The Time of Your Life?

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 1 November 2009 13:28

This is an article I wrote for Flisolo.com, a student e-zine which has since closed. Having read back through it, I thought that perhaps it was still worth sharing, as it may be relevant to more than just university.

When Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes boldly sang The Time of My Life to their hearts’ content, they may have been singing more about love than university but the title is still very useful. When you’re at school, your parents tell you to enjoy it; when you’re nervous about starting college, everyone tells you it will be great; when you apply for university, you don’t need anyone to tell you: it’s going to be the best few short years of your entire life.

No pressure, then. Wide-eyed and nervous freshers will mix with those ones who prowl about with confidence, although inside they are probably quaking in their little fresher sized boots. But the ‘fresher’s fortnight’ that most uni’s endure, filled with friend-making opportunities, lie-ins and society reps who pester you with their clipboard, does in fact only last the fortnight. After that, it can feel like you’re on your own and it’s down to you to make the fun happen.

Well, it kind of is. The saying of ‘you get what you put in’ to something isn’t a saying for no reason; it’s tried and tested fact. But sometimes, you can put everything you can find into the uni pot of fun and it’s still just not quite…the time of your life. Damn you, Bill and Jen, you set the stakes too high. Newsflash: perfect usually isn’t possible. If you don’t look like you’ve slept with a coat-hanger in your mouth every day, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed and are destined to be miserable for the rest of your life (uni life, that is). Take a look around you; everyone else is probably thinking the same thing as they sit on their single bed in their alien rooms, reminiscing about home life or wanting one of those well-loved home cooked dinners.

Becca, 22 has just graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design. “In my first year, I went home every weekend. I just wanted to get away from halls! From dirty dishes in the kitchen to sharing four toilets between 20 students, male and female, it was horrible. We had four showers to share with plugs which were blocked up with hair, and some doors didn’t even lock so anyone could come in when you’re starkers!”

Halls is the problem for a lot of people; for me it was actually the better part as I must have been a saint in a previous life, living with people who immediately became my best friends. It was the second year that took its toll, as six of us moved in together and slowly things went a little pear shaped. As one housemate left, a stranger moved in and he wasn’t quite ideal housemate material. Might have been good for Big Brother, though. As he left us to pay his rent, clean his mess and listen to his abominable singing, we began to wonder what happened to that saintly previous life and why we were now being punished.

Though it may have seemed all doom and gloom, it really wasn’t. I wasn’t the only one having a hard time, nor was our house the only one to experience problems. Just mention the word ‘house’ to another student, and they will roll their eyes and have a story to tell. Or perhaps it is the workload that gets you down; being homesick; not meeting enough people; having to work because you don’t have enough money; or just not having enough money in general (the student loan only stretches so far).

But this is where hindsight is a valuable tool; think about where you might be in three years and look back on your time at uni- now what do you see? Becca admits that her second and third years were a massive improvement. “At first I felt separated from my friends and like I didn’t gel with the people in my initial groups. But in my second year, I settled in and found that it was quality not quantity; I ended up with a small group of really close friends and just enjoyed it.” As for me, I look back on our bizarre housemate (who we nominated for eviction, so to speak, thankfully at the end of year two) and laugh (although I cringe a lot too).

Rosie, 22 also graduated this year from Goldsmiths in London. “It can be hard because it’s not just university; it is living completely independently for probably the first time in your life so it can feel overwhelming at first.” During whichever ordeal you may be going through, there are always ways to perk yourself up. More importantly, the people around you can help. Being down is commonplace during student-hood; and the best way of getting up again is by surrounding yourself with friends. As Rosie advises, “If something happens, you’re still not in the deep end because you are surrounded by people going through similar things and there is help at hand. What feels awful on Monday is what you’ll be giggling about over drinks on Friday night.”

So go out, cook dinner together, take time out from writing essays; only little things but sitting on your own dreaming of home is not the answer. If things get really bad, there are usually counselling services on campus- but first of all your friends and family are the best counsellors you’ll find, as they know you best and can give you an opinion you trust. Trips home are great for a little bit of medicine for the homesick, but avoid going back too often; you can alienate yourself further and make it that much harder to go back again. It is down to you to make the most of it- the bottom line is if you don’t open up to new things, put some effort in and meet people, then no one else can ultimately do that for you. Just remember that everyone else is in the exact same position and you can’t go far wrong.

Good or bad, each year had something memorable about it, which is something to take away from the experience; it’s experience to take away, full stop. That’s what uni is really about. So really, the new song and saying should be ‘the experience of your life’. Because although rocky in places, it definitely is.

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2 Response to " The Time of Your Life? "

  1. Em Said,

    Great post, and a great reality check against all these mythes that you'll have an 100% brilliant time. You'll have some fab times, but you'll probably have some hellish flat mates and some crazy deadlines too.

    Those sucky things help teach you skills later on though, like standing up for yourself and organisation!

     


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