It’s now been nearly two weeks since I moved out of student halls and back into what I guess I have come to know as ‘my old life.’ All the boxes have been unpacked and the memories of first year at university are starting to become just that – memories. However, I don’t want to forget the year I have had quite yet and I don’t exactly feel like letting go so I thought that one last reflection on what has been one of the most miraculous, surprising and freeing years of my entire life was very much necessary.
From the moment I arrived at university and first set foot in my new halls last September I promised myself that I would give the student life my all. For the past four years really, my life has felt as if it was on pause, unable to move forward through the struggles I encountered with anorexia, my mental health and just generally not fitting in and so what I really wanted, more than anything, was for this to be my chance to fully press the play button on life once again. And, I can honestly say that I have thrown myself into everything I could have done and pushed myself further than I would have ever thought possible, and I know that it is for these reasons that I am sitting here today feeling so entirely satisfied and happy with all I have achieved in the space of eight to nine months.
One thing that didn’t really satisfy me and one of the first things that I learnt after moving is the truth about Freshers week because before I left home I guess I saw it as a highly important time where new friendships would form and I would perhaps instantly be able to know whether I would achieve the fresh start that I so desperately longed for or not. But the truth is that Freshers week, for the majority of the new student population, is simply a week where you feel incredibly ill and tired all the time but still also have a strong sense of guilt for every night you don’t go out and drink yourself into oblivion. I know I got to the end of it and really just wondered what I had to show for it which was, let’s be honest, a few new acquaintances on my Snapchat and some seriously bad dark circles under my eyes. But hey, it’s a lesson right?
And so Freshers week had not lived up to the hype and I have to admit I was a little worried that the rest of the university experience would be the same but luckily for me, over the next few weeks and months, I started to see just how amazing my life could be, providing I stopped obsessing over when and how things would change. And, in the end, it was sort of an accumulation of a number of things that finally made me see how great I really had it.
I know for a fact that one of the things that ultimately made my time so worthwhile was flat 22 and everyone in it. Student halls is definitely a bit of a lucky dip since no-one can truly know the people who will get on and those who won’t but for the majority of those I ended up living with, I now couldn’t imagine my life without them. Flat 22 became our little family – people to laugh with, cry with and generally make an idiot of yourself with and for someone who had always tried to hide the embarrassing or weird parts of my personality, it was amazing just to be forced to be myself and realise that everyone has their quirks – which turned out to be the best part of it. They say you never really know a person until you live with them and I am sure that when we meet again in September I will remember all the really annoying things about everyone but right now I am just so glad that I got the chance to get to know each and every one of my flatmates.
Another thing that has really made my experience of first year so special is the chance it gave me to restart my dancing again after having to stop nearly five years ago for medical reasons. The Edinburgh Napier Dance Squad was, I have to admit, a little bit more of a daunting aspect to get involved with, and I know that a lot of people even scoff at or look down at sports and societies but honestly, it has been great for so many reasons. I have met some amazing people, it has filled my schedule with something other than drunken nights out (although there was some of that too!) and it also managed to help me realise how much further I had to go in my anorexia recovery, which is something that I never could have foreseen it doing. It was dancing that first made me aware of how unfit my lifestyle was making me and how tired I would get compared to everyone else and I also started to feel frustrated by the anxiety I felt about having to eat my tea so much later as a result of classes. And so, along with a number of other factors, I really have dance to thank for how much more recovered I am now, compared to when I started university in September. And I have a feeling that dance will become an even bigger part of my life in second year because I managed to secure a place as Social Secretary on the new committee. The fact that people picked me for this role actually means more than anyone could know.
I guess that one of the last things I should probably mention though is the actual course itself which has been a bit of an up and down experience. In trimester one I loved it. English and film are two of my favourite things in the world and so getting to go in and study and talk about it really blew my mind for a while and the fact that I was only actually in for nine hours a week was very attractive too. But I don’t know if it was because the novelty had worn off or because I failed to engage with the modules so much in the second trimester but for me, something felt off. I kind of clawed it back at the end but I just seemed to see that there was a number of holes in what I was learning and I got seriously fed up of every single debate coming back to the theme of feminism. However, it remains a subject I love and so for that reason I am going back next year with a positive outlook and the hope of re-engaging with the wonderful world of movies and books even more. And I came away with merits for every module I took so it can’t all be bad!
But now I guess that’s it. I would be here all day if I went into exact details or the countless numbers of specific events which has made my year such a rewarding experience but I need to remember that first year doesn’t have to be placed in a box and cut off as something which has passed because, as cheesy as it sounds, going away and living independently and being placed in such a different setting has actually made me realise much more who I am as an individual and has made me a much better person in the long run too. Sure, I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things that I now really, really regret but what is first year for if not for making a few wrong turns now and again? And, now that I can clean a bathroom, have taken a real interest in cooking and actually have to think about my finances, I guess you could say that I am sort of an adult after all this! And for anyone nervous or unsure about taking this massive step in their lives, I can only urge them to take it. Going to university has been the single best decision of my life and I am happy to announce that the play button on my life is well and truly back on, and I can’t wait to see what new adventures are just around the corner.