning! Meet as many people as you can, and some relationships will fizzle away whilst some will stay. One friend who I met at the beginning was Olivia: we met outside the very first lecture on the very first day of term. I met Amy very early on – we both lived at the same college and walked to lectures together. Emily was in all my seminar groups right at the beginning. But there are plenty of people I was close to in first year who I barely see now! Many friends came later. Grace was initially ‘Olivia’s friend who might revise with us’, and when I met her she was fab. Jagoda was in my seminars in second year and I’m not sure how I got through first year without her! Tess was in early seminars, but we only really got to know each other later in the degree. And I underestimated just how quickly you establish a wide net of people who you might not talk to every day, but can have a huge chat to when you bump into them by the lake. At school, you tended to establish your friendship groups and you were comfortable. At uni, you have to make a bit more effort, but equally you have so much more choice about who to spend time with and who to avoid.
I’m sure most people spent the last day of sixth form vowing to stay best, best friends with every school friend. That’s just not realistic. When you move away, you realise that friendship takes work, and it’s not so easy when you don’t sit in the same classroom every day and have every teacher in common. As people move away and grow up, you naturally drift apart from many, and that’s ok. You’ll realise who you should stay in touch with, as they’re the people you’ll get a random text from, or you’ll meet up with each holiday and realise nothing has changed despite having been away for 3 months. You need to give yourself space to grow up and realise who you are and what you want to spend time doing. I don’t want to return home every holiday and revert back to the Sophie I was five years ago. The friends to stay in touch with are the ones that grow with you. Realistically, I’m only in close contact with about 5 or 6 people from school. I chat to lots more on Facebook, or at parties during holidays, but I prefer to spend the time now with the people I actually want to spend time with. That’s a huge lesson to learn as you get older.
I’m not going to say now that I know exactly who I am, exactly who all my friends are, and exactly who I’ll be close to in 20 years’ time. But what I do know is that friendships will grow, will alter, and some will fade more into the background as people grow up and grow apart. What’s important is putting yourself out there, meeting new people and having new experiences, and really making the effort with those people you want to keep close to you. It’s ok to know your own mind, and spend time with the people who build you up, rather than break you down.