A Lookback on my First Year at University

Freshers’ Week is in full swing once again marking the one year anniversary since I moved to Edinburgh to start my Bachelor’s degree in Music Technology. I’ve written a couple of posts based on my experience to hopefully give you some tips when you’re at university but what I haven’t done is written a reflection on my first year and how it differed from some of my expectations.

Whilst I was so excited to be going, there was a part of me that dreaded the move to Edinburgh because I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such a momentous event. I had always been the youngest in my year and my age made me question whether I should take a gap year to mentally prepare myself for the big step. I can tell you now that no matter how daunting it seems, it will work out in the end, even if it takes a while. If you’re just starting at university,  take my experience with a pinch of salt because yours will be entirely different and it’s better to discover things for yourself.

In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned how I tried to prepare for living in halls by cooking and washing clothes at home. Despite this bit of practice, it took me a while to adjust to cooking a lot and then having to the dishes afterwards. It’s safe to say that I really appreciated the dishwasher whenever I was back home for a weekend. Even though I generally stayed away from ready meals and takeaways, my diet was nowhere near as healthy as I would have liked it to be but as a student, I felt it was slightly justified.  If you read my ‘Tips for Living in Halls,’ you’ll know that I got better at portioning for one person but just making sure I fed myself properly felt like a lot of effort after a long day of classes.

I found that looking after yourself gets a lot harder when you’re ill. It seems obvious but I never realised how much of a struggle it would be, even to just get a hot water bottle.  Over Christmas, I had a cold that developed into an exceptionally bad cough to the point that it made me feel like I was coughing up a lung every minute of the day. During the week when I was at my worst, I had two exams, a folio deadline and a room inspection and I cried so much from the effort it took to get me through those few days. When semester one was finally over and I went home for Christmas, I felt really proud of myself because I didn’t give up despite how close I came to doing so.

I don’t think I realised at the time how much I struggled through the first semester and how much I wanted to drop out of university. The pressure that came with so many classes on top of the newness of being away from home and having to fend for myself was too much for me to handle at times. When Christmas rolled around I had just about reached my breaking point so spending a few weeks at home over the holidays was a huge relief. After the struggles that I had during December and the exam period, I was determined to be more on top of my game during the second semester and returning to university in January seemed significantly easier especially when the number of classes I had almost halved. It gave me the breathing room that I needed to work hard at my assessments and have time to myself so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with projects and exams.

Even though I procrastinate a lot, I generally get my work done to the best of my ability and on time. However, this was tested come March/April when chaos erupted across the university as a result of so many classes being cancelled because of snow and strikes. With limited contact from the majority of lecturers, my classmates and I couldn’t get the information we needed about coursework and much-needed deadline extensions. The lack of responses to our emails left us feeling confused and panicked about what material we would have to cover in our exam as the end of term drew closer.

As not every lecturer was striking, I had to decide whether to cross picket lines and attend the few classes that were still running or miss out on my education to purposefully show my support. I still backed the lecturers that were protesting but if I was going to pass my classes I had no choice but to cross the line. On the occasional days that all classes were running, staff would spend half of the lecture talking about why they were striking and then try to cram four lessons into 20-30 minutes. In secondary school, it was a great day when classes were cancelled due to whatever reason but in university, I couldn’t wait for the strikes to be over because it caused so much extra stress for the exams that were looming in the horizon.

I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic with my cello practice during my first year of university, which probably wasn’t the best idea for someone studying Music Technology. Being in a new environment and having so much more responsibility meant that I was too focused on other things rather than taking the time to actually practice my playing. I had hoped to achieve my ABRSM Grade 8 in cello by the time I left Edinburgh for the Summer but I’m not that much closer to passing it now than I was a year ago.

At school, I was used to being the most experienced cellist as I was the only one who played in my Higher/Adv. Higher class. I went from being a big fish in a small pond to a tiny fish in the ocean and it was very intimidating to look at myself as a musician in a completely new light. I lost some confidence in my playing over the past year because I was constantly surrounded by people who had much more talent than I. It doesn’t bother me as much anymore because I’ve grown to focus less on how I compare to other people.

I didn’t have any close friends from back home who were attending the same university as me so I was fairly lonely when I started out. I thought it was a given that I’d become really close with the people I lived with for nine months but this turned out not to be the case. If you’ve been reading my blog from the start you’ll know that I started it because I felt isolated from everyone as I didn’t leave my bedroom much. It definitely affected my mood a lot during the first semester and I blamed my social awkwardness for not making more of an effort with my flatmates though I realise now that it wasn’t just my fault and friendship is a two-way street. If things had been different and I didn’t feel so lonely in my accommodation, I probably would have never started this blog which was perhaps one of the best decisions I made in the last year.

As a result of the degree I am studying, I have been incredibly lucky to meet some amazingly talented people who I can now call my best friends. In a year we formed a fairly close-knit group that I am so thankful for and they all mean the world to me. I am so happy to be living with some of them this year and even though it has only been a few weeks I am so much happier in this flat than I ever was in my halls. They are so supportive of my decisions and have helped me to come out of my shell a little bit at a time and realise that I can be a pretty cool person too.

As I start my second year, I’ve been thinking about how I want to improve myself and my life whilst being in Edinburgh. For example, if I have not passed my Grade 8 cello exam by this time next year I will be beyond disappointed in myself as will a lot of family members. I would like to continue with my blog and putting lots of effort into it to create the best possible content that I can and by keeping it up, I can still track my progress as a person trying to navigate the adult world. It also gives me a space to record my university life and all its ups and downs, of which there are many.

I hope over the next year I learn to overthink things less and love myself more. I need to remind myself that it’s pretty good being me and that I can be the person that I want to be if I work hard. Granted it will involve me going to the gym and attempting to speak to strangers but I’ll hopefully flourish into a more confident person who always puts her best foot forward.

Taken on the Last Day of my First Year at University

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My Previous University Blog Posts

How I Decorated my Universty Bedroom

Tips for Living in Halls

Freshers’ Week: The Complete Guide

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