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First Year vs Second Year


As the Christmas celebration and festive excitement fades away, almost as quick as a box of Quality Streets on Boxing Day, the realisation that I am halfway through my university experience sinks in. I’m at the mid-way point of my 3 year adventure at Northumbria University. After spending half my time at college working and dreaming of getting to university, to think the finish line is almost in sight is a daunting prospect. As I look back on the past year and a half, living and studying in Newcastle, a lot has changed.

 Currently, I’m halfway through my second year as a Mass Communications with Public Relations student (basically media and marketing to those of you who need the translation). Everyone’s experience at university is different. Different course, different emotions, different friends etc.  Every year is a bigger leap, from college to uni. From first year to second year. More work and more learning, but at least the challenge keeps things interesting. Right now I love hibernating from the cold in the library, researching topics for my final assignments and a coffee shop not 2 mins away. Believe it or not, I even enjoy getting to my 9am lectures- it’s just part of my university experience. Your experience of second year may be different, I just hope you will be loving it as much as me.

For me personally, first year of university was a challenging time. As much as I loved being here, I couldn't escape growing anxieties that I was making a mistake. All I could think was, am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right course? What do I do after university? To summarise into one word: stress.

They say that at university you find your ground. Find out who you are, what you are going to do, who you will be friends with...laid out on a plate for you. It’s not as easy as it sounds, it is a gradual process, but I do make sense of whichever wise man said that. Throughout my time at university I have come face to face with some of my personal flaws, such as stressing over the tiniest little details. Looking back now, I even think my stress from first year stemmed from my own personal insecurities (which throughout my time at university I have been working on). But I’ve also come to realise what I am good at. Some people may perceive that as a big-headed and cocky notion, but some self-empowerment with breakfast never hurt anybody.

As well as personal growth, I’ve also had to adapt to new educational environments. Northumbria is amazing for its vast choice of study areas; whether it's the library, the coffee shop or even the Student Union. As for me, I have to be somewhere quiet, with little to zero distractions. But beyond buildings and quiet zones, whilst being at university I’ve had to learn how to manage my time and my work. With lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials, a part-time job, seeing friends, seeing my boyfriend...there’s a lot going on, and let’s not forget I have to go to sleep at some point as well. Being at university has taught me how to manage my time and work efficiently (meaning I don’t spend an hour on Instagram before typing any of my essays). My one tip which I have come to discover is a lifesaver: a diary. Buy a diary and write everything down so you know when you need to be doing what, and avoid Sunday night panics of ‘I completely forgot about this!’

Throughout all of the memories and lessons that university has taught me so far, one of my favourite parts of this entire experience has been the level of independence and freedom I have been given. I am now thriving in a creative, self-dependent environment where I feel like I am in control of my work. Control over deadlines, how I spend my time, my money...a sense of ‘becoming an adult’ has definitely hit home since starting university. This feeling of ‘becoming an adult’ is a shared excitement (and fear) between my friends who are also at university, which only makes it that much better. I am going through such a validating and self-empowering experience with a group of people I consider life-long friends. 

As I think about what I have left to face in my university experience, I am perplexed with both excitement and nerves. My dissertation is drawing close which I’m sure will not be a ‘walk in the park’ assignment. I have graduation to look forward to, but that could be seen as jumping ahead too far. Right now I am just looking forward to spending more time with my friends, getting that overwhelming relief after pressing submit on my assignments and living in Newcastle for that little bit longer!

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