So the day had finally come when I was due to pack my belongings, to leave the security of my parents’ custody, to seek my fortune in the wide world, and to become a man.
Or at least, it felt something like that!
Having somehow got the results I needed to confirm my place at Southampton, I remember the days leading up to the start of University life were a bit of a haze: I’d been lucky enough to go abroad with some close school friends for a ‘one last hurrah’ trip of swimming, sunbathing and souvenir shopping, I’d visited countless household item shops comparing kitchen utensils and selecting my preferred plate and cutlery design, I’d packed everything I ‘might’ need (most of which I probably didn’t, but will still probably go back in September!) and all of a sudden the day of moving had come. It felt surreal getting into the car for the five-hour journey to Southampton, sensing butterflies aplenty; it was like I was, but simultaneously was nowhere near, ready for what was about to come. Uncertainty was in a titanic struggle with complete and utter excitement. Overall, I just wanted somebody to tell me what the heck was going to happen!
My first acting of the year: smiling for this camera! And yes, that is a lot of stuff!
I guess it’s something which everybody reacts to differently, but for me arrival day was equally as nerve-wracking as it was exciting. There were a million and one questions I was asking myself when I was dropped off at Montefiore halls of residence, Wessex Lane, armed with boxes, bags and bedding, that first day: Will I like my room? Will I enjoy my course? Will I get on with my flatmates? Will I be able to live independently? What am I actually going to DO each day?!
Plenty of people had told me beforehand not to worry, that it’d take a while to get used to things, and that I was going to have the time of my life. Although upon reflection I agree with them wholeheartedly (University’s amazing!), on that late September day the lack of definite answers made it quite difficult to convince myself! I think this was my first true test while living away from home for the first time; combating what I nicknamed ‘home on Monday syndrome’, where the surreal nature of the experience made the more permanent change feel like a temporary trip or holiday.
Some people may find they adapt to the new independent lifestyle straight away, others may take longer, but I just tried my best to persevere with growing into new responsibilities and, by keeping myself busy and learning from the many, many, many early mistakes I made (like accidentally leaving my milk on its side to leak over everyone’s fruit, or the ‘cooking’ in the photo below!), by the end of Freshers’ Week I was much more comfortable with looking after myself. So if you’re not sure about cooking, shopping, laundry, the Uni-Link bus system (which is very handy, particularly because residents of university halls get a free bus pass!), whatever, don’t feel afraid to learn through giving things a go – even if you mess up, you won’t be the first or last.
What I was meant to have for dinner on day three was Chicken Pie with Mashed Potato. What I ended up with for dinner on day three was Chicken Pie with Potato Lumps (I’ve since learnt the value of boiling potatoes for longer)!
Fortunately, the process of settling in was eased by my very understanding and friendly flatmates (who hopefully aren’t reading this!). Initially we discovered we were from vastly different courses, regions of the country and backgrounds (which was evident just from standing in the hallway and listening to everyone’s music!) but we quickly found lots to talk about, even if most of it was just trying to figure out what on earth to do and when we were supposed to do it (go grocery shopping, fill in various forms, register with the health service etc)! Together, we managed to work out most things and, if we were ever unsure, the University offered plenty of avenues for advice and support (such as the very helpful staff in the Student Services building on Highfield Campus). The occasion our microwave suffered an untimely death the third time we used it springs to mind; mourned particularly by the male members of the flat, whose package meals had to stay in the freezer, the receptionists at Montefiore were particularly helpful in arranging for it to be replaced quickly!
Half of the flat. One of the earliest occasions we needed fancy dress, but certainly not the last!
The prospect of your early days in Southampton can be daunting, and a universal adjustment in your way of living isn’t always easy to grasp straight away, but I think it’s all about giving yourself time to get used to your new circumstances and surroundings. For me, my first week and term was a period of great discovery. I learned more in my first month here than during any other timespan in my life, so I’d encourage any incoming students to not to be afraid of the uncertainty that surrounds settling in, because the extent to which support is available, from each other and the University, is such that you’ll find a way to deal with any issue which might arise.
Welcome to the rest of your life!
PS. To those who have just finished their school exams: first things first, congratulations on completing them! Now, regardless of how they went, I’d recommend just putting them behind you and making the most of the summer – you deserve the rest!