Congratulations on not being good enough to go to Durham. Take solace knowing that while the Head Girl of your school probably did go there and will likely end up in the city because of it, they will be fucking miserable for every second that they’re there.
York hits the sweet spot of being a cracking university, but also isn’t so far up its own arse that you can’t have any fun. As a dirty southerner coming up from London to the hard and desolate lands of Yorkshire, I must admit I was scared. I was being thrown into a deep end 200 miles away from everything I had known. Luckily, the violent urge to throw oneself into the largest plastic bottomed lake in Europe faded when I arrived at the golden gates of Derwent.
Keith Kinsella, my St. Peter, greeted us with a host of friendly STYC’s, all of whom met us with a smile and a wave. I was apprehensive at first; up to that point, my impression of uni life consisted of hating your flatmates, having a mild addiction to one powder or another, having a severe addiction to cheap wine, and being in in a permanent state of exhaustion and misery for three years.
Seeing 80 or so happy 2nd years just felt…off. two of them cheerily helped me with my bags and I paused for a second. Perhaps they were actually happy to help, and not just hiding their disdain for all those who had the audacity to apply here. As we walked up the stairs, I was being told of the many things that makes Derwent “just the best college”. But I wasn’t really listening to them. I was busy assessing my flatmates. The people I’d have to live with for the next year. The people who would either be my best mates or my worst enemies.
I had heard many a horror story of the flatmates from Hell. People who would play Drum and Bass at 3am in their room alone. People who you were glad would never leave their rooms, lest you fall victim to the stench of their showering phobia. You always get told that the people you go to uni with make or break the time that you spend there, and it’s true.
I was really lucky with my flat. As it happens, they were, for the most part, kind, funny and interesting people who always did the right thing to make sure everyone was happy. I know people who were in flats where this was very much not the case. Whether it be a flat romance turning sour, a person being a liability one too many times, or just a good old fashioned milk stealing bastard, there are so many different things that could make your flat hate each other for a year (sidenote: flatcest will almost always be a mistake. You’ll think that you’ve found the love of your life living three doors down, but when they find someone else, it’ll just make everything super awkward for everyone).
You’ll meet a huge range of people in your flat, which is what I liked most about it. During sixth form, there was a tendency for everyone to just stay in their cliques and refuse to interact with anyone outside of that. The football lads would only talk to the preppy girls, the drama kids would hide away in the drama classrooms and get off with each other, and the weird kids would sit in the corner giving worried glances to anyone who came within a six feet radius of them.
Here, there wasn’t really any of that. If you walked into any kitchen, you’d find people who went on a gap yah, football lads, and soft indie kids all drinking together like they were all best mates. It’s such a refreshing change from school. Obviously, there are gonna be types of people that you’ll gravitate towards, but that’s called making friends. For the most part, the people who go here are pretty nice and welcoming so don’t feel like you only have to be in one small crowd.
Of course you’ll be doing more than just drinking with your flat. People say you need to join societies at uni, and theyre absolutely right. Otherwise, your life for the next three years is going to consist almost exclusively of getting drunk, trying desperately to pull at 2am in Salvos, being rejected, getting more drunk in attempt to avoid thinking about the concept of rejection, and ignoring the quiet but ever present worry that this might be as good as life gets for you (another sidenote: mild but frequent panics about the direction and state of your life is very common… I hope) .
At first, I thought it was going to be a bit wet to join societies, but then you’ll start to look in, and you see that they’re having way more fun than you are standing outside. Wouldn’t it be better if I just tried it for once, you’ll think to yourself? Not to sound like the head of whatever college you’re in, but just try whatever it is out. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But you could join something that you never saw yourself doing in a million years. I once tried out roller-skating because a few of us were headed to a pres in Vanbrugh and we passed the roller-skating society on the way. As fun as it was screaming as I fell on my ass, I didn’t end up taking it up permanently. But it was nice to have the experience of it.
I think the best thing about going to university is the fact that it kind of is a clean slate for everyone. The vast majority of people you meet will be completely new and different to what you’re used to back home. And there are so many different things to do. Of course that comes with its own difficulties.
The lack of familiarity can be daunting at times. There will be times where you want nothing more than to run back home and curl up in bed, but lets face it, you got into a pretty good university. I’m sure you’ll be smart enough to figure all of it out. And if not, I’m sure York St John’s is always looking for new students.