The First Year

I have been putting off writing this post for a while now. Not for the usual reasons one puts off written work, such as laziness or an unreasonable fear of apostrophes. I usually fall on the chance to write with all the enthusiasm of a winter sun bearing down on a particularly smug snowman.

He won’t last

I have officially finished my first year of university, a thought so scary I have had some trouble digesting it, let alone putting it into carefully crafted, hopefully poignant words. It truly has been however, the best year of my life.

It’s a fact universally acknowledged by students that your first few months of university are laden, not only with excitement and apprehension, but a quiet, festering concern that you may have made the wrong decision. It is, after all, a massive step for an 18-year-old, particularly one who still thinks toffee apples are a pretty neat idea.

But for me, three months in, when I had cracked shorthand, was a reporter for the student paper and had revelled in the glorious presence of Jon Snow, I knew I had made the right decision. This is exactly what I want to be doing and every day I’m thankful for it.

My last few weeks were an interwoven mess of happiness and exhaustion. A week before my last exam, I was in the middle of a particularly amusing Friends episode, when I was overcome with what at the time presented itself as mortal terror, but on second thoughts was most likely a minor panic attack.

“I don’t know why though,” I told my sister on the phone the next day. “I’ve no reason to panic, I’m not anxious. I’m not anxious at all. I don’t even feel anxious.”

“You’ve said ‘anxious’ quite a few times,” she pointed out reasonably. “Perhaps you’re just a tiny bit apprehensive about leaving.”

On our last evening together, my flatmates and I spent our time at the local pub, then our kitchen, where Alison put on Simon and Garfunkel and we made apricot tarts and talked about the long summer stretching ahead of us. It was just lovely.

The next day, Alison and I caught a bus to Chatsworth House. We were childishly excited, not only at the prospect of a whole day spent in the most English of stately grounds, but at the fact Pride and Prejudice‘s Pemberley Hall was filmed there. Actually, it was because we could do what we had been longing to do since we first picked up the Austen novel, and run around a giant lawn pretending to be Elizabeth Bennett.

2013-06-06 12.48.43

My lack of girdle didn’t make the experience any less enjoyable

As we ran through the gardens, we were disappointed to discover no one was quite as excited as us, although the fact the majority of visitors were over 60 meant this was probably down to lack of enthusiastic hip joints than anything else.

“Do you think you’ve changed at all since coming to university?” I asked Alison, when we were stretched out by the river coated in three layers of sun cream after an enjoyable lunch of ciabatta rolls and oranges.

“I expect so,” she said. “I think I’m different than I was in Freshers week anyway. What about you?”

I absentmindedly watched a teenage boy jump into the river much to the amusement of his friends and annoyance of the ducks.

I wanted to say yes, my confidence has definitely increased, I’m more eager to try new things and my pizza dough skills are now somewhat impressive.

But if it’s one thing that university has taught me, it’s that it’s more important than ever to stay true to who you are, even if it’s sometimes easier to pretend you’re someone you’re not.

“Yes,” I said ruefully. “But not too much. Which I think at the moment is a good thing.”

I have had opportunities I could never have dreamed of before, such as becoming an editor for the university paper, learning shorthand and recording a podcast for an American journalist. Just being surrounded by individuals as excited and ambitious as yourself shapes your experience hugely.

I’m not going to pretend it’s been a perfect year. Perhaps this was slightly down to my naivety and unfailing ability to put too much trust in people too soon. And the fact I can’t survive a life resembling a particularly strenuous episode of Skins for more than a few days.

But I have made some truly great friends and some equally amazing memories, even if a few of those were simply sitting in the flat until four in the morning making paper chains, or watching brilliantly bad Spanish telenovelas, every episode opening with a disappointing fist fight.

So now I’m at home after a day of lying in the sunshine, with our guinea pigs roaming free on the lawn and Maria complaining loudly about her GCSE biology revision. It’s great to be home, but I’m looking forward to next year.

Here’s hoping it’s even better than the first.

It’s like owning miniature sheep

Images courtesy of Google

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