University is certainly a whirlwind experience. There are so many ups and downs and nothing can quite prepare you for what you are faced with, from the mountain of dishes that appear in your flat overnight to actually having to make big decisions about your future.
As my time at St. Andrews is drawing to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting upon what I have actually learned at University, whether or not it was worth the five years of intense studying, terrible hangovers and the mountain of debt I am leaving with. My answer is undoubtedly yes.
Aside from leaving with a very detailed knowledge of how print has developed since the founding of the printing press and slightly more German vocab than when I started, it’s amazing how much I have grown as a person, both physically (weekly netball spin sessions combined with a newfound love for chicken dippers and mayo) and mentally.
First year can only be described as rocky. I met some of my best friends, loved my new independence, realised how much I enjoy the weekly food shop and finally got to achieve one of my main goals of studying at St. Andrews. However I also discovered alcohol, discovered people can be mean and messy, somehow managed to fail a module and had to learn to navigate the incredible tricky social sphere that appears when you have thousands of students and only three main streets in the town. First year was a learning curve.
In second year I discovered how much more fun it was to hang out with my friends in the day and attempt to fit all my work into a late night library visit, which also ended up being me hanging out with my friends. However I did work hard when I needed to, learned how to manage my time and made up the credits I needed, picking up some medieval German along the way. I solidified friendship groups and learned how to juggle them when they refused to overlap. I also made the biggest decision to spend my next year teaching abroad in Germany and then learned how hard it was to say goodbye. Crying at Ed Sheeran’s photograph in my student union hugging my friends at one of our last nights out of the year was potentially a low point…
Then only a few months later I was sitting in the Einwohnermeldeamt in Nuremberg waiting to register as a citizen. I won’t even pretend it’s possible to condense that year of experiences into one paragraph and the things I took from my year abroad are numerous.
Then I landed back with a bump. How do you fit back in to a life that has been going on without you whilst you have been experiencing other things? With great difficulty. I had learned too much and had too many new experiences to come back as exactly the same person I was when I left. Things had also changed in St. Andrews, with my friends making new friends, having had their own experiences whilst I was gone. Friendships were tested and survived, others faded away as we outgrew each other. It was also the first year my grades counted towards my final degree. I worked hard and became obsessively organised. But that didn’t mean I stopped having fun and somehow met my boyfriend in my Thursday morning 9am class who somehow fancied me when I turned up incredibly hungover from the night before. I then learned how hard it was to balance a new relationship with spending time with friends and studying. Then I had to learn how to say goodbye all over again as most of my friends graduated having not done a year abroad, knowing that next year I was going to have to do my final year without some of my biggest supporters and shoulders to cry on when things went a bit wrong.
But it hasn’t been all that bad. I still see some of my friends as regularly as we can and somehow I have made new ones. I’ve taken on more responsibility, had lower lows, but also higher highs as I got to complete some of my favourite St. Andrews traditions with my boyfriend and best friend by my side. Making decisions about the future has been hard, but now I am so excited to take what I have learned at University over the past five years and apply in it my new life in London. It’s going to be very different from the little town with three streets that I have called home over the past half decade, but I do love a challenge.