HOW UNIVERSITY CHANGED ME

Dear Humans,

Finishing University was an extremely manic yet fulfilling time in my life. As I sit in this Waterstones Cafe and reflect on my last weeks in Southampton, words honestly cannot describe it.

University was three of the best years of my life, as cliché as it sounds. I went in one person and came out the same yet very different. Nothing could have prepared me for the mental and personal changes I was about to undergo when sending off my UCAS back in 2013. I moved to University only knowing two people and thought I had my life figured out. I never wanted to go to University prior to 2013 but when my college life came to an end I thought, ok everyone is going so I’ll just go and I knew it would make my Dad happy. I never put into perspective how my life could change by moving away to an unknown city.

In first year I made a few friends but no one who I was particularly close to. I had a good year, went out sometimes, stayed in just as much and travelled home quite regularly as there are about 2,000 people in my family which means ongoing birthdays.

Second year was when I decided to make some changes in my life, I felt depressed and alone being away from my friends and family. Everyday became hard and I knew I needed to be in a good head space to get through the next year and a half. I began googling ways to feel more positive, become more relaxed and to help my anxiety. I began meditating, it wasn’t something I spoke about much at first because I thought people would think it was silly but clearing my head and spending time zoning out a few times a week really helped to change my head space. In my day to day life I became more aware of the decisions I was making, I could connect with myself in ways I didn’t know how to before. You know when you feel like you are making a silly decision but you can’t quite connect with yourself to make the right one. I was now able to interact with myself and keep more of a level head (whenever alcohol wasn’t involved). Studying became easier, waking up for work and class became easier. I worked on my photography and started blogging. I had my friends at University and met new friends at work and slowly but surely developed into who I am supposed to be.

Meeting my wonderful friends Manny, Imane and Sian at work (RIP French Connection Southampton) had an impact on my journey too. I love how you are directed to like-minded people at University. I truly believe there is someone just like you at University and that’s why so many people meet life long friends and partners there, I love you guys. By my third and final year I was ready, mentally. I started all of my work straight away, especially my dissertation (final major project) which was my book Young London Vision & Voices (See previous post). I spent longer in the library and made sure I was present at University. Sometimes when you make a positive change in your life you have to wait a while for the benefits but these benefits were truly worth waiting for. It felt amazing to have my tutors let me know that they had seen a positive change in me and my work ethic. I didn’t have too much of a personal relationship with my teachers prior to my third year because as well as being shy I don’t really like to speak unless I have something valid to say. Long story short, the last time I saw my tutor I cried my eyes out.

I am so happy I had the balls to move away to Southampton. Anxiety and depression never fully goes away but I have seen a tremendous change ever since I dedicated everyday to practising mindfulness in some form, whether it be through meditation, prayer, sitting down and reflecting only my day or reading a book. Every penny, every late library session and every single tear shed was worth it. It isn’t just about the degree I am so happy to be independent, spiritually aware and to know that if need be, I can do it on my own.

With Love,

Shay RS x

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