It's that time of year when students are thinking about packing their lives back into boxes (or maybe didn't unpack all summer?) and heading back off to university. It's that time of year Mum's & Dad's around the country heave a sigh of relief as the car of their twenty something overgrown child rounds the corner. It's that time of year you start getting Fresher's deals emails through your inbox and that time of year those of us who have graduated curse our lack of student discount.
I graduated two years ago now and all the sleepless nights and shit friends and deadline dramas are gone and these days I look back on my time at uni with rose tinted melancholy at not being there anymore. The beauty of the passing of time is hindsight and there's definitely a lot I wish I'd done differently the three years I was there. So whether you're a freshers, are halfway through your degree or are heading back for your last year - heed my words and listen to an old hand.
Bit of a controversial one. I went to university with a big grant, something that 100% enabled me to do a degree especially an arts one (don't get me started on my opinions about scrapping them) and I managed to come out of uni with a grand in savings. I had no overdraft, cheap rent, cheap bills and as soon as I came out I paid a deposit on a car and bought an iMac and my savings were gone. As much as I needed those savings, I kinda wish when I was there I wish I had spent more and worried about my savings less. I wish I'd bought more clothes (I feel like my flatmate would lol at this cos I bought a lot), spent more on nights out, splashed out on my friends and bought more takeaways (my flatmate would lol at this too). Spending more and saving less would also have allowed me to do most of everything else on my list....
University is stressful there's no two ways about it. Whilst the first year might be a bit of a write off of too much fun and lots of skipping lessons the reality is you're spending a lot of money on a qualification that could change your life and the panic is real. I wish I'd spent a lot less time worrying about my grades, striving for a first that I didn't get no matter how hard I tried and a lot more time relaxing and actually enjoying the work. The beauty of doing a creative course is there are very limited lectures and a lot of contact time and I wish I'd enjoyed the luxury of being in a studio with people around me a lot more cos god knows freelance work is a lonely old place.
I did my fair share of travelling when I was in uni but cost was always my downfall, forever saying "oh no I don't have enough this month" whilst saving like 50 quid. I went to uni in North Wales in Wrexham which is handily placed on the main train line from Cardiff, right on the border with England and about 50 minutes from the North Wales coastline. I went to Liverpool every Christmas, we hopped over to Chester all the time, we went to Manchester, we went to Llandudno a few times.... We did our fair share but I wish I'd done more. We could've easily down Shrewsbury, Hereford, Birmingham and more.
4. Making friends.
This is a bit of a grey one for me cos I was v happy with the friends I had in university, the ones I stopped being friends with and the ones I am still friends with now. What I mean maybe is I wish I'd made friends earlier. The thing with living in halls in first year is you meet a LOT of people and chances are everyone you're going to meet in the full three years. But the friends that stuck (apart from a select few of gems, hi Jen & Jonny) were made later in my degree. I knew them all but we didn't go out and do things and get close until well into second and even third year and I wish I'd made the effort to hang out with them much sooner because they ended up being the best.
5. Exploring town.
For those of you who know Wrexham you might not think it's somewhere I wish I'd explored more. Wrexham is rough there's no two ways about it. It's a town that's not built for a univetsity and a student culture, the high street is dying and there's not a lot of money there. But it's 100% one of those times you think 'but it's mine". I love Wrexham, I feel like I'm going home when I cross the viaduct to get there, it's full of happy memories and whilst the town centre might not be the most scenic, the surrounding area is lovely. We didn't have cars when we were students but when we had friends that did or families that visited I got the chance to go further afield and explore the county and the outskirts of town and it's something I always wish I'd been able to explore more.
6. Making memories.
I mean this is basically what the whole list is about no? University is brilliant and awful and stressful and amazing and upsetting and wonderful and you spend a lot of it focusing on the work. Don't get me wrong that's ultimately what you're there for and I don't advocate you just party and never work and to me that's the biggest waste of an opportunity but I do wish I'd spent more time making memories. I wish the weekends spent lying in my bed watching shit TV and eating were spent doing more of what I enjoyed - getting out and spending time with the people who made my degree experience for me. In the last 6 weeks of my degree the impending end really hit home and me and my housemates and my friends from my course did loads. We went on nights out, we went to Alton Towers, we went to Chester, we went to Liverpool, we visited the sea, we went to the zoo. we shopped in town, we spent too much money and ate too much food. We had nights in, we watched lots of films, we ate in every one of our favourite places and we really lived all whilst furiously studying for our finals.
The biggest piece of advice for all students, would be students and near graduates would be make memories. Spend time with the people who lift you up, ditch the people who don't, live big while you still can and take a million and one photos. You never get this opportunity again.