A Fresh(er) Lookback

RAZZ writer Niamh Kemp looks backs at the highs and lows at her first term at University

The first term was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences and after a year of isolation it was a completely different universe being in Exeter and around whole new groups of people. There have been tears, there have been laughs, there has been a mixture of the two but above all there has been amazing memories made.  

Upon coming to University I was terrified; coming from a tiny village in a fairly remote area to a city was a big change. Living alone for the first time and not having my family around was another big change. In the beginning, I wanted to go home so badly; I of course still miss home and my family but after meeting my flatmates I started to settle in. A highlight of my time in term one and freshers was making friends with the people I spend most of my time with. Spending nearly every moment with the same group of people can be interesting to say the least, but they were still some of my highest moments. A part of university I didn’t expect coming into it as a fresher was meeting people that I connected so quickly with and immediately forming friendships with people that I would consider to be my best friends. I think the only thing I would have done differently in terms of making friends and hanging out with the people I have become so close with is get more involved; obviously completely work and getting enough sleep is important but in the beginning I was so scared about falling behind I didn’t go out as much. I am glad that I kept on top of my work but there were times where I could have made the most of the freedom I had since we got out of lockdown. 

A downside to university, despite making great friends from the start point, was loneliness. Although university is a great place to meet lifelong friends, it can also be isolating, as it is for a lot of people the first time they are away from the people they have known for the majority of their life. I myself spent many times wishing I was back home just for the comfort in the familiarity of it all. There were times where I was struggling with work or I had issues I had to deal with. It was harder being away from home and the support system I had my whole life, as I imagine was the same for a lot of first years. The only suggestion I have for this is don’t be afraid to ask for help, from anywhere. Contact home, reach out to your new friends, the worst thing you can do is worry about it on your own. The thing I would have done differently in this scenario is give myself a break and step away from the situation, whether that be spending time with my friends and relaxing or reaching out to my family and friends back home and not thinking that I had to be completely independent now that I’m an adult at University. 

Another highlight of my University experience was the societies! I am part of five societies: Razz Magazine; Disney Soc; Film Soc; Feminist Society and Exeter University Open Water Swimming. Every event I’ve been to with any of these societies I have enjoyed and I have managed to make even more friends throughout these socials. There are such a range of societies at the university and many of them allow non-members to join as well, so if I wanted to join in on something I don’t usually try for the experience or social aspect, I can. A suggestion I have for any first years going into term two, try to get as involved in societies and socials as you can as it’s not only a great place to meet people and form friendships but to try new things and make the most of your university experience with people who share the same interests as you. I haven’t been to an event by any of the societies that I’m a part of or others that I haven’t enjoyed or tried something new. When it comes to societies there isn’t anything I would have done differently, in the New Year and term two I’m hoping to do just as many socials as I did this term, if not more and I recommend you do as many as you can too.  

Nothing is perfect and I knew that University wasn’t going to be just meeting new people, going out and having fun; there is still work to do. I am a first year English and Drama combined honours student and I love my course and wouldn’t want to do anything differently. My seminars are great this term; I have a fun and engaging class full of brilliant people and my seminar teacher. My drama classes are always fun when my classmates and I are really into what we are doing. I didn’t expect to enjoy lectures all that much but many of them have been intriguing and surprisingly easy to follow on with when talking about Literature before the 1800s. However, there can be a lot of readings and early starts that I struggled to get used to in the first place and still struggle with now as we are getting closer to the end of term one and the Christmas Holiday quickly approaching. Being swamped in readings and further study or essays to write has made some aspects of university life stressful but I think as time has gone on I’ve started to find ways to manage my time well.  

I suggest that for any university student you try to have a work and social life balance….there is nothing worse than being out and feeling worried about an assignment or being in and wishing you were out with your friends. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break, everybody needs one, enjoy yourself especially after the year we’ve had with Covid everyone deserves to have some fun every now and again. I will also say however, if you do have work to do, there is also nothing wrong with putting yourself (specifically your sleep) and work first sometimes, no matter how much your friends bug you, they will understand, remember we are all in the same boat. Another suggestion I will make is, there is nothing worse than taking time for your work and time for your social life but nothing else…make sure you eat properly and have some time to yourself to do whatever you want to do to relax, which could be as simple as watching a film or scrolling through Tik Tok.  

As we get closer and closer to Christmas and I reflect on my time at University thus far, I may wish I some things differently like: go out more in the beginning, get more sleep and spend more time doing my readings or ask for help when I need it; I have still had an amazing experience in my first term at university and can’t wait for next term to see what happens next.  

— Niamh Kemp

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