Being hopeful for the year ahead

The last academic year has undoubtedly been a struggle for us all. The beginning of the pandemic in March brought a sense of new beginnings, everyone was understanding of the new but temporary way of life in lockdown.

Sociological studies students

At the start of lockdown, the sun was shining and I felt as though the world was on hold, leaving me to focus on and find new hobbies. I was hopeful.

But by the time September came around, the lockdown conditions no longer felt exceptional or unprecedented, leaving me, and a lot of other students, to face a completely new University world, having no choice but to adapt fairly quickly. The winter felt long and exam season strange, but with only a few weeks until September, I’m feeling a lot more hopeful for the year ahead.

If the past year has taught me anything, it’s that I have to appreciate the small things. I remember sitting in a café for the first time after a long year of lockdowns and being in awe of just being there. My first night out with my friends felt like a dream, despite it being a night that I would usually refuse to go to or go home early. Everyone seems to be so happy to just be present in places, speaking to people about menial things, because not every conversation needs to be limited and scary anymore.

My hopes for next year

My hope for next year is that we all keep seeing how wonderful these moments are. Of course I hope for many other things; good grades, a job at the end of my degree, a nice holiday!

But above all, I hope everyone keeps smiling at each other wherever we are because it just feels good. I hope I always appreciate just being somewhere or in someone's presence. Because after a long, hard year without it, I have realised it’s these simple moments that create community, belonging and happiness. I hope everyone else can see that now too.

What I would tell my younger self at the beginning of University

University has taught me many things, in and outside of my course. On the one hand, there is endless advice I wish I could give myself about reading, deadlines, time planning, money management and working. While on the other hand, I have learnt many lessons about just living, cooking, cleaning, friendships and myself. One thing runs throughout all of this though, and that is learning how to not compare myself with others.

Academically, University is of course a competitive place. People compare grades, talk about how hard they’re working and what internships or jobs they’ve got lined up.

At first, I found this quite difficult to navigate. Sometimes I’d be so proud of my grade and then someone would come crying to me about their essay that scored higher. But as University went on, I learnt that being transparent was the only way of getting out of the comparative rut.

If you’re honest about where you’re struggling, the bad grade you got, the internship you didn’t get, others will start to do the same too. You end up not comparing yourself with your course mates, just realising that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.

I had to learn the same in terms of my social life also. Unfortunately, comparing your overall University experience with others seems to be a universal experience, but this is something that I have only learnt in the last few months.

Before you go to University, all anyone will say to you is that, ‘it’s the best time of your life’, or ‘it’s so fun all the time’. These statements usually come from a place of nostalgia, and they are probably right. University will be the best time of your life. However, it doesn’t always feel that way while you’re here.

Those statements set up false expectations for almost every student, so when things don’t always seem like a movie, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong. This is where the comparison aspect always sneaks in. You focus so much on how much everyone else is going out or making friends, that you almost forget that you’re doing that too!

I was shocked to learn that people thought I was having the time of my life, while I was busy thinking the same about someone else.

So, out of all the things I wish I could tell myself at the beginning of my University experience, I would definitely say to not compare yourself with others. Everyone has different experiences, and you’ll look back and regret all the time you wasted thinking about what everyone else is doing instead of what great things you’re doing yourself.

Written by a student ambassador on 21 August 2021.

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