I’m moving out of Whitaker Hall is less than a month. What?! Where has the year gone? It felt like only yesterday when I was sitting in my first block meeting, playing icebreaker games and trying to remember everyone’s names.
I’m in a reminiscent sort of mood, so I thought I’d share with the 3 biggest lessons I’ve learned this year.
Lesson 1: A little decoration can go a long way
Make sure to have a couple of things to pin up on your wall when you first move in – it makes the transition to living away from home that little bit smoother. Walking into my room at Whitaker Hall for the first time, I felt my heart sink. The walls were bare, the bookshelf empty and the bed uncomfortable. It was much smaller than I was anticipating and, in all honesty, felt more like a prison cell than a room. The only upside I could find was the amount of wardrobe space there was.
For the first week, I couldn’t stay in my room for more than an hour before I started feeling depressed. Part of the reason I was feeling so down was because of the huge upheaval of moving across the country to a completely new city where I knew next to no one. But it also came down to the fact that my room didn’t feel like mine.
After a call home, my parents suggested decorating my room to make it feel more like my own. I put posters, planners, and pictures of family and friends up on the walls. It’s amazing what a bit of decoration can do to a room, and to your mood. With each item I pinned on my wall, I became more relaxed. Once I’d finished, I felt content. It finally felt like I could call this room “mine”.
Lesson 2: You learn how to spend time by yourself
At the beginning of the year, I found it really hard to spend time alone. Having a family of 6 and being close with my extended family, I grew up in an environment where I was always around others. I never liked spending too much time by myself either; I’m an over-thinker and very prone to existential crises, so being alone with my thoughts for too long never ends well.
Spending time by myself wasn’t a big issue until recently. For the first semester, I was with my mates pretty much constantly. I had a real problem with FOMO, so whenever anyone suggested hanging in the common room or a trip to the supermarket, I had to be there. This would have also been due to the fact that you’re trying to establish friendships so you’re not the loner at the dining room at dinner. Well, that was my thought process anyway.
There’s only so much you can take of your friends though. I love my friends to pieces, but sometimes you really aren’t in the mood for their banter or one of their habits really grinds your gears. Rather than sticking around to see if I snap at them and say something I regret, I started removing myself from the situation and going to my room for some alone time.
Truth be told, I hated it. It felt unnatural and the FOMO was overwhelming. It’s a weird situation to be in, given that I’m an introvert and therefore need to take time out from people to recharge. I found that I had to keep reminding myself to chill, that I wasn’t missing out on anything, that it’s better to be alone if you’re in a bad mood.
Well, practise makes perfect. I now don’t mind my own company. In fact, I find that I can keep to myself for the entire day and not feel like I’m missing out on something. It’s a much more relaxing way to live. So remember to take a breather, because trust me, you need it every once in a while.
Lesson 3: It can take a while to settle
I’ve found that, especially in the first semester, people float in and out of your friend group pretty easily. At the beginning, it was a free-for-all. You’re thrown into a completely new environment with 170 (or more, depending on your hall) other students who you’ve never met before, and you’re expected to be friendly to everyone. Not gonna lie, as an introvert, it’s really exhausting. However, this is the time where you have the opportunity to make your first lot of friends.
Once lectures start, you tend to start hanging out with the same group of people. When you walk into the dining room, you see the beginnings of cliques. It’s nowhere near as extreme as the generic cliques you get at school, but it’s definitely noticeable. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of fluidity – I found that I completely switched friend groups before mid-term break.
For the rest of the year, up until relatively recently, my friend group was consistent. I’ve found that I’ve developed pretty strong friendships this year, but it took until second semester for it to get to that point. I guess my point is that it may take a while to find those who you really click with, but it is worth the wait.
I’ve found that in one year of university, as cliché as this sounds, I’ve come one step closer to the person I aim to be; I’m more confident, more focused and just in a better headspace. I feel more sure about my future than I ever have and while it wasn’t what I was planning (#byemedicine), I’m happy. And that’s all that matters in the end, isn’t it?
Until next time – Emily