"You'll totally change at university!"
"Everything will be different at university."
When I moved in as a fresher, nervous and excited to meet new people and make new friends, I was happy. I went out, partied, and felt like I was liked by people (something which I have always struggled to believe). But this only lasted for a few weeks. Then people start to settle, friendship groups are formed, and I was back feeling like I didn't belong at all. My flatmates were amazing and lovely and brilliant, but my confidence, or lack of, was once again getting in the way of me connecting to people. I spent a whole lot of first year in my room feeling sad and alone, and angry that this advice was wrong. I hadn't undergone a magical butterfly transformation and I felt just awful.
The thing is, I didn't realise that a whole lot of people feel like this. Your first year at university is a big adjustment period. Your whole time at university is an adjustment period. You're learning new things, you're trying to be an adult, and for many people, you're fending for yourself in the big world for the first time. It's hard. There's a whole lot going on and so many people feel like they're the only ones being left behind whilst everyone else is happy and coping and working and socialising. But that's not true at all. Lots of people feel weird and icky.
Towards the end of my first year, I started to decide to be brave, and if it wasn't for the wonderful Codie letting me be on her campaign to be VP of our SU, I don't think I'd have ever broken out of my shell (so thank you Codie, seriously!). Codie, and all the fabulous people I met during campaigns week, really encouraged me not to hide myself away, and made me feel like I was good at things. It was with this newfound confidence that in my second year, I ran for Women's Officer. I went from not leaving my room to running for election. Yikes!
I won the election, became Women's Officer, and my confidence increased tenfold. I joined societies, did volunteer work, didn't stay in my room all the time, and made my own friends as well as spending a lot of time with Freddie's friends. At the end of second year, I started a new job which I loved doing, and I started my blog which helped me meet loads of new and wonderful people too. From my second year of university onwards, things have only got better. I even got voted most adorable at our Rad Ball (an amazing student-organised graduation party), which really helped me believe that people actually enjoy my company and want to be my friend (which sounds really silly but whatever!). On top of this, I graduated with a 2:1 which I am so proud of, especially considering all of the fun stuff I got up to, as well as the bad. During my second and third years, I experienced loss and grief, nearly dying, the serious illness of more than one loved one, and I coped. I learned that I really am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.
Now, as a graduate embarking on a Master's degree, I still struggle a lot with confidence, but it's not constant, and I deal with it so much better because I know that I can do it (whatever it is). University has taught me that I am super capable, resilient in the face of all kinds of horrible things, and a total badass. It's not like high school. You can dress how you want, be who you want, and find people who love you for you. You've just got to be brave and take the first step, and watch the opportunities snowball. So I'd say that the advice was right all along, it's just more of a slow process than I ever expected, and I'm not a totally different person, I'm just the person I was supposed to be all along (cringe.).