I decided today I’d go down a bit of a different route with my lifestyle posts and talk a little bit about my time at University! I did BA English at the University of Exeter, and I am graduating this summer with a 2:1. Of course, there’s way more to life at uni than can ever fit into one blog post, so I’ll probably do a mini-series of these, posting them over the next few weeks to hopefully help out anyone who might be about to start University! Of course, anyone looking to start University in September will likely notice some big differences as a result of COVID, but hopefully there are still many things I can offer advice on that might be useful for new students! This is definitely going be quite a general post, a bit of an overview and some highlights, and then I’ll talk more about specific things like study advice, adjusting to living away from home and making new friends in future posts. If there are any topics you’d be interested in me covering, let me know in the comments and if I can, I’ll make a post on it!
On my course, first year didn’t count. This is fairly common, but it won’t be the case for every course so make sure you check before you decide to scrape through with a pass! The phrase “first year doesn’t count” means that the grade you get in your first year doesn’t contribute to your overall degree classification. We had to pass to progress to second year, but our grades weren’t put towards the classification. As a result, first year was a great time for me to try different things both academically and socially without having to put loads of pressure on myself to be achieving high grades. Of course, if you start out putting in loads of effort things will be easier later on, but if you’re in this situation, wondering whether to play it safe with an essay or take a risk, you’ve not got a lot to lose from taking a risk and experimenting with different essay styles to figure out what works.
Obviously as well as adjusting to academic writing in first year, you also need to adjust to living alone (assuming it is your first time living alone!) and make friends. I joined a lot of societies in first year, but ended up making the majority of my friends from people I met on my course. We had a Facebook group chat for English before I started Uni, and I chatted to a lot of people on there and made friends before I’d even arrived! I’d definitely recommend seeing if your Uni has a Freshers Group on Facebook (Exeter does an official one, but you might also find unofficial ones) and trying to get to know people a little before you meet in person. Usual internet safety rules apply, of course.
One of my highlights of first year and, in fact, my life, was pretty much unrelated to University. I was invited to Taylor Swift’s house in London where I was one of the first people to hear reputation, four weeks before it was released. Yes, I wrote a blog post on this a while back. Obviously the most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to me! Roughly 100 people, sat on a living room floor, Taylor Swift playing unreleased songs to us… wild.
Second year is when everyone on my course started to buckle down and get to work! I moved in with a group of girls I met on my course, and we discovered the joys of student housing. In first year we were all in halls, which are usually maintained by the University (though there are some halls owned by private companies that are very similar in practice) and therefore you don’t really have to think about things like whether there’s a leaky roof, because that’s all taken care of. Dealing with estate agents and landlords while living in a very old house is a completely different ballgame. With student housing its very hit and miss as to whether you get a decent estate agent/landlord or not (and to be fair, the same applies to non-student rented housing), but we were pretty lucky. We did have a leaky roof for several months, though.
In second year, people tend to go less wild with signing up to societies, and I definitely tried to limit myself a bit compared to first year. I still bought more memberships than I ever used, but I stuck to joining societies with cheaper memberships so I didn’t lose too much money! By second year my friend group was pretty well-established but as is the case, you meet new people, some people drift away and things shift a little. For the most part though, past term 1 of first year my friends were pretty much all already made and set to last.
Do we even want to talk about third year? For me, third year was worth two thirds of my overall degree classification, while second year was only one third. So the pressure’s really on! Obviously you write your dissertation in third year as well, which was a highlight of my university experience, getting to spend so long working on something, crafting and editing, and editing some more, and then finally having to send it off into the void. For me, dissertation was just in term 2, but I know some courses/Universities have you writing it over the entire year! I got to do a Creative Writing dissertation which was great because it allowed me to spend ages living with something I was really passionate about. However. COVID. Term 2 was cut short because of COVID, and we all ended up going home just before lockdown was imposed, knowing we probably weren’t coming back. The dreams of a month and a half of goofing around, exploring Devon, having fun went completely out the window, because that was how we were planning to spend our May/June. Even graduation got cancelled. So third year didn’t end on the high that you really want from your university experience which… sucked. The University plans to throw us a belated graduation celebration next summer, however, so hopefully we’ll be able to go out with a bang, albeit a very delayed one.
So, there we have it! My University experience in a nutshell. Please let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in more detail in the comments section. Stay safe, and I hope to see you back on my blog soon!