Friday, 28 June 2013

My University Experience

I handed in my dissertation proposal last month, which has got me thinking about the past two years of my life and my experiences so far at university. There are a million other posts like this out there of course, but I felt like adding my two cents into the mix.  I know a few of you will be thinking about going to university at the moment, my little sister is currently looking at open days and preparing for her UCAS application. I'm not the typical student, I live at home and attend my local university, mainly because I couldn't stomach living with five strangers. Tolerance isn't exactly my forte and I would genuinely pity anybody who ended up having to live with me, and so I stayed at home and decided to commute.

My five years at school were a nightmare, for various reasons. I left school and went to college, which I loved. At this point I presumed that this was because people were a lot more mature and that they actually wanted to be there, and so I'd be happy in education from that point onwards. Wrong. 

Not enjoying university is a strange phenomenon. I started off with a degree in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. My first day was a blur. I missed college, I missed my friends, and I was completely underwhelmed. It didn't help that I had skipped Freshers, and that was all anybody could talk about. Nobody seemed to quite understand why I skipped it and why I wasn't interested in it. Then my first week of lectures began, and I started to realise that I was dreading having to go. Creative Writing wasn't as free and inspiring as I was expecting. I felt like I was constantly being judged by the other students when I had to read out my work from the onset, which is something that I had never ever had to do before and something that I was absolutely not comfortable with. I was seeing how much of good time everyone else was having on Facebook and coming to the conclusion that there was something wrong with me. And so I decided to bite the bullet and arranged to speak to the course leader about changing courses, and I switched to English with Philosophy.

Now, I'd already been at university for about a month when I changed. It was technically too late to change but they let me switch regardless. Changing courses midway was a lot like moving schools. I had to attend different lectures, and worse still, different seminars. I had to try and function and fit in with a completely different group of people. People who had already met and known each other from the start of term. I am not the most sociable person. If I can, I'll sit in the corner and read and not have a conversation with anybody for as long as possible. So, as you can imagine, this prospect was really quite terrifying for me. I had to really push myself out my comfort zone and force myself to speak to people and to try and adjust. This where things began to look up for me.

Everybody in my seminars were incredibly nice. People either presumed I'd always been there (students aren't exactly known for their high attendance), and the ones who knew I had moved were welcoming and helped me catch up, and the lecturers helped me get up to speed with the course. I had to do double the work to get caught up with what I'd missed, but it was worth it. Within a month or so I was completely settled in. The good thing about the Philosophy side of my course is that it's an incredibly small group. Everybody knows everybody and it really helped me adjust. 

The second year is a completely different experience from the first year. At my university you get to choose your modules in the second year which is extremely liberating. This meant that my course was a lot more interesting and by that point you know people from your seminars and you are used to the work and the university structure. If you are in your first year and you aren't enjoying it, I would hang on and see what options there are for the second year, because I have enjoyed my second year so much more than my first. 

I'm a local student, so my experiences are completely different to those who live in halls. I have to commute to university on the bus, which takes about an hour and a half both there and back, depending on the traffic. This means that I wasn't able to meet people in halls like everybody else; I had to meet people in my lecturers and seminars instead. I'm also not the sort of person to go to clubs. I'd much rather go to see a band. It doesn't help that my last bus home is before midnight, so I don't tend to go out. This doesn't mean that I haven't made friends. There's such a wide variety of people at university that you are bound to meet at least one person you like. I go out for coffee or for lunch with people a lot instead of going out at night.  You do have to make a bigger effort to meet people yourself when you live at home, which is a challenge for somebody like me, but I think in a way, this has helped me quite a lot. 

If you are thinking of staying at home and travelling to university, I'd consider first the transport fees and what the best options for you are (bus passes cost me £600 a year) and the time it takes you to commute. My university also likes to presume that we all live nearby. The amount of times I've turned up and discovered my lecture has been cancelled are too many to count on my fingers. They also like updating my timetable and telling me that I have a lecture in an hour. Despite all of this, it is a lot cheaper than living in halls, and so I think for me it has worked out really well. 

So, to those of you who are starting university this year, don't stress about it too much. Everybody is different, and at the end of the day, you aren't there for very long. Everybody is in the same boat so there really isn't anything to be afraid of. Societies are also a great way to meet like-minded people if you struggle to make friends (when they don't clash with your timetable). I'd also recommend that you persevere. I was so, so tempted to drop out when I was hating it in my first few weeks, but now I'm extremely glad that I didn't. Also, if you aren't happy, speak to somebody! You are paying to attend university and the staff are there to help you. Finally, don't believe the hype on Facebook. Sure, you might feel that way and love it like 'everybody else' but there's also a chance you won't. And if you don't, it isn't abnormal. 

I'm not sure if there is an actual point to this post or not! If anybody has any questions about my experiences with university or with my course, feel free to ask! I'd also like to apologise for the length of it...

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!


  1. I'm actually so glad you wrote this, I thought I was the only one living at home, struggling with public transport AND changing courses! It's great to hear everyone welcomed you in English and Philosophy, it's hard enough going to uni in the first place, let alone having to change subjects and meet another load of new people! It's a shame your Creative Writing was so open and reliant on reading things out in front of the class, I only ever read out my work once and I read it so fast, nobody could criticize me because they hadn't heard what I was saying anyway! Best of luck with your final year and your dissertation, you'll sail through it :D xx

    1. It certainly felt like I was the only one too! Most of my friends at uni think that I'm crazy for having a three hour overall trip on the bus every day. Changing courses definitely made things more difficult, but it turned out for the best. Haha, that was what I did too! I think if I'd been comfortable with the group I was in (I wasn't) I'd have been much happier. Thank you, the same to you! I can't believe that I only have one year left!

  2. I graduated some time ago, but similar to you I lived at home. The first year that was particularly hard - everyone else seems to be having a great time partying all night and getting on fabulously. I always felt a little on the side, though as a trainee librarian there were several other goths / alternatives on the course with whom I became relatively good friends.

    You've broken through the hard part, and you are on the home straits. It's a shame you've had a less than stellar experience with the creative writing. I did a part time MA Creative Writing in a class of about 10 people. It didn't give me quite what I expected and the teaching was a bit lax - but there were very strict rules about constructive criticism that we all upheld and were overseen by the lecturers. It also helped that we had some amazing guest speakers (David Almond being a particular treat - he brought in the first treatments of a book he was doing with Dave McKean. I wanted to steal the pics!). I would say that I didn't learn to write a book on the course but I did learn (the hard way, with terrible marks when trying to write what I thought people / the lecturers wanted to read!) to trust my own voice. Sounds simple, in reality it's not.

    I'm rambling! I hope you keep writing. I dip into getting feedback even now from a core of 4 or 5 people I met on the course. I was the course weirdo in a way, writing urban fantasy, but what it made them realise was that fantasy can be written with a literary bent (one day I may be China my dreams!).

    Best of luck with your final year, and whatever you decide to do afterwards.

    1. I agree, the first year is by far the most challenging socially. I'm not the sort of person who makes friends easily so moving courses was particularly difficult. I think with Creative Writing I'd have been happier if the people on my course had been people with whom I was comfortable with - I didn't like or get along with the majority of them in my group and it made having to read out my work particularly daunting. It didn't help that my seminar lecturer wasn't somebody who you could speak to comfortably. It was a shame because I was really looking forward to the course and I was disappointed when it wasn't what I was expecting.

      I write almost every day now just for the practice. Even if nobody else is reading it it's still a start I suppose!

      Thank you! Best of luck to you too!

  3. Hellow,
    Here things are a bit different, it's totally the opposite, there is like 3% of the uni population living in the college dorms, they are few, hard to enter and mostly occupied by people that come from the north, interior or south of the country to study in the capital.
    Not only that but entering its quite hard, since you depend on a national exam to enter if you are under 23. And if you are like me that never had this discipline you need to enter the course you want in your live , study for that alone, in my cause Math, its not as simple as it seems.
    I do hope I enter this year but at the same time I already lost that hope since the exam was quite demanding, and working 8 hours shifts and preparing didn't turned out ok.
    I always imagine Uk unis as something different(Oxford is like every girls dream hein ), and indeed they are, thank you for sharing your path with us. And congratulations on your second year and finding your own way through.


    1. I hope you manage to enter and best of luck with the exam! The universities here do sound very different. Here you enter university on a points score based on your A-Level results(it's kind of confusing)the higher marks you get the more points, and the better universities demand more points and so on.

  4. Thanks for your post! I majored in creative writing at my university and also decided not to live on campus. However, they have "metro learning centers" here for the various colleges so you can take classes at a different building closer to your home, versus commuting. Sometimes I wonder what kind of person I'd be now if I had lived in a dorm on campus. The idea of having several roommates didn't appeal to me and I wanted to save money. I'm not big into partying, either. Overall I'm glad I did what I did, even if I missed out some socializing and typical "college life." I'm glad things got better for you after you switched courses! That is a shame - I loved my creative writing courses so much. I graduated in 2010.

    1. I sometimes wonder that too! I am glad that I chose to live at home (I've saved nearly £7,000 so far!) even if it means that I have to commute. I'm glad you enjoyed your course! I think if the circumstances had been different I may have enjoyed it, but it just wasn't for me, which is a shame because I do love writing. I am glad that I switched because the modules on the course I'm on now are so much more suited to me.


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