As my university ‘career’ careens ever closer to a dramatic and fast-paced end (at least for now…) Fast & Furious style, I’ve started to realise that, well, in so many ways, I don’t really want it to end as much as I thought I did but, if I am brutally honest, I don’t want it to end because, above all else, I am scared…
It probably sounds crazy since university is hailed as the ultimate bane of every 20- or 30-something young, studious adult’s life but here’s the thing… it really isn’t in the greater context of things.
There are worse things than meeting people who, for the first time in your life, are just as passionate and likeminded as you are, who can write a thousand words without taking three years but rather three hours, tops or who like silly, random things like stationery as much as you do.
There are more terrifying things in life than cramming a semester’s worth of revision into the fleeting timeframe of several hours and then waiting on tenterhooks to write an hour-long test that, in the end, wasn’t quite as terrible as you’d anticipated when you talk about it afterwards in the corridor.
There are harder things than discovering that many of the people you meet throughout your time at university will not suddenly become some permanent part of your life or future… but here’s the good bit: they’re a reliable and reassuring part of your present and they will be able to relate to you more than people you have known since childhood, more than your more longstanding friends and family and more than even you yourself can sometimes and that’s a pretty incredible thing.
Before I commenced my studies in 2014, I was probably more nervous about applying for university (that was the most stressful part of my university experience, hands-down) than I was about actually studying but once I moved up to the big city in February of that year, I realised it was going to be a lot more difficult (and shall we say, ‘growth-promoting’?) than I had possibly imagined.
You see, the really difficult thing one has to grasp about university, perhaps more than anything else, is forcibly having to come to terms with the fact that life is no longer mere child’s play, that, irrespective of what other people may tell me to do, at the end of the day, for many of us, this is the very first time in our lives that we are entirely free (and terrifyingly so) to make our own decisions.
These decisions are the ones that will see you sitting outside in the balmy air of a late summer’s night and singing along to The Script and The Weeknd with one or two close friends, beneath a dark sky, giddy with the breath-taking combination of scattered city lights and, perhaps even rarer, pinprick stars.
It’s discovering that the people you thought you had learned to trust, that you had best bonded with and hoped would be the select few to keep your faith and always have your back in a sea of warmongers, are the very ones who will be the quickest to turn around and stab you in the back and profess that it was simply ‘by accident’…
It’s realising this and then watching your world crash to the floor – followed shortly thereafter by your battle-weary knees – as you curl into a desolate corner of an empty room in a city that suddenly seems so foreign and loveless, and cry.
It’s learning that you have to start actually being an adult, that things like cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping become daily or weekly chores that have to be learned and mastered adequately enough to avoid starvation or having to walk around naked.
It’s acknowledging, too, that maybe you should have paid greater attention to your parents when they tried to teach you practical life skills, like how to stock your fridge or to whip up a healthy meal instead of splurging on fast food or resorting to two-minute noodles like helpless students everywhere, forever and ever, amen.
It is the surprising joy and ease in which you learn that your lecturers can sometimes take the shape of friends and that, in this more than anything else, therein lies the tellingly difference between high school and university. It’s becoming someone your instructors can rely on when they need a task performed, a class email sent out in the most unexpected of hours or simply being there to lend an ear when they, too, need to vent.
It’s recognising that they, more than anyone else you’ve met up until now, will be able to counsel you in everything from your love life (if you believe you really can have your cake and eat it in university) to your next assignment/essay (that will require days of hard work and sleepless nights to complete and you’ll probably still only scrape a pass) and beyond…
It is accepting that university, just like high school before it or the workplace that is to follow, is simply another phase of so many people’s lives but it is one that provides you with the most potential for selfgrowth, hard-learned lessons and unforgettable experiences, which will all, in turn, mould you into the person you need to become – or even help you to find yourself again after you realise that you’ve been living as someone else for much too long.
It sometimes even gives you that unexpected second chance when you feel like you’ve screwed up way too many times and that is both moving and beautiful.
It is understanding that it isn’t easy but it can be good and fun all the same and that, despite all the stress, assignment deadlines and seeming endless lectures (as you sit in class literally counting down the minutes to the end of your timetable’s final period), that it is something from which you will emerge with more maturity, passion and education than you ever thought possible and that, somewhere along the way, you have surprised even yourself and managed okay.
If studying at university has taught me anything, it is that, for as many times as I have been afraid in the past three years and have had to deal with things I never thought I’d be able to cope with, I have come out of it relatively unscathed and somehow been ready to fight another day, or have emerged with more passion and know-how than I ever hoped to accumulate, both for my future career and indeed for my life.
What’s more, it has taught me that though this has and often still is a scary phase of my life, which has forced me out of my comfort zone more times than I care to count, it has also taught me that, just like with everything else, university is about taking life one day at a time and knowing that, even though the next phase (i.e. working or finding a job) is decidedly frightening, I’ve already (well, almost… and I write that with a sharp, hesitant intake of breath) survived the thing that scared me two years ago – and that, if nothing else, is one hell of an achievement.