I was touched by an article I was emailed from Bristol University containing letters from alumni to their past selves. Some mentioned regrets, some were proud of everything they did, and others had words of wisdom that would be useful to anyone embarking on the terrifying journey that is university. I thought it might be interesting to write a letter to my own 18 year old self, which I hope can comfort anybody who is on the cusp of their own adventure.
I remember how unsettling it was being the last to leave for University, and having almost two weeks of seeing your school friends adding hundreds of new people on Facebook with photos going up of freshers events, all the while you’re struggling to pack your IKEA plates and glasses into a box that’s too small. It’s horrible seeing everyone starting their new life before you, but it’ll all be worth the wait.
There may be people on your accommodation Facebook groups who sound like they’re nothing but excited about such a big change, but don’t worry, inside they’re bricking it too. After three weeks you may still be wondering where this incredible friendship group you were promised is going to spring up from, and whether any of the people you’re talking to at the moment really are going to be your lifelong friends. They may not be, but even if freshers week hasn’t formed the thousand friendships you thought it would you’re going to spend the next three years meeting some wonderful people, so don’t panic because you haven’t met them yet. (In fact you’re not going to meet a lot of them until third year so just sit tight). One of the most wonderful things about University is that you never stop meeting people really, and if you do and you settle for the friends you have rather than taking any opportunity to make new ones then you’re doing it wrong.
You’ve always put your all into your education, and even when you were teased by your brothers for revising for the SATs in year 9 and doing homework on a Friday night in sixth form you knew it was the right thing for you. University isn’t for everybody and there’s a reason for that: it’s hard work. But you are up to the challenge, and there’s no shame in putting the long hours in because the rewards are going to be so worth it. It really does feel great to graduate with a First, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Also make sure you separate your living space and your study space. It might sound insignificant but when it comes to exams and you’re revising in your bedroom for 12 hours before crawling across the floor to your bed you will go stir crazy. Discover the library a little earlier, you will thank me for it! Having said this, first year really doesn’t count for anything so maybe cut yourself a bit of slack just for those first 9 months… Then it’s go time.
Nothing can really prepare you for a long distance relationship, especially when that’s not the only thing changing in your life. Not only are you moving to a different city, you’re not going to be seeing your boyfriend for two or three weeks at a time, let alone everyday. Your paths are going to diverge a little bit from now on and that takes some getting used to. It’s going to be tough, but looking back I am so glad to say that me and Elliot had our own University experiences because it made us more interesting people, and so it made our relationship more interesting too. They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and having done it I’m tempted to agree.
You’re also going to find a lot of comfort in profound, cheesy, and cliché sayings.
Finally, don’t compare your own university experience to others. Everyone gets something different from uni, whether it’s a non-stop social life, academic achievement, or pursuing other passions alongside their studies like sport or drama. Some prefer to have a bit of all three, like us. You’re there for you, your degree is your degree, and (sadly) your debt is your debt. So if you don’t want to go out one night, don’t go out. If you want to write for the uni newspaper, then take a leap of faith and do it. Because the memories you’re going to be making are made exclusively for you, and by you.
You’ve got this girl. I only wish I could be doing it all over again with you!