Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University
I've now officially finished my first year of university which is a very weird feeling as this year has flown by and it doesn't seem so long ago that I was moving into my little room in halls. This year has brought lots of ups and downs but, looking back on it, I know I definitely made the right decision with what I chose to study and the university I chose to study at and I have had a really good experience. So I thought I'd talk a little bit about the best and the worst parts of my first year at UNI, what I've learnt (other than the fact that there's only so many Jane Austen books you can read until you begin to want to bang your head against a wall every time you turn a page) and how I feel different since last September. I wasn't sure about the cliche that university is 'the best years of your life' back in November when my mental health was at a low, but I really do feel now that first year truly has been one of the best years of my life, because of it's difficult times and the things I've learnt from them and, of course, because of all the people I've met, the things I've done and the books I've read. The photos included are taken in my favourite area of Manchester, the Northern Quarter, with some of Manchester's signature graffiti, which I thought were apt for this post.
Freshers week was a weird one for me, as it probably is for everyone, but, really, it felt like freshers lasted for the first two months of university and they were probably two of the best. The novelty of being in a new city and constantly meeting new people was great and any sense of homesickness hadn't really kicked in yet so I was really able to soak everything up in a positive way. I was also really excited about my course as, at this point, it essentially just consisted of reading lots of fiction, listening to people talk about it, and discussing it, which really didn't feel like work to me.
November and December were probably the shakiest periods of my university experience, as I spent most of my time writing essays and less time socialising and the homesickness really started to kick in. It was difficult but it also taught me how to be resilient by myself and, although it didn't feel like it at the time, helped me to become more independent. It was also a time where a lot of the foundations of my current friendships were set, despite everything that was going on in my head, so, really, it was an important period of university for me. And, of course, it was Christmas, my favourite time of the year, which meant making the most of everything Manchester's Christmas scene has to offer from the Christmas Markets to seeing 'Nativity!' at The Palace (a highlight of my year- truly a masterpiece.)
After some much-needed time at home with my family and a couple of weeks of revision, I went back to UNI feeling much better about myself in January and one of the first things I did was sign myself up to the university's counselling service, which helped me immensely and allowed me to enjoy semester two so much more than semester one whilst being in a really good mental place. Whereas the first semester's socialising activities consisted mostly of going out and drinking, I was now socialising in lots of different ways too, which was definitely a really positive thing. With the strike period during February and March came a period of uneasiness as there was nothing forcing me to leave my room and see people but it also allowed me to socialise at different times meaning I could do different things, get some extra hours at work (I worked as a Secondary English Tutor at high schools around Manchester for pretty much the whole year) and spend some more time on my extra-curricular activities, which is when this blog started coming into the works.
The post-strike period is a bit of a blur to be honest but I think it mostly consisted off doing lots of reading, writing essays and spending time with friends and then, before I knew it, I was back home for Easter for a few weeks. This was the period when I actually started my blog and since then, I've been feeling constantly inspired, if also constantly busy. I went back to UNI for a few weeks and juggled probably the most work I've had all year with essays to write, exams looming, lots of extra tutoring hours and writing for my blog 3 times a week but I feel like I managed pretty well and the fact that I was feeling a lot more content in myself and with the people and places around me definitely helped me to de-stress. I then spent a week in Corfu, which I won't go on about because social media has definitely seen enough of that trip, came back to sit my exam and before I knew it it was my final week of first year. This week feels like it was the best yet because Love Island started. No, I'm joking it wasn't because of that although watching Love Island with my friends in eachother's rooms was definitely a highlight of the week and it really was the best week of first year for me. I spent the entire week with my friends and finished it off by going to Parklife, which was one of my favourite weekends and festivals in so long. I said it on my Instagram but it was the best way to end my first year at UNI because it was so much fun. But also because drinking and 'partying' are things that usually make me feel very anxious but it was a totally anxiety-free weekend, which made me feel so happy and proud of myself. The fact that my first year ended in the best way possible makes me feel so optimistic for the rest of my time at UNI.
I'm home now and have been for a couple of weeks and I'm already missing my friends and university generally. Although I'm definitely going to make the most of this summer, I have a new job that I'm loving and have some plans to go away, it's such a nice feeling to know I'm already looking forward to going back to UNI in September because 7 months ago I couldn't have imagined myself feeling this way. I absolutely love studying English Literature, feel so lucky to have met some amazing people and Manchester is such a vibrant and exciting place to be (even if Liverpool will always have my heart). I've learnt so much about myself this year, mostly how obsessed I am with working hard and being busy which, although does carry some negativity which I'm trying to let go of, has made this year very worthwhile and meant I truly have got lots of shit done. With this though, I've realised that grades don't mean everything and have made myself busy in lots of areas of my life, not just UNI, thanks to the reassuring mantra of the student, 'first year doesn't count'. This has allowed me to expand myself in lots of different ways but has also improved my mental health so much and I'm now in the best place I've been in a long, long time.
I'm sure the next two years of university will fly by and so I'm determined to make the most of them in every way. I'd especially like to take advantage of all the wonderful things Manchester has to offer next year as one thing I haven't done enough during first year is explore the city. But, as I said, I have a few months till I'll be back- living in a house not halls (yay!)- so I'm putting that to one side for now so I can enjoy my summer. I hope you've enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear about your university experiences in the comments!