It’s that time of year again. Bake off is on, rain is paying a regular visit in dribbles and downpours, paths are littered with crisp caramel coloured leaves, pubs are advertising their Christmas bookings, and most Universities are back in business. I’m back in Sheffield about to embark upon my fourth year and although I am already feeling the jitters about what my poor brain is about to face, I am thrilled to be back.
And as I wander around and bump into flocks of freshers, I can’t help but think back to when I first moved to Uni. You could have easily mistaken it for a Greek tragedy. Once my parents had helped me move in and said it was time for them to leave, I burst into tears, sobbing so violently into the corner of my room hoping that somehow the wall would swallow me up so I wouldn’t have to deal with the grief of goodbyes. It’s the source of many jokes in my family, but I still remember that sicky, sinking feeling like it was yesterday.
Although Sheffield took hold of my heart fairly instantaneously, it was quite a while before I really felt settled. Now it is a home to me, it is one of my happy places. I tell you now, the prospect of coming back after a year away was so exciting. But, as I said, it took me a while to get to that point. Which is why I wanted to hop on here and share a few things about my experience to help those fearful freshers starting Uni this year.
One thing that I used to think, which is totally not true, is that I was the only one feeling homesick and scared. Everyone seemed to be having a whale of a time, so relaxed and not at all daunted at the prospect of setting up camp away from home. I thought I was the only one struggling. But once I’d struck up a conversation with a few people, I soon realised that there were more people than I thought who, despite their smiles and seemingly confident persona, were feeling all the same emotions as me.
So, I would encourage you to open up to somebody and be honest about how you’re feeling as early as possible. It won’t necessarily take away your emotions, but it means that there are people in your vicinity that know you deeper than surface level. During the first few weeks and even months, you are meeting so many people and it seems like you are having so many conversations without saying much at all. It can feel lonelier than if you were there on your tod. I felt that once I’d been honest about my struggles to a few friends I had made, I could be more myself – to be the person that I am at home, which definitely helped with the settling in process. I had already left my comfort zone, my family and my dog at home – I couldn’t afford to leave my real self there too!
Along the same vain, it is important to remember to not be embarrassed about who you are and what you like doing. If you stick to your guns, people will respect you so much more and you will form deeper friendships. I have discussed this a little bit in my post ‘What Uni has taught me so far’ (feel free to check it out here), so I won’t drone on, but I’m not a massive party gal. I enjoy a boogy and am very partial to a glass or three of vino, but the boozy nights out that saturate the first few weeks of Uni weren’t really my jam. For some people it is, and that’s cool. But so is staying in with your knitting and a cup of tea. I thought I would find no friends and that everyone would think I was boring. Truth is, if you’re just being yourself, those around you are more likely to be themselves and share their weird and wonderful quirks. You soon realise that friendships are formed on more than, essentially, how late you get into bed (and whether you remember it or not). Turns out, more people are a ‘bit different’ than you might first think.
Finally, for my fellow Jesus fans, I would really encourage you to find and stick with a church as soon as possible. Most Unis have some sort of church search, often organised by the Christian Union, so try and jump on that bandwagon. You can actually try multiple in one weekend (because of the different service times of different churches), so pick the ones that most appeal to you and give them a visit. You won’t find the perfect church. The perfect church does not exist. So instead of trying to tick all the boxes, try and focus on where you feel most at home and where you can envisage yourself growing in your faith. And then stick with it. Try not to dilly dally, because the sooner you lay down your roots, the sooner you will be supported and incorporated into a new family who want to encourage you and walk with you in fellowship. Pray for God to guide you, and He will.
In fact, give the whole year (and subsequent years) over to Him. He cares about you, more than you can imagine. Whilst things are wild and all over the place, He is steadfast and gracious. He is your firm footing when all seems wobbly. Let Him use these years to minister to you and show you what it is to live for Him. Just trust Him.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT – I set out this summer to post every week for the foreseeable future (which I have done so far, yay) but it seems that the foreseeable future might be coming to an end. I’m still going to be posting, but I think I was a bit optimistic thinking I would be able to complete my degree at the same time as producing interesting and valuable content on ye olde blog. So, it’ll probably be more like once a fortnight from now on and I’ll see how that goes. Thank you as ever for being supportive and showing me all the love on my blog, I really appreciate it.