30 May 2018

University: A Reflection

This month marked the end of an era. 
For those of you who don't know, I've just completed a three-year degree studying creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University. I know it's clich√© but I can't believe how fast it's gone, the past three years have absolutely flown by. On the whole, the university bubble has been a crazy little thing. I've experienced a lot and changed a lot. I've grown up. 

With all of this in mind, I thought it would be nice to summarise my university experience in a blog post. It's not only for me to reflect but also for you to maybe learn something about university life.  I know I would have loved to read something like this when I was about to embark on this incredible journey. 

First Year 

The first year of university is commonly referred to as an 'adjustment period' because 'the first year doesn't count'. That's not a lie, it doesn't count for anything. It's the year that students tend to go out every night, spend all their money and socialise as much as they can (it's the only year they'll be able to do such things without feeling guilty). 

I moved into student halls and lived in a flat with three other girls. The flat itself was lovely, we were on the seventh floor, overlooking the docks, and we always had a perfect view of the sunset. However, I didn't fit in and we didn't create a huge group like I'd expected. I thought I'd create a strong bond with my flatmates and that we'd still be friends in 10 years time. Sadly this didn't happen, I had one close flatmate and that was it. I'm not a naturally shy person and I love meeting new people so I was surprised that I didn't click with anyone. The hardest part was seeing my friends from home make such tight-knit friendship groups with their flatmates. I felt jealous, let down and left out. I couldn't understand why I wasn't having the same experience. 

In terms of studying, I struggled. I hated it. 
I felt like I was expected to know a lot more than I'd been taught and I realise that no amount of a-level revision will prepare you for university. After having four months away from anything academic, it was all about getting back into studying again. And believe me, it's harder than it seems.

Originally, I started out studying drama and creative writing as a combined degree. I was this confident young girl, adamant that I wanted to be a drama teacher. However, this didn't go to plan. Studying drama was the worst decision I ever made and looking back, I wonder if I would have had a different experience at another university. I wish I could turn back time. 

Your first day at university is like your first day at school. You want to make friends, you want to impress and you want everyone to like you. It's nerve-wracking and I went through all the same feelings. But I had an added pressure. A demon of a drama lecturer. 

He was disgusting. That's the only word I can use to describe him. He made me feel worthless. He made everyone laugh at me countless times, and all at my expense. He made frequent comments about my weight and appearance (something I've struggled with from a young age). I was always told that I wasn't good enough. I remember him calling me gormless and doing an impression of me to everyone. They all laughed. 

I'd leave his sessions every week in tears. He'd always ask me  'why the f*** are you on this course?' and I never knew what to say. One day, I'd had enough. I turned around and said, 'I don't know' and I never went back. I was very lucky that this happened before the deadline to switch courses. I sent a few emails, changed a few documents and just like that, I became a single honours creative writing student.

The hardest thing to realise at university is that you're not at school anymore. Gone are the days of calling your teacher 'Miss' or 'Sir', a university is a place for everyone. You'll be in lectures with people twice your age and you all have the right to be treated like adults. I noticed that this lecturer treated the older students with respect, yet I got nothing. You're not a child anymore and you deserve to be treated like the young adult that you are. I wish I would have realised this sooner.

In terms of friendships, it was a strange year. I was trying to find out where I belonged, who I belonged with and just where I slotted into the university puzzle. Freshers was cool but there wasn't a social side to it and some of the societies I joined were simply boring.

I made a few friends on the drama side and mainly stuck with the combined honours clique. However, when I changed courses I was thrown back into the deep end and forced to start the friendship thing all over again. Luckily, I met these lovely ladies on my first day as a single honours student and I'm very lucky that they've stayed with me throughout.

Due to other events, I fell out with my college girl gang (which, now I look back, was a complete blessing) and I lost a lot of the drama friends who had listened to me cry countless times over that stupid lecturer. It's okay to be losing friends at university and again, I wish I would have realised this sooner. Every time you lose friends, you gain friends. Everyone is in the same boat and most people are very friendly.

I'd recommend joining facebook groups for your course and for your student halls. I found all of my flatmates on these groups and it means that you'll see some familiar faces on your first day, making things that little bit less daunting.

Second Year

The second year was my least favourite year. I can't tell you how many times I considered packing the whole thing in and dropping out. I was downed with a huge bout of anxiety which, in turn, meant that my social life went downhill. I realise this anxiety had something to do with my terrible start at university and looking back, I wish I could tell my lecturer just how much his comments both hurt me and changed me.

A creative writing course is very different because unlike most degrees, we don't sit exams. It's understandable because how can you sit an exam on writing? It's something that needs to be worked on over a long period of time (or in my case a few weeks!). The workload was so much more than I ever expected and because of my anxiety, most of my assignments were completed and submitted an hour before deadline. If I can give you any advice, please don't do this. It's a miracle I completed it.

In terms of living arrangements, I moved back home with my parents. As much as I loved living in my little flat, we had a lot of problems with student housing so I made the decision to make the move back home. I'll be honest, I loved it. I only live half an hour away from the city and as I was only in uni two days a week, it made more sense to commute.

I also got a job working in my local market as a Saturday girl on a hair and beauty stall. It was the perfect job to balance with my studies. I'm still working for them two years later and loving my job more than ever.

As I previously said, my social life went downhill. I felt like I didn't fit in and didn't belong anywhere. I was trying and struggling to get back to my old self. I'll admit, it took me longer than I thought. It was also the year that I fell out with my best friend of fifteen years. It was hard, I'm not going to lie. However, I realise that outgrowing friendships is part of growing up and is in no way a bad thing, as long as you are happy.

Looking back, I was in Disneyland Paris more than I was in lectures but I don't know how I would've got through the second year without it. It was escapism and introduced me to a gorgeous group of friends who I hold so close to my heart. I'm very thankful.

In a nutshell, it's a year that I do like to block out of my head because it's a year that I don't like to remember. However, I'm glad I made it through. I could have dropped out but I didn't and that is one of the things I am most proud of.

Third Year

The final year.
My favourite year.

The third year saw the biggest change for me, not only in my personality but in my happiness. I can say that my third year is the happiest I have ever been at university and although it's been stressful, I'm sad that it's coming to an end.

Socially, it's the best it has ever been. The group of friends I had on my course expanded and we have grown so close in this past seven months. It was the university friendship I always wanted and it's sad that it's happened in our final year. I lived at home again, my job was going well (working three days a week) and I had a great group of friends at home. It was brilliant.

The workload increased again and although everything was submitted on time, I struggle to think about how I would have completed the year without my circle of friends constantly picking me up when I felt like I wasn't good enough. We're a group of personal cheerleaders.

My confidence was at an all-time high, in both myself and my writing. My anxiety was reduced and it makes me wonder if I would have had more self-belief if I didn't have such an awful start at university. I need to learn to stop dwelling on that but his comments have been tattooed on my brain. It's sad to say, but I'll never forget it.

The whole last half of the year (January to April) was a whirlwind. As we don't sit exams or write dissertations, my creative energy was focused on a forty page script, a short story, a full writing project, a report and two essays. I stayed up until 5am, had two hours of sleep, went to work and spent every waking moment in the library. At one point, I felt guilty for sleeping because I knew there was work that needed to be done. I drained myself out and by the end of it, I was exhausted.

But, I did it.

I went to collect my results last week and I'm delighted to say that all of my hard work has paid off. I was graded with a high 2.1 in all of my assignments (0.4% from a first) which is pretty damn good if you ask me.

 If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that I've just had my graduation ball which was a beautiful night full of love, laughter and gin. We've also got the launch night of In The Red coming up, which I just so happen to be getting published in (a massive achievement for me).

It's incredibly exciting and I'm very thankful for all the opportunities I've had.

And just like that, three years at Liverpool John Moores are over. 

I'm hugely grateful to have had the opportunity to go to university because although it hasn't been my favourite period of my life, it's taught me a lot about myself and my values. Liverpool is a gorgeous city and I couldn't have picked a better place to study; it's inspiring and vibrant and the people are so welcoming. I'm very proud to call it my home. 

Looking back, I don't think my course was the right choice but I don't know what else I would have done. I needed to do something creative as an English degree wouldn't have been beneficial. I needed to be busy and doing things. I needed to create something. 

It just goes to show how vital those first few weeks of university are. If you're not happy with something, don't hesitate to change it. I nearly left it too late and I wish I would have spoken up sooner. I spent so many weeks facing abuse when a simple email solved everything. Well, not everything but you know what I mean. 

University will not be what you think it's going to be. Ignore the movies and the books because it's all lies. Guaranteed, you're going to have a good time, an interesting time BUT only if University is for you and you want to spend three years of your life studying and working hard (because it's the hardest you'll ever work in your life). Remember, you don't have to be doing what everyone else is doing. If you have the slightest doubt about going to uni, then wait a few years. It's not going anywhere. 

My final year was the toughest but by far my favourite. I've made friends I'll keep for the rest of my life and I'm thankful to them for simply being them. They've kept me sane throughout and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself - from looking over work to giving me hugs when I had various breakdowns in the library, I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend three years with. 

My tutors are some of the most inspirational people I have ever met and to have the pleasure of working with them has been brilliant. I would never have got through this degree without their continued support, coffee breaks and Horatio's spontaneous trip to Manchester Airport (yep, that's right, I had a lecture on a train headed for Manchester Airport). 

Overall, the experience has made me stronger and taught me a lot about myself. In some ways, I'm glad the whole drama thing happened because I learned that I don't have to take abuse from someone. I have a voice and I can use it, being myself is the best person I can be and there are always going to be people who will tell me that I'm not good enough - it's my choice to believe them. 

I can write, I am a writer and I'm incredibly excited to see what the future holds. 

'I never aimed for correctness, I just wrote fiction.' 

Lots of Love,


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