You’ve probably heard it a million times already, but the transition from the sixth form to university is a huge one. Academically, you’re entering a whole new ball park with completely new content and expectations. Socially, you’ll probably never encounter as many new and diverse people than you will at University. Along with this, there are so many other changes that can make for big challenges now that you’re living independently.
First of all, living away from your family means your personal chefs and maids (AKA your parents) are no longer at your beck and call. For many students, the prospect of cooking for themselves on a daily basis is daunting, and the consequent panic buying of pot noodles often ensues during Freshers’ Week. Chances are however, you’ll be landed with at least a couple of flat mates who are more nutritionally able than you, who can show you the ropes. Not to mention there are tonnes of student-friendly cookbooks out there that can guide you on your way to making proper meals. Besides, try to see your newfound culinary freedom as an opportunity: have dinner at midnight if you want to, and hey, why not make it consist of breakfast foods?
As well as a wildly different eating schedule, the university lifestyle very much entertains irregularity in terms of day-to-day timings. Completely unlike school, you will tend to have academic commitments at different times each day, and it’s more common to go on a night out midweek than at the weekend. The resulting sleep schedule will probably be somewhat erratic compared to what you’re used to. That’s just the beauty of it: although this irregularity may exhaust you, to begin with, at university you have the freedom to stick to whatever kind of sleep schedule you want (or to no schedule at all). You can experiment and discover when your most productive hours are (maybe they are late at night) without anyone crashing in to wake you up before midday accusing you of laziness and unproductiveness. Although if you’re unlucky, you might end up in a flat where the designated fire alarm test is at 9 am every Thursday… but we’ll pray that that’s not the case.
During those varied waking hours, you’ll be thrown into swarming crowds of new faces, and as if gradually increasing your interactions with all these strangers day by day isn’t hard enough, you might end up having to share a bathroom with them as soon as you’ve met. You’re probably dreading it, envisaging some awkward shower-to-bedroom sprints and endless queues.
Everyone is worried about how they’ll cope without their own bathroom if they’re not lucky enough to get an en-suite, but the truth is, after a while, it’s no different to sharing a bathroom with your family. In fact, living with a bunch of strangers will more than likely turn out to be one of the best parts of your university experience; those strangers you’re forced to share a bathroom with against your will may well end up being your best friends. If that’s the case, every day will be full of laughs. Just think of the endless pranking opportunities when your best friends all live a door away from each other. There are endless opportunities for a laugh, and there’s always someone about in the kitchen, or a couple of doors down from you who are up for a chat. The people you share with won’t stay strangers for long, and once you get past that initial awkwardness, there will never be a dull moment in the flat.
While university is an amazing time to meet loads of new people, it’s also a time where you inevitably say goodbye to others for a while. This can be hard, especially if you come from a close family or are used to seeing your friends all the time. That being said, rest assured that there are so many ways to stay in touch and keep in frequent contact with all those important people. However, one of the more difficult relationships to maintain is the one with your beloved pet. They are the one family member you can’t call or text. Although FaceTime lets you see a fuzzy and disinterested furry figure through the screen, it’s more difficult to feel connected to them. You can’t interact with them properly or pet them, and they often don’t associate the small noisy rectangle shoved in their face with their missing human, and consequently often run off while your parent or sibling frantically calls their name and tells you to speak to see if they recognize your voice. So it is hard not to miss them. However, university life is insanely busy and every day will be jam-packed with exciting new things and distractions galore, so you’ll probably find that you miss them less and less as the term goes on because your mind is focused on way too many other things.
Despite the problems that may arise from living independently for the first time, gaining that sense of freedom and autonomy over your own lifestyle is unparalleled. Especially if you were used to strict parenting at home, university life will liberate you like nothing else. If you’re nervous about the changes, remember that it’s completely natural to be worried, but that settling-in-period is only short-term; there is so much more to look forward to in terms of your new university lifestyle, so embrace it!