Starting uni

Friday 18 September 2020, First year

by Chloe Brewster

Starting uni

Chloe Brewster

When starting new blogs, I realised long ago that I’m not really keen on the awkward ‘hi, I’m…’, a stereotypical introduction of oneself to a virtual audience of prospective or current university students. However, in my very first blog post for UCAS, introductions – at least on this occasion – are somewhat inevitable!

My basic details are thus: I’m Chloe (yes, yet here is another one!), 19 and am just about to head off to university, which will be happening this month. Yes, mere days stand between myself and the beginning of my studies which, if you had told me this a year ago, I wouldn’t have dared to believe. By this, I suppose that you can infer that things take a little while to sink in my mind – and, despite receiving my A-level results almost a month ago, a slight part of me is still wondering whether being accepted into university even happened. Whether my mind is willing to get used to this massive change in my life or not, nonetheless it is going to happen and, like numerous students in the same position as myself, I am bursting with excitement and perhaps some impatience to get started!

Therefore, you must be wondering why my heart races a little bit faster than an Olympic-winning runner at the very thought of attending university, but the reason for this goes far beyond meeting new people (an experience that I fully intend to immerse myself in!) and finding a perfect coffee shop close to campus (as there is never really an inconvenient time to have cake, right?). In fact, attending university is somewhat overwhelming for me because I will be the first in my immediate family to access higher education which, needless to say, means so much to me, particularly as my parents had always encouraged me to aim for my dreams and, after much hard work and revision (never will I forget the endless hours devoted to remembering critical quotes for Hamlet!), my dream has thankfully come true. Am I nervous about starting university? Of course – I don’t think that any student can truly declare that they have no qualms about embarking on a significant chapter in their lives, one which leads to greater independence, whether or not they live at home or stay in student halls.

Oh yeah, that’s another fact that I neglected to mention in my introduction: I’m staying at home during my studies. And no, my decision is not based on my so-called ‘inability’ to fend for myself, e.g. cooking meals or making my own bed, a negative stereotype that I feel is sometimes attached to students who are ‘missing out’ on the experience of becoming more independent by residing in accommodation close to their universities! My reasons for staying at home are quite on the contrary – my train only takes an hour, a period of time that can quickly pass while I read or work on my laptop during the journey; commuting is cheaper than staying in accommodation (not a legitimate excuse to splurge the remnants of my maintenance loan on shopping sprees at H&M); and I don’t need to renounce the job that I have just started, whose pay is quite impressive (at least for a student) and would be a valued help for my finances during my studies. Travelling to university is an independent feat in itself because I have to consider aspects such as the times and costs of trains, as well as the relatively reasonable distance between the train station and my university (do I walk or catch a bus? Decisions, decisions!), and how I can fit in as many activities and duties during my day before coming home, including clubs, societies and meeting up with friends. 

If anything, I’m probably feeling more anxious about the travelling aspect of starting university because much of it will be conducted toute seule; finding your way around a fairly unfamiliar city is not the most pleasurable experience if travelling alone! However, I (eventually!) managed to navigate myself through my former sixth form, despite being utterly confused as to where to go during my first week, so surely the same will apply to university? OK, university is clearly a thousand miles different to sixth form, but I believe that the key to regulating my fears (and occasionally racing heart) is to remain as positive as possible; the worst that may happen during my first week may be getting lost, but that is often unavoidable for most students!

Talking of my job, I will only be working on Saturdays from around 8.30 to half five in the evening which, despite seeming to be quite a long and exhausting day (particularly as I must be standing up to serve customers in a store during my shift!), is a commitment which I’m willing to make. Considering that no student must sign a contract to take on a part-time job during their studies, you might be curious as to why I seem quite gleeful about my role – well, earning some money in my own right fills me with a satisfying feeling, the type which you can only experience when you know that you have earnt the right to possess that money and, unlike my maintenance loan, it is forever mine and doesn’t need to be repaid! Also, let’s say that I consider myself to be a reasonably quiet person which, despite being a characteristic that I don’t want to renounce (as there is absolutely nothing wrong with being more observational and perceptive instead of having the loudest voice!), I’d like to channel into confidence, which I can gain by meeting customers and working as a team for my employer. Alas, gaining life skills – an attribute that people may easily take for granted – and money (mostly for my savings account, not to be wholly spent on trips to the Lindt store near my university!) are the key reasons for finding a job during my studies, which I don’t think will be a significant hindrance. If necessary, I can make a compromise by bringing one of the many books that I will be studying for my degree in English Literature so I can read it during my lunch break at work – in that regard, you might think that I will leave university with a BA in the Art of Multitasking!

Nonetheless, holding down a part-time job will only consume a small part of my university life, which I couldn’t be more thrilled to be sharing with the University of Leeds. Despite initially feeling out of my comfort zone when I travelled there alone several weeks ago – as places tend to seem without the company of others – I feel increasingly confident about going there from Freshers Week and beyond, especially as the city is filled with numerous hot spots without feeling too overwhelming (important for a girl living in a rural village)! While I complete the finishing touches to my preparation for university, including sorting out clothes to wear (a word of warning: a robust raincoat is a necessity for universities up north!) and planning which trains to travel to attend my lectures on time (and may sadly result in the sacrifice of some well-deserved morning lie-ins!), I’m all too aware that students around the country are beginning their UCAS journeys, eager to fulfil their aspirations of becoming university students like myself in a years’ time. If that applies to you, I have the following advice: be open-minded! From the course you intend to study to the opportunities offered by your university (studying abroad is another dream that I’d love to make true!), attending your open days and, finally, selecting your chosen universities requires a depth of objectivity so that you know that all of the pieces – like a jigsaw puzzle – fit precisely. If it hadn’t been for my then-new-found open-mindedness, I probably wouldn’t be heading off to Leeds this month for university, a decision that I couldn’t be happier to have made!

Coming up from me over the next few weeks shall hopefully include my thoughts on university life – such as finally being able to distinguish the difference between lectures and seminars (something that I could have researched this summer!) – as well as how I will be juggling my commute, part-time job and studies (with more books than ever to devour!). Yet all journeys – even those taking on life in the form of a blog – are always easier with some company or, in this case, an audience, so I couldn’t think of anything more gratifying than to share it with you and UCAS! 

Chloe xx 

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