A couple of things have been concerning me recently. First, the number of students going into their second year of university that think they’re the ones whose advice first-years ought to listen to about important uni experiences and second, the number of first-years who agree.
A lot of us seem to be labouring under the illusion that you can “learn university” in 30 weeks and that we’ve pretty much got it covered now. But we only have three terms, two exam periods and one freshers’ week behind us. Sure, that’s more than incoming first-years have, but not that much more. And the thing is, in another 30 weeks, our opinions about it all will probably have changed. Future us won’t agree with present us about whether a picture from the extremely complimentary Revs camera is worth the extortionate price of the place’s drinks, or about whether ordering the cheesecake from Efe’s is ever a good idea. Let alone the actual important stuff.
If I could speak to year seven me now, I would have so much to tell the poor little guy that would change how he experienced the next five years of his life. So much to warn him about, so much stuff to assure him doesn’t matter at all. There’d be haircuts to warn against and girls to tell him not to worry about. But this advice would be wildly different to the advice I’d have given him when I’d just finished year eleven. After all, I kept the stupid long hair for a long time.
Now that I can look back and see how big (or rather, small) an effect the content of those five years had on my life as a whole, I can see how soon it’s all forgotten and moved on from, and I can see what really stuck with me, I’d be in a much better place to give someone advice about it. But we can’t look back on our first year of university like that yet. It was only a couple of months ago. Right now I see my first experience of Willow as one of the real defining moments in my life. But maybe that will change just as soon as I’ve got any kind of actual achievement to look back on. Hindsight puts things into perspective.
So I worry when I see people in my own position giving advice about what’s important in your first year of university. With only a third of our time at university behind us, it’s difficult to even say whether it will have had that big an effect on our own university experience, let alone our whole life. And certainly not someone else’s. I suppose if I were to be completely hypocritical and give some advice of my own to our incoming freshers, it would be not to listen to people who tell you that this or that university experience will prove incredibly important when they’re not really in any position to put their own version of that experience in perspective yet, and to decide what’s important for yourself.