This is the second post in my University Experience series. You can get all caught up with exactly how I picked my university and course in this post.
All moved in to my relatively spacious halls of residence, I knew from day one that it wasn’t going to be the typical ‘uni experience’ – whatever that means.
First Year Housemate Woes
I picked a university in a Surrey town, about 30 minutes from Central London by train. While I enjoyed living in the town (as I stayed there for a few years after finishing my degree), what really irked me from the start was being put into university accommodation with people I did not know.
I’ve never really been one to initiate conversation (although online it can be a different story) and this did not bode well for my living experience. The people I was living with were not the type of people I typically enjoy being around so, looking back, I distanced myself from them a lot.
Conversation was pretty stale and this culminated in a passive aggressive page of A4 paper being taped to the fridge, stating who was to take out the rubbish on what days. Now, I don’t have any issues with doing my share of the housekeeping, but when you are living with 4 other people who are cooking all sorts of student disasters, hosting endless ‘pre-drinks’ and you are alienated from it all, why should you play by their rules?
So, I became ‘that person’. I cooked dinner at 2 and 3 in the morning to avoid anyone else being in the kitchen when I was. I refused to ‘chip in’ to buy household items in bulk. I supplied myself with my own luxuries. I disposed of my own rubbish on a daily basis and cleaned as I went along.
Needless to say, my explanation of this did not go down well. One of the housemates decided to attempt late night confrontation. She knocked on my door and asked if we could discuss the ‘garbage issue’. When I clarified the above and objected to disposing of other people’s rubbish (which was often dripping from bin liners), that seemed to be the final nail in the student halls coffin.
I wanted out.
My University Course
Being quite a niche, creative university, there was a jarring lack of diversity. While many boxes were ticked on the multiculturalism front, when it came to scope of other interests that people had, there was a seemingly distinct lack of options beyond Pretty Little Liars and finding the cheapest vodka possible. Everyone seemed fashion crazy.
I had picked fashion journalism as my degree and turned up for the journalism element. I had thought that fashion would be a nice slant on a primarily media based degree.
By the time Christmas ticked around in my first year, none of my living acquaintances were speaking to each other, apart from two of them. One of the other girls even took to moving her boyfriend in to her tiny, single bedroom – things were grim.
Alone Time At University
In case you couldn’t tell, halls was a pretty lonely time for me. I ended up going home every 2 or 3 weeks on an eight hour bus ride. Luckily, my course had was engaging enough to keep me from completely dropping out.
Now, you would be forgiven for thinking ‘OK, so your housemates weren’t great but at least you had your uni friends’. Well, you would be wrong.
That’s right. For the entire duration of my course I had nobody. I’m not just saying ‘nobody’ when actually I had a group of a couple of people that I could always sit with in lectures. I mean absolutely nobody. For 3 whole years. Not one person.
I’d show up to my lecture. Sit by myself. Take my notes, do my work and leave. I honestly doubt if, by the end of my course, anyone even knew my name. I did get a really good result for my first year though which motivated me to keep going in my second year.
My Second Year At University
After going back home for an almost 5 month summer, I returned to university to start my second year. Out of halls, I moved in to a shared house with two young professional guys and an Italian girl who was a first year student.
By Christmas of my second year we had all bonded the way I suppose university friends are meant to. Living in this house was such an unusual experience and so much fun. It felt so good to finally have some friends.
In terms of my actual course, there were elements of second year that I enjoyed. However, a large part of second year consisted of a group project making a magazine. The project involved four months working with a group of girls who didn’t know my name, ignored my ideas and vetoed my suggestions at every opportunity. When you are stuck on a course where nobody knows you, it was a long four m
When nobody on your course even recognises you, four months working with a group of girls who didn’t know your name, ignored your ideas and vetoed your suggestions at every opportunity, it was not going to be fun. Inevitably, it sucked.
As a result, I did the minimum required work for me. I made it obvious that I hated the project. I skipped their ‘out of hours’ group meetings and turned my own work in separately. (I still got an A for my own work). I thought making a magazine would be fun. It wasn’t. All of this was in preparation for third year where lecturers hoped we would all make our own fashion magazines for publication.
My Third and Final Year at University
By my final year of university, my general hatred for working with people on my course, their benign conversations and at this point, all things print media, I needed to speak to some of my tutors. Final projects beckoned and I urgently needed some other options, to stop me from being unbearably miserable.
It paid off. In my final year, instead of making a fashion magazine about handbags or the history of cotton, I was able to make a documentary film. I was finally excited.
I sourced someone online to film content with me, scouted filming locations, researched, put together a script and grabbed the bull by the horns. I created a documentary looking at the impact of social media and its growth since the year 2000.
For the first time in my degree I confidently stood before a room full of people that usually ignored me and pitched my idea. I answered their questions, mostly from students who still didn’t know who I was. I developed my documentary into something I was genuinely proud of.
Nobody on my university course had done anything but a magazine in seven whole years. Due to this, the guidance I received (for my £9,000 per year tuition) was extremely limited. Instead, I taught myself Premiere Pro through YouTube tutorials, got help from fellow creatives on social media and worked in hot-desking locations in London. It felt brilliant!
Was it the best documentary? No, of course not. But did it present me with interesting challenges for me to overcome by myself? Absolutely. By the end of my degree, people knew me as the girl who was doing something really different, which was good enough for me.
My Top Tips for Enduring University Life
- Invest in quality bin bags. There really is no further explanation required.
- Never give up. It can be easy to give up when you think you have no support around you. During my first year, I relied on supportive messages on social media and blogs, friends across the world and family miles away. It all counts.
- Always stand up for yourself. It is always okay to refuse to clean up other people’s crap. It is always okay to tell people ‘no’.