Firstly, a huge apology for my silence/absence for the last couple of months. My second term at university, in contrast to the first term, has flown by. I can’t believe there’s just a few weeks left when I return and then that’s it, year one done. A whole third. 33% of my degree experience. In short: no more freshers.
Anyway, the time for reminiscing can come later – for now I want to get swiftly back on track for blogging about the uni experience as a whole and I want to talk a little bit about the second term experience.
Why? Because it’s an odd one, and whilst I haven’t experienced third term, I know it’s unique – second only of course to your first ever term at university.
When you come back for your second term you’ve had a whole month off for Christmas – just enough time to get you nicely settled back in to your old routine with your old school friends, mums cooking, not much work or structure to your days and you have this odd feeling that you might just have imagined the last 3 months of your life at university.
Alas, you have not. For many I’m sure the feelings differ, for me it was an odd mix of passive reluctance with a bit of excitement. Not that I didn’t love first term, but uni is a lot harder than I expected. And I don’t just mean the work, it’s everything. 24/7 social interaction, independence, managing your life, money, cooking, bills, fitting in, keeping up appearances, going out 24/7 but meeting deadlines, getting involved because for £9000 it would be ridiculous not to, having a job etc etc etc. At home it’s pretty much wake up, tv, eat, tv, maybe go out, eat, shower, sleep (or at least that’s the dream anyway).
So I’m sure you can imagine the thought of returning to such an intense atmosphere is off putting, but it always works out and of course first night back you’re with a group of your new friends catching up over the last month and it’s a nice feeling of ease – a month ago you didn’t know these people but second term in and you’ve come back to something that you actually know and can relate to. The nerves/anxieties/efforts of the first term are gone.
With this feeling also comes a sense of mild alarm too. Have I made enough effort? Have I been missing out on more things? Do I only know the people on my floor and no one else?
Doubt is not a friendly experience, and one that consumed me for a lot of first term – hence my lack of blogging. A couple of weeks in I had a weird epiphany (perhaps unique only to students of catered halls who literally are surrounded by people throughout the day – from breakfast together, the bus in together, lectures together, the bus home together, dinner together…you get the picture). One that made me realise through all the blur and rush of emotions of freshers, I was now calm, I had made friends, I had a house sorted for next year, but still a sense of dissatisfaction. I think amongst all the constant social interaction I felt a tad claustrophobic – the same people day in day out and I very much had a dull routine.
So I branched out – first, a society. Intimidated by the sports clubs which had already been practising together for a term, I opted for something less cliquey and actually beneficial (given that I have the flexibility of an 80 year old man) – yoga. I won’t go into details about yoga as a club/exercise (comment if you have any questions) but it’s been extremely worthwhile, not only for my poor posture but also just getting me out of my room, around other people.
The second blessing came in the form of a transfer student from Exeter. Having not enjoyed her experience at the latter, she had come to try a new experience at Bristol and was keen to get involved (as she was in the odd position of starting the whole uni process a term too late). Her choice of activity – mixed lacrosse. This was one I had been eyeing up, as out of all the sports clubs it seemed the most relaxed and beginner-friendly, I just needed someone to go with. Again, as with yoga – this has probably been my best decision so far at uni. Admittedly my attendance has been poor, but luckily the nature of the society is commitment free, i.e. turn up if and when you like. Playing a sport is great too, especially mixed as you get to interact with boys and girls and it’s far less bitchy and competitive than a lot of the single sex teams at uni. Also, you feel a sense of belonging, that is, outside of your hall and your intimate circle of friends. They have socials and a kit which provides a nice change up from the usual routine, and a fresh group of people to socialise with and potentially befriend.
Finally – jobs. I also had a rush of ‘OMG, career, CV, work experience, internship………’ a mentally jumbled mess of work-related panic which I’m sure most students, possibly even most adults, can relate to.
So I started actually paying attention to the helpful career emails sent to me by my university. And lo and behold two jobs of interest popped up, and with a lot of luck I managed to get both.
The first is a job I have lined up for next year (this was me on top productive/organised form) to be a student ambassador for international students. This means when the numerous international students arrive it’s my (along with around 30 others) job to help them settle in, take them on tours of the campus, and generally answer their questions. Given that I love talking, as I’m sure you can tell from this, is the perfect job for me. And at £7.50 p/h and a nice addition to the CV it’s win win all round.
The second job was more temporary, and I’ve nearly come to the end of what was ambitiously called my ‘internship’. I was given the amazing chance to act as a PR agent for a university run history festival, similar to book fests which you might have near you. We had to publicise the event via social and local media, and luckily all three events were a sell out (but with Mary Beard as the main speaker, it really wasn’t that hard!) The media is a career I’m currently very interested in and so this was an ideal opportunity to gain valuable work experience, top up the CV and again we were paid extremely generously.
So to conclude, the second term experience is an odd one. The anxieties of meeting people and fitting in are replaced by anxieties of meeting more people and doing more things. In a way it’s hard to draw the line – my university has over 250 societies and at a guess I’d probably quite happily try half of them. But time and money are always in the way unfortunately. The best advice I can give is to come back to second term with a clear idea of what you want. I did and it did me the world of good – I landed two jobs, got more involved in university life and met some new people. Even with exams next term, I’m still going to keep on pushing to try more, do more and generally be more.