Lately I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic, and this has led me to look back through Facebook at all the old photos I’ve uploaded on my page over the years. Amongst the many albums I’ve got on the social media site, I came across the photo albums which contain photos of my first year at university. Without realising, six and a half years have passed since I moved to Canterbury to start my degree in English with Media and Cultural Studies. It doesn’t seem possible that this September will mark seven years since I made this move to uni.
Whilst the three years I spent there were some of the best of my life; I made some great friends, made some brilliant memories that I still hold fondly, and obviously got my degree that has helped me get to where I am today, looking back I realise just how much I’ve changed in a relatively short space of time.
The ‘Emily’ of 2010 was shy, extremely self-conscious and found it pretty difficult to talk to some of the many new people I was meeting in this new environment. I struggled to bond with some of the people I was living with in the student halls that were my home for my first year of university life.
In actual fact, struggle is the wrong term to use; I was pretty much terrified of the six other people that were living in the same house as me for that year, particularly for the first few months of my time there. I didn’t know what to say to them, how to act around them, I was even afraid to go in the kitchen we all shared at the same time as them. My nerves and anxiety around living with complete strangers got so bad that it actually reached a point where I would wait until the majority of them had finished eating their dinners before going in and making my own meal. It sounds sad, and looking back it actually makes me cringe a little bit, but I was in a situation where I felt awkward and uncomfortable, and my 18/19 year old self chose this way to cope with it all.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the people I was living with, and I did get on quite well with a few of them. As soon as the whole group was together though, I instantly felt out of my comfort zone and wanted to retreat back into the safety of my own bedroom. It was a horrible feeling, and I remember having the funny feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t doing the university experience ‘properly’, as it were. Although two of the people I lived with did eventually make their own friendship groups outside of our bunch of housemates, the remaining residents of our shared house all got on like a house on fire, and had well and truly established their friendship group, which also included a number of other people from neighbouring student houses and their respective courses. There was no point in time where I was part of this group. I felt like an outsider from the word go, not because anyone had said or done anything to make me feel like this, I just conjured this thought up myself. This, combined with my general shyness, led to me pushing myself away from the group, and never really joining in with anything that the rest of the house was involved in.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I did make some great friends during my three years at university, namely from both my courses that I studied, but the bond I made with these people was never achieved with those I was living with. Things weren’t helped when I heard one of my housemates talking about me in the kitchen one evening (rather loudly, considering the walls were quite thin and my room was situated literally two steps from the kitchen where she was proudly discussing how she found it so strange that I was so quiet and supposedly never spoke).
Although I did retreat to my own room or friends houses a lot during that year, I did try my best to talk and make conversation with some of the people I lived with, who I found that bit harder to talk to. It felt like being stabbed in the chest hearing someone, who had only known me for around four weeks at this point, talk about me as though I was some kind of freak for not being as seemingly confident as other people.
I wrote a post quite a while ago now about how frustrating it is when people interpret my initial shyness and quiet nature as being rude, which this particular housemate clearly took it as. I didn’t realise it then, but now I know that I was suffering a lot with anxiety and paranoia, something that I tried to overcome time and time again, but comments like that made by my housemate, and my own general worries about fitting in, always seemed to hold me back.
It’s funny really to think that now I’m far more comfortable with making conversation with new people. I still have my moments where I go into complete panic mode when talking with someone new, and it still takes me a while to come out of my shell, but it’s been a massive improvement from when I started university all those years ago. In a way, I wish I could do university again, but then again hindsight is a beautiful thing, and I learnt a lot about myself and people from that year of living in student accommodation.
What I also learnt was two other valuable life lessons. One, you’re not going to get along with everyone you live with at university, and that’s okay, because let’s face it, every single person you meet in life isn’t going to become your best friend. Second lesson learnt, is that some people will judge you from first impressions, and won’t give you time to come out of your shell and show the real you. This isn’t something you can work on yourself, as obviously it’s up to that individual to change how they think about people, but the one thing you can take from that is to never do the same to others around you. Always give people a chance to come out of themselves. It might take longer with some people, but don’t rush to conclusions and make up your mind before you’ve really got to know who they are. As the famous saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, as you never know how wrong your first impressions could be.