I’ve just finished my final exam of my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature. Looking back on the last three years, it’s all a bit of a blur. And no, I don’t mean due to excessive alcohol consumption. I mean because, at least in the latter part of my degree, I kept myself busy with various experiences the university has to offer.
Nowadays, people know me as a person who is always busy, and who enjoys being busy. In addition to my degree, I worked a part-time job, I was on the editorial team of the student newspaper, chaired the Staff-Student Committee meetings, and even got an internship with the School of English. Comparing this to my first year, I used to be super lazy. I mean it, I did nothing. You’d be more likely to find me in bed all day watching series after series of Lost than spot me hanging about the students’ union. I like to think this isn’t because I was actually a “lazy” person, but that it took me a while to find my feet.
First year of university is hard. Especially if you’ve moved away from home for the first time. You might not love your course straight away, you might not land yourself with an ideal group of friends from day one, and you might genuinely not really feel part of the experience yet. This is what first year was like for me. I actually started at this university as a Geography student, I didn’t particularly bond with any of my flatmates in halls of residence, and I generally wasn’t the happiest student around. If you’ve got to the end of your first year and you’re not completely in love with your university experience yet – don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to turn that around. It really can take a while to find your feet, to find your friends, and to feel like you fit in. For me, this happened during the latter half of second year, when I finally made some ace course friends, who are pretty much the best pals ever. And if you don’t like your course, change it. Clawing my way into the School of English is the best thing I ever did, and everything else seemed to fall into place alongside this decision.
Everyone says this, but be brave! University is the perfect opportunity to try something different and challenge yourself, and it’s never too late to start. It took me until the end of second year to really settle in and start to discover new things, and it was better late than never. I joined the editorial team of Forge Press as a Games Editor in April 2012, which forced me to meet a whole team of new people, to work on my ability to write a decent article, trained me to use new software, gave me an eye for design; and gave me a whole new experience. I dove into this role head first and ended up with such a passion for the newspaper that I would now consider a career into journalism. Starting my third year more fresh and eager than ever before, I signed up to be a course rep. I forced all of my newly-acquainted friends to vote me in and before I knew it I wasn’t just a course rep but I had also got myself elected to chair all of the meetings. This decision was one that made me a little “What have you done?!” … I was terrified of getting up and speaking to people, nevermind be able to run two hour meetings of staff and students. And yes, the first one was terrifying, but this became one of my favourite parts of my university experience, and I even got a shiny Academic Award for my efforts at the end of the year.
The more I did, the happier I felt in Sheffield. Joining a society or getting more involved with your department can make you really feel a part of something big, whilst giving you valuable life experiences. Even if you don’t feel like giving up a lot of your time to, for example, a committee position on a society, just joining a society can enrich your student experience. Take notice of what’s going on around you, go and see one of our always-amazing SuTCo plays, go and watch a movie at Film Unit. Write an article or two for the student newspaper, go and see a poetry reading. Go to guest lectures, sneak in to any lectures! Getting involved with various things around the university didn’t just make me feel like a more productive / incredibly hectic human being, it also had huge long-term benefits from the experience I’ve gained. So my CV won’t only boast the all-important degree title from an excellent university, but shows a wide skillset that I was having too much fun to even really realise I was building.
My overall message is that it’s never too late to find your feet here, and being a little bit braver than you’re used to could be the best decision you ever make in your life. Now, I simply can’t bear to leave, so you’ll spot me lurking around Jessop West doing my Masters or bossing around my editorial team at Forge Press, continuing to be a busy little whirlwind, but having the best time ever.