Here at EDUopinions, this time we’re bringing you a personal story about a recent graduate’s time at university to give you a real unfiltered look at what student life can be like. EDUopinions is an online platform where you can read real, verified student reviews about universities from all over the world as well as get free information about them.
My name is Lucy Burt and I’m currently a 21-year-old graduate from and living in the UK with a BSc in Psychology and Criminology. I started my university experience in 2015 and in this article, I’ll be telling you about my university experience year by year, in the hopes that learning about my personal journey may help you with your own experience.
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When I learnt I was accepted to Keele University in the summer of 2015 I was ecstatic. I hadn’t quite gotten the A-levels I wanted so to be accepted to this university regardless was a huge confidence boost for me. Keele is situated in Stoke on Trent, which is pretty far from my hometown of Waterlooville (both in England) which made the move a little intimidating. Initially, I didn’t expect to struggle too much with the distance, as I had never really been someone who experienced high levels of homesickness. However, if you are moving far from home make sure to consider it carefully as being far from your support structure can be incredibly difficult as I found when I moved from home.
When I first moved into accommodation I struggled to make friends as my flatmates and I didn’t share many interests and our schedules weren’t very compatible. Whilst there is no shame in not becoming best friends with your flatmates, living with strangers can lead to some uncomfortable experiences so I found that becoming a respectful and kind flatmate is vital. University accommodation taught me some of the most effective conflict resolution skills through struggles with clashing timetables, different cleanliness styles and personalities of my flatmates and overcoming these tactfully had to become one of my biggest skills.
The academic side of university, on the other hand, appealed to me immediately as I found the content interesting and engaging and loved the constant challenges posed by different types of modules. However, the leap from A-level to university level work did take some adjustment, so be prepared for some initially disappointing grades whilst you improve, which is something that knocked my self-esteem in the early stages. This combination of academic and social struggles made university life difficult to adjust to at first, but university student support was incredibly helpful and I found that signing up to clubs and societies helped me put myself out there and adjust to university life much better, which meant I was able to improve my experience exponentially.
Second year was full of changes in both my academic and social lives and really educated me on the importance of a work-life balance. I had picked up bar work to support myself financially at the end of second year but the university culture meant I felt pressured to always be working in some capacity – spending whole days in lectures, whole evenings studying, and whole nights working behind the bar. This lead to physical exhaustion and a self-imposed feeling of social isolation. It is vital to remember at university that you aren’t just a student, you’re also a human being and although social media may glorify pulling all-nighters and eating and sleeping poorly, they can take a real toll on your productivity and mental health.
Luckily, second year was also a time of growth for me, during which I made meaningful friendships with people both on and off my course, which lead not only to some of my greatest university memories but also to new ways of thinking about my subject. Broadening my social horizons had positive ripple effects on both my academic life and mental health, and lead to improvements all round in my university experience. I learnt that it was okay to allow myself to take a break, and that academic or social success should not come at the cost of your mental or physical health and that you should respect yourself and your needs just as much as you would someone else’s.
Third year was, without a doubt, the most intense year of my university experience. My dissertation/final project mattered immensely to me and I lost sight of the fact that it wasn’t my only workload. In my final year it was often actually my other modules that really introduced me to some of the topics I became most passionate about and I found almost all the third year material engaging and challenging. I wish I had prioritised these modules more, as the final project is not the be all and end all. By third year my friendships have solidified and I had a great support structure, something I couldn’t have dreamt of in first year. So if you struggle socially in first year, I promise it’s not the end of the world, even though you may initially feel a little left behind.
Starting applications for jobs that could become my career was daunting, but it also reminded me of just how much university had taught me. I found myself using the same techniques I used on group projects in group interviews, for example. For the first time, I felt certain I had something significant to offer when I walked into a job interview which gave me a sense of confidence and helped me share my ambitions and goals with potential employers. When I finally heard I’d gotten the job at the civil service fast stream I cried, feeling like finally, all my hard work had paid off.
Although I was initially nervous about it, graduating was without a doubt one of the greatest days of my life. Hearing my name read out with a result of first-class honours after taking hundreds of grinning pictures with some of the best friends I’ve ever made was an amazing experience that I never could have imagined would come to be in my first year of university.
Overall, my years at Keele were an unforgettable experience. When people say your university years are the best years of your life it creates a level of pressure and expectation and the idea that university will be all fun and excitement. I can tell you, from experience, that in some ways university won’t live up to this unrealistic expectation. This means you shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you aren’t always having the time of your life or if you don’t fit in and succeed immediately.
University is a brand new experience socially, academically, and mentally that takes time to adjust to and can be difficult and challenging. However, it can also be immensely rewarding and enjoyable and some aspects of my university years comprise some of my fondest memories. I hope hearing my story has given you an insight into what life as a student can really be like – good luck with your own journey!