Being a fresher is an experience hard to replicate, hard to leave and impossible to get back. It’s an experience every uni student goes through and almost always regrets moving on – a growing experience that changes you completely, for better (or occasionally for worse!)
For me, mostly it was a growing experience, an independence that I hadn’t previously understood or reached. Growing up in the cushy environment of a middle-class New Delhi home, having a driver, a cook and a maid had left me somewhat ineffectual, having to learn to (attempt to) cook, do laundry and well, just learn to be independent. This resulted in a pot of congealed, mashed up grey rice, (really, how do you possibly mess up rice?); an exploded quiche; slight embarrassment in the laundry room and spending the Christmas holidays learning to make a few things.
Uni is a chance to realise what you would and wouldn’t do; the people you suit and don’t; who you are and aren’t. Your first year is an integral part of that. For many of us, it’s our first chance to be independent, to stand on our own feet and to make our own decisions – often without input or help. It’s turning an essay in without anyone proof reading it; it’s wandering around town on your own; it’s dealing with running out of milk when everything’s closed (generally that means surreptitiously stealing someone else’s but you get the idea!) It’s the effort of dealing with your own problems yourself and curling up with a good movie when you’re feeling a bit crap. It’s a million different moments, snapshots carved into your memory that make up the amazing time most of us feel it is.
In some ways, I feel more like me at uni more than anywhere else, where I have a room of my own (that’s right, Virginia Woolf), where there’s always someone to talk to or go out with, where people are around if you’re feeling sociable or not if you choose to hibernate. And while I’m very much looking forward to living in a house (and having a living room and especially a sofa!); I know that I’m definitely going to miss halls. A third of my degree is over and already the nostalgia has begun.
In the beginning, in some ways, I felt like uni was really overrated, that people didn’t seem all that different from everyone else I know – that the broadening of my horizons didn’t seem all that likely. Coming to the end of my first year however has made me realise how much I actually have changed; not only in terms of confidence and independence but in ideals, ideas and often thought processes. My reactions are often different and having now spent some time with my family, I (and probably, they) can feel a difference.
Although York wasn’t initially my first choice (being one of the many Oxbridge rejects on campus), I’m incredibly happy to be here and to have had the year that I did. I have no illusions about it being perfect, just right.