University: Lessons Learned 


I thought I would write a different type of post today and share with you all my personal experience of moving away from home and starting university as I’m sure many of you will be contemplating university or embarking on the same adventure in the not-so-distant future. 

This is going to be a rather  lengthy and personal post so grab a cup of your favourite beverage, sit back relax and hope you enjoy my sharing! 

So first off, let’s me say a bit about introvertism and what being an introvert means for me. I have experienced (and still do from time to time) bouts of low self-confidence and self-esteem. This however is quite different from having an introverted personality. An introvert needs down-time away from human interaction to recharge and relax.  I also really struggle (still do) in social situations as they zap all of my energy, therefore the thought of moving away from my friends and family and studying at university was a huge step for me to take as a soon-to-be 20 year old!

I took a gap year and worked in an office to save money before heading off to university. To be honest when I finished my A Levels I had had enough of education and wanted to enter the world of work. I was the first person in my whole extended family to even take A Levels let alone even have lofty dreams of studying at university – my family is working class through and through. I didn’t think university was meant for people like me – I felt I was ‘pretend acting’ at being in the exclusive educated elite and at some point I would be revealed as a fraud! 

I had always enjoyed education and worked incredibly hard to get good grades, but A Levels were a struggle. I had moved to a sixth form in Norwich some 20 miles from the small village where I lived as my high school didn’t have a sixth form. None of my friends chose to go to this sixth form so I was back at square one and I have to admit it was a real struggle. I just didn’t fit in and the teachers didn’t know me or see my potential like my old teachers in high school who pushed me to get straight A’s at GCSE. I was a bit of a loner at sixth form and was going through my awkward and depressive goth stage. Life was hard. 

After scraping through my Human Biology, Sociology and English Literature A Levels with an E, B and C (in that order) I just didn’t think university was for me. My sixth form put a lot of pressure on students to apply for university so I had applied but had deferred my entry as at that point I didn’t think I wanted to go. In hindsight I am glad I was pushed to apply. I had applied to study for a BA Degree in Gender Studies and Sociology and Anthropology – I had no idea what I wanted to study, I had no role models to ask! All I knew is that I really enjoyed sociology and particularly enjoyed the feminist theory in the A Level sociology classes so thought it would be an interesting degree. 

My first choice was the University of Warwick even though I had never looked around, in the league tables this was the place to study Gender Studies! My second choice was the University of Hull, again I hadn’t looked around but at this point I was filling in my UCAS form to appease my form tutor not because I seriously thought university would be part of my future. Oh how wrong I was!

Gap Year

When I got my A Level results I was already working in my first full time job as a finance assistant at a local Agricultural Company. I was earning my own money, had my own car and lucky for me some of my friends were also taking gap years so we had a great time going out to pubs and clubs and generally enjoying the last year of our teens! 

As the winter months came I had to make a decision on whether to accept my deferred entry to the University of Hull (Warwick rejected me as I didn’t get the BBB which was needed for entry). Working in an office wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I enjoyed working with my colleagues but the monoterny of office work was not for me. I went to an open day at Hull and fell in love with the buzz of uni life and it rekindled my passion for learning and academia.

The Lawns: Halls Of Residence, Cottingham, Hull.

 Cottingham Villahe Centre.

Moving to University

The University of Hull was over 150 miles and a three and a half hour drive away from my home with my parents. This was a big move for me, not only moving away from family and friends but also moving to a big town in a very different part of the country. My family home was in a tiny rural village in the Norfolk countryside, I had never experienced city life so moving to a big northern city in Yorkshire was a big culture shock!    

I spent the majority of my freshers week alone in my room in the halls of residence. I lived in a block which had several landings and open staircases running from the top to the bottom of the building. On each landing were 2-4 bedrooms, some single rooms some twin rooms…. So glad I managed to get a single room. The thought of sharing a bedroom with a stranger would have sent me into complete meltdown!

There were three kitchens in the self catered block and I shared mine with mostly boys… Boys who I had nothing in common with, boys who would sit at the table on the landing, which was the social epic centre of the block and coincidently right outside my room! The rooms weren’t ensuite so every time I needed the toilet I had to negotiate around the hoards of people drinking, socialising and getting louder and louder. They often used my door as a convenient leaning post, so when I opened my door they would fall inside my room. I literally felt like a prisoner. The ‘party’ would continue until the early hours, I would try to fall asleep with my headphones in. I felt truly miserable, isolated and alone. 

Start Of Lectures

I enjoyed my lectures and seminars and found it much easier to socialise with my fellow students on my course. I function much better 1-1 or in very small social situations. 

Also as the weeks ticked on by I met two incredibly cool girls who were on the floor above me in the block of flats; Steph and Annie. These incredible girls got me through that horrible first semester. Steph and I are still incredibly close, we meet up regularly and I was even bridesmaid at her wedding a few years ago. Annie is getting married next month and Steph and I are pleased to be part of her special day! 

University was tough both personally and academically but I wouldn’t have changed a thing! The friendships I’ve made are life long – I just cannot imagine my life without Steph and Annie. These girls know me inside and out, have been there through thick and thin.

I graduated Univeristy with a 2.1 BA (hons) in Gender Studies, Sociology and Anthropology. 

I have since returned to University, my local University of East Anglia (UEA) and studied for my MA in Social Work. I would look to return some day to study for a Ph.D. 
Experiencing University enabled me to meet some incredible people and inspired me to continue to learn and be curious. 

I hope you have enjoyed this very personal post. I hope you have found it useful if you are off to Uni or contemplating whether Uni is for you. I love reading and replying to your comments. 


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