I had amazing friends, I looked forward to going to my classes, and the amount of eighteenths that I attended meant that I was never bored at the weekend. I know that sixth form was not the happiest times for everyone, and I definitely did work extremely hard for my results.
I remember sitting in my study at times just wanting my revision to be over. But that does not mean that I did not enjoy my life as a seventeen/ eighteen year old, and so coming to uni was the biggest shock of my life.
Coming to uni was the biggest shock of my life
I was full of all the old “my life is going to be amazing at uni”. I thought that it was going to be a fresh start where I would become an independent person. I truly believed that I would find my passion for exercise, I would wake up at 6am each morning in my halls to practice yoga and then make smoothies and then smash the library out until 5pm. After all, all the glossy magazines show women excelling on their own, being independent women who fall at no obstacles, don’t they? So, why should I be any different.
My reality fell far short from that, however. Far from being an avidly healthy eater, I turned to comfort food. My mum has always been an amazing cook at home, and so adjusting to cooking for myself was hard. I had greatly overestimated my cooking skills, and the amount of times that I asked, “do you think my chicken is cooked” to my flatmates, surely proves that I was not a natural chef. I felt a failure in this respect.
Not only that, but my exercise goals fell out of the window too. I was supposed to be passionately walking to the gym early in the morning, and yet instead I was in bed until 10am. I have never been a lie in type of girl, I love to be up and being productive with my day. Yet why did this not happen at uni? At home, the weekdays were for working and the weekends were when I would get up and enjoy the morning of filter coffee and some fresh fruit for breakfast. Yet at uni all of my days blurred into one. Although I obviously had uni in the week, my whole nine hours did not greatly distinguish this for me, and because of that I was not finding the time to fulfil my exercise goals.
The marking was so much harsher, the independence that you have to exert in finding your own materials for essays as well as the lack of face-face contact were all new to me
Finally, the work at uni was a big transition. At home and at sixth form I had put in the hard graft, but it seemed to pay off. So, when I handed in my first assignment at uni I did not realise how hard it would be. The marking was so much harsher, the independence that you have to exert in finding your own materials for essays as well as the lack of face-face contact were all new to me. And when I was slightly disappointed with my first essay (which did not even count to my final mark for the year), my family were not physically there for me when I got back from uni to discuss my disappointment. Of course, I could always ring them, and they had made it very clear that they would always only be a phone call away when I needed help…but it is not quite the same.
Adapting to a new way of life is never easy, and it is going to be full of bumps. My unrealistic expectations that I had set for myself were holding me back from having fun
And so I spent much of my first term thinking that I had failed at my new uni life. But that is far from the truth of what had really happened. I had been transitioning. Adapting to a new way of life is never easy, and it is going to be full of bumps. My unrealistic expectations that I had set for myself were holding me back from having fun. It takes time to carve out a life for yourself that you enjoy, and it takes mistakes along the way to perfect it.
Now in second year, I am grateful that I felt these feelings. I have now learned to enjoy cooking. After thinking that I would never be good at it myself, I can now make meals that I enjoy. I may make some mistakes now, but that is okay! I can cook, and if it goes wrong I move on with my life.
The lack of exercise that I did in first year has only served to teach me how valuable it is to keep fit. For my mental health, I know that I need to go to the gym, go on runs or do some home workouts. It resets my brain after a day of work, and when the sun is shining and I am on a run, it reminds that there is more to life than that one assignment that is bringing me close to tears. But I would not have realised just how integral it is to my happiness without missing it in first year.
And finally, my grades. University is always going to be hard. It is a huge step up from sixth form, and your support network is not the same as it was. But criticism in essays is not criticism about how well you are doing at uni. It is designed to help you improve, to develop your critical voice. I am thankful that I learnt to adapt my work from the start, and to take on board such comments from the get go. It pushes me to my limits and it makes me strive to improve.
And so, no matter how much you personally think that your life will never be as great as it was sixth form, look at the bigger picture. Look how much you have grown, learnt and adapted. You are a successful uni student, whether you believe it or not.