So, just as everyone warned, my first term at university has gone by in a too-quick whirlwind of essays and tequila. Reflecting on the past few months puts me in the eye of the storm, looking back on deadlines and chilly toes and rainy Monday lectures, and I feel now is as good a time as any to write it all down. I definitely, arrogantly, feel far older, wiser and more independent than I was 10 weeks ago- not least because I pierced my cartilage- and have learnt a lot living away from home, as everyone in the same position is forced to do. Most importantly, perhaps, I have learned that England is cold. It wasn’t far into October before I realised I couldn’t text after being outside- my fingers frozen into redundancy. So, aside from the ridiculous Northern temperatures, what follows is a round-up of my first term at York.
Sleep vs. Sesh
Anyone who knew me in Singapore will know that I am weak in the face of micoplasma- a strain of pneumonia/glorified flu virus that tends to strike me down for weeks at a time, at multiple points in the year. With this general pathetic-ness in terms of health in mind, I know that getting enough sleep is, as I guess it is for everyone, essential.
BUT, when Wednesday night is social night and you have a 9am seminar the next day, some sacrifices have got to be made. And I have chosen, probably too often, to sacrifice a fully awake mind in my Thursday morning “Making Histories” class. Luckily, my embarrassingly tame drinking habits have saved me from horrific hangovers, and I can’t say I regret the nights I’ve spent at Flares dancing to One Direction (probably the only place I’ve ever been that willingly accepts my 1D requests) instead of lying in bed wishing I was doing just that.
The elusive concept of ‘The Budget’
My parents have tried, apparently to no avail, to instil within me the concept of having a budget. It seemed a pretty simple notion and I was quite sure, when I set off for uni, that I would be swimming in the money I would save every month. I’m not a massive drinker (although will never say no to a glass of Red Menace- our flat’s disgusting speciality concoction of New Amsterdam Vodka and fruit twist Fanta), and I have most of my meals catered for on campus. My mum funded my yearly bus pass AND bought me the winter neccessities my life in Singapore had not required. Probably, any half competent human would be able to budget their money in a situation like mine. I’ve quickly come to realise, however, that spending £12.75 on eyebrow threading every 3 weeks, throwing another £60 at Trainline after sleeping through your departure time and booking a return ticket for a trip to Scotland going in the wrong direction does not allow much to be saved. I also bought my visiting mum a bottle of champagne with gold flakes in it. Too much? This term, I’m content to put it down to the general chaos that aligns itself with settling into a new place, and hopefully next term I can rise above the mess (a happy mess, at that) this chaos has made me.
The actual work
Though my dad will tell you I am partying too much (he likes to check when I was last online on Whatsapp- classic), the actual work side of uni has been surprisingly great. One of the luxuries of my degree- English and History- is that there are relatively few contact hours, meaning a lot of my time is spent in with a book (a new text for English every week) or historical journal on my lap, or typing up my own ideas rather than in a lecture hall, which suits me perfectly. My academic week culminates in a high with my English seminar, a two hour discussion between our group of 12 and our tutor. As cringe as it sounds (I do cringe quite well) it has completely revived my love for English to be in an environment when everyone around me is just as excited by literature, and all have so many interesting and unique things to say about it. The grade on my first essay was underwhelming, but (especially since first year doesn’t count, thank god) I was not overly disappointed, as I can already feel my level of analysis and the things I see in the texts becoming more perceptive and more original, thanks to the things I am learning at York.
History hasn’t provided me with the same excitement- the only module this term being ‘Making Histories’, a class about how History is written and received rather than actual past events and periods. It’s been a slug of journals and critical reviews and a lot of things I did not expect my degree to entail, but has hopefully served it’s purpose of leaving me more prepared to write my own History in the following months and years of my course. With English, though, I find myself the keenest of keen beans in lectures and seminars, and to not feel this level of interest in the other half of my degree is somewhat disheartening. Thankfully, the real history starts next term.
Two lovely and well meaning 2nd years came to help me move my luggage from car to college when I arrived on my first day, lightyears ago. They nearly dropped the bags they were kindly lugging across the carpark when I naively told them I was going to be living in N Block. They tried to suppress their slightly smug looks of sympathy, but it wasn’t long before I was greeted with the tin cupboards, dingy corridors and un-plastered breeze block that characterises my home, affectionately known amongst students ‘Prison Block’.
But it didn’t take long to realise that by being branded ‘prisoners’ of N Block, we have banded closer together. It was a conversation starter during fresher’s week- everyone wants to know what it is like to live in such squalor- and it has become a label associated with some really fun and friendly people. Over in the sparkling accommodation blocks on the Hes East campus, I cannot imagine any group gelling to the level that sharing 3 toilets and about minus 10 square metres forces you to reach. We’ve cried over Grey’s Anatomy together, we’ve seen each other participate in some aggressive drunk face licking, we’ve unclogged each other’s vomit from the kitchen sink (I did the unclogging, which I will never let go, it’s quality material), and I think I speak for all of us when I say we have had some of the most fun 10 weeks ever. And although I doubt my flatmates will have made it to the bottom of this post (I can’t help myself with the verbal diarrhea), I genuinely am grateful for their friendship and fun and continued bad influence when vodka is involved.