Growing up in the absolute middle of nowhere for the past 18 years could have never prepared me for the transition from the country to the city, or school to uni. Garron tower was the castle on the hill, not just a school but a community and unfortunately in September, I learnt that Jerusalem Street was not exactly the same. For the duration of my upper 6th year, the stress of A-levels had made me that pupil who couldn’t wait to leave and move on to university. A few weeks into my first semester however, things took a turn, and I would have done anything to press rewind. The transition from primary to secondary school, at the innocent age of 11, seemed to be the biggest moment of my life (or so I thought). A big new building with 800 pupils and an oversized uniform that made me feel tinier than I already was. Fast-forward 7 years and Ulster University Jordanstown was unfortunately an even bigger step; one I didn’t think I could take.
Truthfully, I thought I had a fair idea of what ‘uni life’ had to offer when I left the house that Sunday evening, with an Asda bag full of the essentials and a huge grin on my face. My sister has been at uni for the past 2 years and the thrill of partying and staying with her in ‘the big smoke’ was the only real experience I had. Lying in bed, nursing a sore head, whilst she attempted to make herself presentable for class was exactly what I expected and couldn’t wait for. Unfortunately, reality soon became my enemy. Uni wasn’t what I had anticipated, and I soon became that girl. Struggling to get ready, panicking about missing the bus and not being able to find my class.
For me, first semester wasn’t all fun and games. I felt so out of my depth and frankly, quite stupid. I thought everyone around me was 10 times smarter than I was and that I would ultimately never be able to survive until graduation, drop out, become a sad and uneducated 40-year-old, who had been shamed the uni drop out, failure and disappointment of the family…phew. What about my aspirations to become a highly paid successful professional, with a just as successful husband, 3 kids, a dog and a huge house? Dramatic, I know, but honestly, I couldn’t see myself surviving until Christmas, never mind final year. Who would have thought when you came to uni you would actually have to do work?! Is it not all about the craic? After 3 assignments and 4 tests I’ve realised it’s not…BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an absolute blast.
I know I’m making semester one out to be the worst thing in the world but it’s honestly how I felt. However, what I’ve came to realise with the aid of my new friends, who I had originally deemed the next Einstein’s, is that everyone is in the same boat, so don’t worry. Uni is a scary place for a first year and no matter how clever you know you are you begin doubting yourself and your ability. You disregard the fact you got the grades and you’re fit for the degree, all you need is the motivation to work for it. Don’t let the fear of the unknown ruin your uni experience, especially first year. This is the time to let all the partying out of your system and discover more about who you are (as cliché as it sounds). You need to remember you didn’t work your butt off at school to come this far and only this far. Embrace all the worries and wonders student life has to offer and take them in your stride. After all, your student days are the best days of your life; fact. No matter how many times you convince yourself you can’t do it, you can and you will.
In the wise words of Samantha Montgomery, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Thanks for reading!
Holly Gillan is a first year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – hollygillan987 ; Twitter – @Hollyg453