Everyone says that your university years are some of the best years of your life, and that they go past horrifically quickly. Now that I’ve finished my undergraduate degree, I can wholeheartedly say that this is true.
I’m not the first in my family to go to university, and I distinctly remember every relative with an undergraduate degree telling me to enjoy my three years whilst they last. Starting university in 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I firmly believed that my time studying would drag horrendously, especially with the transition back into in-person, classroom learning seemingly impossible.
However, now that I am approaching the official end of my undergraduate days and have submitted my last exam, I simply can’t believe just how fast the time actually went.
My first year, like many of us who attended university during the pandemic, was a very odd time. Moving away from my parents for the first time to be forced to isolate over and over with people I had just met was incredibly daunting, and I am a firm believer that those currently in third year are entitled to some sort of compensation for the amount of money we all paid to sit in Zoom breakout rooms!
First year was full of ups and downs for me. I made some great friends, however basically everything in town being shut or having to stick to the “rule of six” whilst being a friendship group of seven was incredibly frustrating. I am glad, however, that my results during my first year didn’t count towards the rest of my degree, so at least that anxiety was taken away from me.
Second year was similar in its turbulence. I joined Vision for the first time, which I would later edit and direct, and I met my first-year goal by getting way more involved in wider societies in general. I also started my part-time bartending job, which has now become a full-time financial revenue for me, and as a result I became more financially stable than ever. I did, however, have a lot of friendship fallouts and personal issues in second year which I am still battling with and recovering from today.
Third year was definitely my best year at university, even if it was incredibly difficult and time-consuming to balance a part-time job and my dissertation! I’m incredibly proud of the work I submitted this year. However, the anxiety of the current marking boycott and whether I will graduate with a completed grade still plagues me. Roll on graduation, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
All in all, my university experience has been full of ups and downs, but I definitely haven’t regretted it. At the end of my three years, I’ve learnt so much about myself and my work ethic, some good and some bad, but I can say definitively that coming to York has changed me for the better.
My advice for current first and second years? Enjoy it whilst you can. We’re thankfully no longer affected by lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, so go out and get a pint with friends or go for dinner somewhere – it might throw your weekly budget a bit, but trust me, it’s so much better to enjoy your financial freedom whilst you’re still exempt from council tax!
On the topic of money, I’d also recommend creating a detailed budget now if you haven’t already got one. Having just paid my first proper non-student rent payment and beginning to repay a three year long loan, it’s so much easier if you’ve got finances in place now so that post-university you aren’t freaked out. That, or get a financially-savvy flatmate like I have.
Thirdly, I advise everyone to make your holidays from university as great as you can. With the change to semesters looming, I’m not sure how term dates will affect current students (as I know a lot of us aren’t). Having finished third year, I can wholeheartedly say that I was unable to go out as much in my final year as I was during my second year, even after submitting all my assignments. So, I’d advise making your Christmas, Easter and summer holidays matter: go to concerts, have day trips to the beach and go for brunch with friends! When you’re caught up with dissertation work, you’ll regret not doing more during your holidays, so make them count if you can.
University is a tumultuous yet brilliant time for students. It’s usually your first time as a somewhat financially independent human being, navigating the world alone for the first time, and to be in a city as beautiful as York has been incredible. But if you have people in your life telling you it will go quickly, please believe them. I wish I had!