“You’ll really find yourself at university!” was probably the most spoken phrase when discussing my future at Warwick. Everyone seemed truly convinced that a personality epiphany was awaiting me. In all honesty, I guess I was hoping some sort of transformation was just on the horizon, that I would suddenly become unapologetically comfortable in my own skin, and would mimic the statically laughing girls I had always seen on Instagram, donning my university hoodie and a pair of converse.
At school, I always struggled with feeling a little invisible, and somewhat removed from myself. I was never the centre of social plans or events, was definitely not invited to all the parties, and was even excluded from plans within my own group of friends. However, I got through these years of social and personal uncertainty by heralding university as the cocoon of transformation that I needed. A chance to reinvent myself and become the person I was so obviously always meant to be, but hadn’t yet become.
In the final month of summer, as I approached the day I would move into University and begin my “future”, my brain went into overdrive. I looked at the life that I had and, subconsciously at the time, began to alter all of the most major and consistent things within it. I began to eliminate the things that made me who I was at the time. I stopped contacting friends from home, wanting to distance myself from the unhappy years I had spent at school. I broke up with my boyfriend of two years, convinced that a single Freshers was necessary so I could spend as much time making friends as possible, and to fully immerse myself in University life.
Once I arrived, the FOMO set in. Every night out, I was game for. Every pre-drinks, I was at. I drank with the boys and gossiped with the girls, surviving on four hours of sleep a night so I could do all of this and still make my lectures. I pushed my body to the absolute limit (and not in a way that should be praised).
Throughout all of this, I made some amazing friends. I’ve had some incredible experiences and truly feel I squeezed everything out of my Fresher’s year that I could have. But now, with hindsight in my arsenal, I can look back and offer observations and advice.
Firstly, I want to let all potential and impending Freshers know that making friends is nowhere near the Crystal Maze level of difficulty that we build it up to be. Some of my closest friends from this year share, with myself, a total lack of knowledge as to how we met or began our relationship. Similar souls and personalities will drift to one another! Don’t stress about it, you’ll meet people and make friends in the most unlikely places.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge that Fresher’s FOMO is a thing, and you will all experience it! Equally, however, I want to reassure everyone that missing the occasional night out will not mark the immediate demise of your social life. Don’t put your work life under unnecessary stress for the sake of an extra couple of nights out a week. And most importantly, do not put your health at risk! My lack of sleep and candle-at-both-ends lifestyle lead to an illness so severe it was misdiagnosed as meningitis. No night out is so important that it is worth risking your health. If you feel under the weather, don’t push through. Relax and recuperate. Wednesday night sports socials will still be around once you’ve recovered.
And finally, if I could tell my past self anything, I would tell her that I’ve been the person I was meant to be all along. It’s the hardships of life, and growing up, shape you into the person you are meant to be. So, in hindsight, I denounce the concept of University as a ‘fresh start’. Don’t change who you are in a desperate attempt for a new, University 2.0 version of yourself. You’ll only end up further away from yourself than you have ever felt before. Embrace the natural changes, those that come about easily and even without you noticing! These changes are all part of growing and developing in a new environment. Push your boundaries, come out of your comfort zone a little, but always remain true to yourself. And trust in yourself and in the universe, it is unfolding as it should.