How was semester 1? Life update.

This is a highly requested and long awaited post so, as much as I am apprehensive to sit down and write it, I am also excited to share my views and shed some light on how I have been doing. Plus everyone seems to like my rambles and life update posts so its about time, as I haven’t done one in a while. As you are reading this I technically finished my semester 1 yesterday, although I am writing this a fortnight prior and pre scheduling it. That being said I don’t think a lot will have changed between now and when you read this! I honestly cannot believe that I have been at university for 12 weeks, it feels like the longest 12 weeks of my life but equally has whizzed by… its so weird. The days are long but the weeks are short, and it doesn’t feel like nearly half a year has gone by. University is one crazy experience, and my feelings are so mixed. I have not had the typical university experience and at first I thought that I was weird for not having it but I have come to the fact that I am fully okay with that, and this post is to show people that it is normal to not be ‘the normal’.  

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These photos were taken my the lovely Ami from our shoot last month in Manchester, and I love them. I will 100% be shooting with her again when she is back up in the north during 2019. If you want to check out more of her content then click here to be redirected to her site, she is a dream to work with and I would definitely recommend shooting with her. 

Anyway… back to the university update. This is going to be a super long post so I apologise!

Im going to say it now and be honest, its been a bloody hard 12 weeks and I am so glad to be back at home and not having to see Leeds train station (or Leeds in general) for over a month.  People make out that university is the best time of your life and for many people it is, but it is certainly not for me and I know it isn’t for a lot of people. More people I have spoken to don’t like it compared to the people who do! To put it bluntly… I have nearly dropped out a million times, I’ve been home more times than I can count (once a week at least, I’m currently on a train home now when I write this) and I have gone into survival mode just to get through it. I don’t want to scare people off university because some people thrive in that situation but I would rather give a realistic picture of what it is like for some people, as although many people do love it I feel like people who are struggling are overshadowed (and social media is 100% to blame for that). I have missed my friends from home so much more than I thought I would, because we were never the closest group but its so nice having people around you all of the time who just ‘get you’, and not always feeling quite uncomfortable around new friends. Don’t get me wrong, there have been good times looking back but I feel like there is so much pressure to enjoy university and to make the best memories, and quite frankly if this is the best time of my life then I’m scared for what the future holds!! 

I feel like I’ve changed, which is a weird thing to say as most people don’t admit it but I do know that I have changed as a person recently. I feel like I have become more independent, more aware of everything and everyone, and more responsible. There have been moments where I’ve had to pull myself together and take responsibility for some pretty serious situations, which I’ve never had to do before but I was so proud of myself for, well just doing it. Despite having moments where I have felt at my weakest, I do think I have gained a lot of emotional strength over the past 12 weeks and even if I dropped out right now (which I won’t!), I feel like the whole experience was worth it just to come out knowing myself and how I respond to stressful situations more, and having some more life lessons under my belt. I have also become closer to my family/boyfriend as they have both been my rock and helped me so much through semester 1 (trust me they have had to put up with a lot) and I feel like I have spent more quality time with people compared to when I had the luxury of seeing everyone everyday. Its nice to make the time to see friends as it always feels more special than just seeing them at sixth form, messing about in the common room is definitely something that you take for granted at the time. 

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Something surprising that I have found out about myself is how much I don’t like being on my own, which really shocked me. I am an only child so I have always been comfortable on my own and I do like my own company unlike a lot of people my age, but since coming to university I don’t like it at all. I don’t know, I’ve always just thought of myself as quite a ‘lone wolf’ until I moved, but now I really struggle to be on my own for long lengths of time without going into a state of overthinking and just feeling so much worse. I can’t sit in silence even now because it bothers me too much! I do think it reflects my mental state as when I’m at home and happier I feel completely comfortable with being on my own, but thats because I’m in my own house and more settled? I will happily sit and do something on my own upstairs if I know my family are downstairs etc, its weird. I don’t know how to explain myself but I think if you are the same then you will know what I mean! If I know its not long until I see my family then its okay and making plans with them has definitely helped me. 

This leads nicely onto my next point… dont be ashamed to go home a lot. I feel like there is so much unnecessary pressure to make friends and integrate into the city you are living in but if you don’t then that is okay. At the end of the day you are there to get a degree and whichever way you choose to do that is okay, as long as you get the degree that you want. I know that Leeds is not going to be my ‘forever home’ and as soon as I accepted that and didn’t try to force it I just felt so much better already. I’m so thankful that I am close to home because I can just hop on a train and be home in an hour, and I don’t think I could have it any other way (or it would have been 10x harder and I would have probably dropped out). If I don’t feel great I can see my family or my boyfriend in an hour, and thankfully everyone is so supportive of my decision to travel around a lot and stay at home most of the time. It is a very intense environment and I am so thankful that I can just pack a bag and be home in an hour whenever I want, and I think next year we are going to change the arrangements so that I am not actually living in Leeds (but that is as story for another day and another blog post!). 

Now onto the course, which is the whole reason that I am at university in the first place! It took me a whole to adapt to having less hours and days off during the week, and despite being a very motivated person I have found it a lot harder to be productive compared to at sixth form. I have gone from doing 20 or so very intense contact hours a week to doing 8 on a busy week, and I also have whole days off now which I didn’t have before (most Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have been off and the other days I only have 2 or 3 hours). It has been nice to have a lot more free time to do what I want and overall I feel so much less stressed, however you have to have a lot more self discipline as it is so easy to just put off doing work. Nobody is going to punish me if I don’t do it or don’t turn up, which gives me some responsibility that I’ve never had in my education before. Honestly if you didn’t attend lectures then nobody would know as you don’t have to sign in and there are sometimes up to 600 people in a theatre… its too easy to persuade yourself not to go and it often can feel like you are on some form of permanent holiday! It is a very different learning environment compared to everything I have done in education before (I’ve gone from classes of 15 to lecture theatres of 500), but I do really like everything not being so exam focused and instead looking at assignments which is always the way I work best anyway. I think politics is my favourite component of my degree, even though I have never done it before, and then followed by economics which I always knew that I was going to love (but I am looking forward to micro after Christmas). Philosophy is certain the hardest part in my opinion and I have really struggled (partly because I didn’t take the A level and partly because I hate not having an answer to everything), I know for a fact that I will be taking the least philosophy modules next year. That being said, overall I am really enjoying my degree and I do think I have taken the right course despite initial worries about philosophy. Its just pushing me to focus harder because I’m struggling!

One of the first things that people think of when they think about the university experience is making friends and going out. One good thing is that everyone is in the same boat and everyone wants to make friends so if you are in any situation there will always be someone to talk to. The only thing I would say is to not trust everyone and everything straight away. i don’t want to sound like an over worrying parent but its so easy to trust people and forget that you have known these people for only a few weeks, so even though you might think they are your friends for life you don’t actually know them that well. I have witnessed some pretty bad experience and you think it won’t happen to you, but I’m here to tell you that it will if you aren’t careful. Have fun, but keep an eye on your drinks and just be sensible… university cities are a breeding ground for horrendous experiences and even if you are the most sensible person in the world you are still at risk. 

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I have my extroverted moments but overall I am a pretty introverted person, and I feel like there is this expectation to go clubbing a lot when quite frankly, I would rather cuddle up in bed with a takeaway or go out for a nice meal than end up in my overdraft from partying everyday of the week. When I go on a night out I do enjoy it, but I am certainly not one of these people that can go out all of the time, we all know that I am a grandma at heart. I think I can speak on behalf of most universities in the UK when I say that it is really alcohol focused, which is fab if you are that type of person but if you are not then please know your own mind and don’t change for anybody. I didn’t do much of freshers because I felt so down and homesick, and I dont regret it at all, as although the nightlife is good it is not the end of the world if you don’t go on a lot of nights out. I still have friends at uni that I go to lectures with etc, and nothing bad happened to me because I don’t really go out. What I would say is that if you are like me and aren’t much a ‘clubbing’ person then you will need to work harder to make friends, as most people make friends on nights out and during pre’s etc, its not as easy but it is definitly still possible to meet people and other friends despite not going out a lot. One of my all time favourite quotes is ‘I would rather be hated for what I am than loved for what I’m not’ and it applies to this too, there is absolutely no point in having loads of friends that go out clubbing and you just go and not have fun purely because you want to have friends… because these are the wrong friends. I would rather do my own thing and be happier, and not feel pressured in the wrong group. One of my favourite memories of university so far is making a huge dinner for the whole flat, and it was such a grandma thing to do but it made me so happy… so why not do what makes you happy?

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Something that I have found out from moving to university is that I like having a space to call my own. When some of my friends have dirty pots piled up that takes up their whole kitchen, I have actually taken a lot of pride in cooking and cleaning and just having a little flat to myself. There are a lot of things about uni that I don’t like but having a flat is definitely something I do, which again indicates just how much of a grandam I am. I have come to the conclusion that I am not built for teenage life and I cannot wait to skip to the part of my life where I can just have a little house and a job, and just do my own thing without the pressure to make friends and go out and be in a location which in reality, I wouldn’t live in. Being in a city is an eye opening experience but I have learnt from it that I will definitely be living in a town once I graduate! I do love being a bit of a homebird though and tidying the kitchen etc, I don’t know why I love it so much. I think it jut grounds me and makes my life feel pretty organised. Nothing I love more than going to the supermarket and getting a big trolley full! Another thing that I have mentioned a few times on my blog is how I am enjoying doing more cooking, and I think I will post some ‘student friendly recipes’ on my blog early next year, so please let me know if that is something you are interested in!

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Honestly, I apologise for how long this blog post is… it has taken me so long to write but it has been so therapeutic just sitting down and writing about my experience so far, which has overall got off to a bit of a negative start, but is definitely starting to get better now. I am definitely not having the university experience that I thought I would have but I am 100% fine with it. I hope that at easter when I am writing my semester 2 review then I am slightly more upbeat and positive! University is a massive learning curve, from learning to actually live on your own to the emotional side of things and then you actually have to get a degree. Its a lot! There is this huge stigma about going to university and being fine straight away, but sometimes it takes longer to adjust and sometimes its just not right for you… and most importantly that is completely okay. If you feel like dropping out I would say to push yourself and then give you to Christmas, I was adamant about dropping out at one point and I know I feel in a position where I can stay… but overall your happiness and mental state is more important than a degree. I have now got to a point where I am indifferent, I don’t hate it enough to drop out but I don’t love it enough to make my life in Leeds and really feel integrated. Thats probably my fault for isolating myself more but its very easy to do that when you aren’t feeling yourself and the last thing you want to do is socialise! Check up on your friends, not everyone will say ‘help me guys I’m having a shit time’ (I’m one of those people) so checking in on them every so often is so important. I’m so thankful that my group are still close and it makes me so excited to come home and see everyone again. A whole month of normality (and no trains!) is exactly what I am craving!

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