1st Year Studies - Starting (and Changing!) Universities

Thursday 4 July 2024, First year

by Chloe Brewster

1st Year Studies - Starting (and Changing!) Universities

Chloe Brewster

Almost two months since my university journey commenced, it is fair to say that I, like other uni students, have gained a multitude of experiences which, as I write this on a Saturday night with my mind somewhat foggy after finishing a strenuous shift at work, is quite overwhelming to think about. In fact, most first-year students would tell you that the first couple weeks of university are madly busy, often to the extent that it is easy to forget the ‘little’ moments which, if you were not facing so many tasks at one given time, you would definitely remember!

However, I’m enjoying the fast-paced nature of university life – although this opinion will probably change when deadlines for essays loom even closer! – because, as each week passes, I’m growing more settled in my transformation into a student in higher education, a status which I’m extremely grateful to declare as mine.

Yet, as the title of this post suggests, the beginning of my university studies has not necessarily been a smooth one which, when I was experiencing these events at the time, made me feel somewhat isolated as I did not really know of anyone who had shared similar experiences. Therefore, I hope that my post could enlighten you on several truths which are not always obvious and considered.

Initially, my plans were to attend a university up north to where I live, one which I absolutely adored for its diverse and fascinating modules, as well as its location and, well, the university itself – obviously important when you are deciding which university you want to select as your firm choice! On paper, this seemed – and, in an ideal world, should have been – a straightforward process, as I believe students are typically led to believe when applying for university, but life can definitely be unpredictable and not always in your control, as time would later tell. 

To cut a long story short, I needed to get braces (thanks to my not-so-wise wisdom teeth!) which, if you are 18 and over, are not funded by the NHS. Therefore, I decided to pay for my orthodontic treatment myself, which is not cheap but an invaluable investment for my dental health and well-being in the long run. But paying for student accommodation – an increasingly expensive component of student life – and braces are not a pocket-friendly combination, hence my decision to commute to my chosen university so that I could still fulfil my ambition of accessing higher education whilst not compromising my dental health.

In fact, I wasn’t overly bothered about commuting to university because, throughout my educational ‘career’, I always had to commute some distance to school, so the thought of not being able to enjoy morning lie-ins before heading off to lectures didn’t sadden me too much. In my opinion, if you want something, you have to be willing to make a few sacrifices if it is necessary – a lesson which I’m sure many students are learning (or will learn!) during their studies, albeit possibly for other reasons.

However, there is definitely a clear distinction between a minor sacrifice and plain silliness, as my commute to university proved to be. From travelling for some time on a bus to the town in which I would catch a train lasting at least an hour to walking some distance from the train station to the university (have you lost track of my journey?), commuting to my original university was basically too much because it left me with no time to use the facilities available on campus and even join clubs and societies due to starting and finishing late in the evening. I appreciate that commuters to university may encounter more challenges in gaining a social life because of not living among fellow students – once again, nobody can claim to have it all and there is nothing shameful in admitting to it! – but making friends (and seeing them!) at university was difficult because of the duration of my commute, which was exhausting after experiencing a full week of lectures and seminars. 

Consequently, I made a sudden decision to transfer to a university closer to where I live – only a reasonable bus journey away – after two weeks of studying at my original university because my original plan was simply not working out. And am I embarrassed about it? Not at all. In fact, I would have felt frustrated with myself if I had not been honest about how I was feeling, which would have only worsened as time would go on. In this sense, being courageous to do the right thing for yourself – even when you don’t always want to let go of what you love, as I felt for my original university – is part and parcel of becoming an adult, as student life should teach you! Indeed, regret would have left a bitter taste in my mouth if I had decided to not attempt commuting to my original university because, unless you try certain things, you can never be entirely sure whether it will work out for you or not. 

As you are probably wondering, how am I getting on at my new university? After securing a place there via Clearing on UCAS – on the final day before it closed for 2018 admissions (talk about a bit of drama in transferring universities!) – I registered on the following Monday and started attending seminars and lectures on the same day. Although my first week overwhelmed me because of having to get used to a new environment again, I settled into my new university more quickly than I expected and, nearly a month on, I’m fully up to date with some of the work that I had missed and am looking ahead to upcoming assessments and essays. 

What I’m really enjoying about my new university is the fact that I have time to stay there for as long as I wish – therefore, I can make the most of going to the library and furthering my studies, which will definitely be beneficial for my grades in the long term! And, if I want to sign up to any clubs or societies (hello Feminist Society!), I can arrange for transport home so that I can stay in the city in the evenings, which offers greater flexibility for me. 

And, without a doubt, my lecturers and tutors have been incredibly welcoming towards me, even taking the time to have inspirational conversations with me about how they pursued their studies – a generous, yet meaningful gesture which has really impressed me. Asides from reading Oliver Twist the other week (yes, I still couldn’t avoid Charles Dickens after transferring universities!), I actually prefer the syllabus at my current university, which encompasses a more diverse range of texts which I’ve (mostly!) enjoyed studying. And, when you consider that university is supposed to be about ‘studying’, that should be the most important thing, right?

At the end of the day, there is not typical ‘student lifestyle’ that you should be leading at university, whether you are residing in accommodation or staying at home. Of course, transferring universities is not an easy decision to make but, considering the speed with which UCAS Clearing sorted out my request and the way in which my new university assisted me in settling in without making me feel like an inconvenience, it is one that I cannot regret!

As for the ‘braces situation’, I got them last month and am about to have my first ‘check-up’ appointment in a few days’ time (aka tightening the braces) – it might be wise to take some of the paracetamol that I store in my pencil case for that appointment…