A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Thoughts On Finishing My Third Year of University


I'm writing this lying on my bed, having just read my old blog posts about finishing my first and second years of uni, wondering where on earth the past three years went. As you'll soon see if you follow those links and read my thoughts on when I finished my first and second years of uni, it only got better with each year for me. And that completely translated into third year.

It's funny because I remember this time last year being so terrified of third year and all of the work that it would bring, not to mention the fact that I didn't really know what I was going to do at the end of it. I vaguely knew that I wanted to travel, but the logistics were far from worked out. And there's no denying that my third year at Exeter involved incredibly hard work and multiple breakdowns when it felt like I couldn't juggle everything with a 9,000 word dissertation looming. But somehow I did. And alongside that I probably went out more and was generally busier than first and second year put together.

In my third year I had to make a choice. I could either push myself to the max and try and aim for a first-class degree, or I could make the most of my last year at uni (i.e. I could go out a lot, work a part time job and take part in society volunteering) and work my hardest on my degree around that. I chose the latter and I don't think I'll ever regret that. 

It might sound a bit cringey to say this, but third year really felt like the making of me. Sure, if I'm being completely explicit at points of the year I had feelings for people I shouldn't have (not ideal), lost someone who I thought would be my friend for life, and generally didn't always make the best decisions. And those first two things were really, really tough to go through. No one likes having feelings for people who it will never work with and losing a friend can be every bit as horrible as a romantic break up. But, overall, my last year of university was the best year of my life so far and what is your twenties without making a few bad decisions?! 

Despite those things, this last year I grew so much in self-confidence, worked out what was really important to me in life and what I'm willing to put up with and what I'm not. The best way I can describe it is like getting to sixth form in secondary school but on a new level - you know your way around, you know where you do and don't like going and you've got a set group of friends established. Perhaps most importantly, you're not bothered about trying to make as many friends as is humanly possible anymore or going to waste time trying to people-please. All of that means that along with the hard work, I could just enjoy student life, being independent and having the best people around me.

And boy did I have the best people around me. As well as having some great course friends, my four housemates who I lived with from first to third year genuinely feel like my family. I can't count the number of times that each of them has been there for me when I've felt shit, been going through stuff, or just had a bit too much to drink and have needed taking home and looking after. Coming from a single-parent family with three sisters, it really feels like I've come out of uni with three brothers and a sister on top of the three I already have. Ellie, Tom, Nathan and Gus are truly the best people I know (much as the boys wind me up sometimes) and I am already missing living with them hugely.

So third year was a complete roller coaster to be honest, in ways that I could never have predicted. But it was also the year that I finally felt like I fully grew into myself if that makes sense at all. I would bet good money that I'll have lots of moments over the next decade where I think I've really grown into myself, only to later decide that that wasn't the moment and to find it at a later point. I think that's what your twenties are about though - learning who you are and trying new things as a result of the experiences you're having. But whenever I look back at uni, third year will always be the year where I think 'yeah, that was the year I had never been more myself and had never felt freer'.

I'm probably already looking at it through rose-tinted glasses because the truth is that I did spend a lot of it going through some shit (as briefly mentioned earlier) but - isn't hindsight a wonderful thing - I see now that those parts just don't matter anymore. If nothing else, in the long run they helped with my self-confidence and all of that working out what I really want in life and the kind of people I want standing beside me through it. What does matter is everything else that I've written about in this post - the people who were there no matter what and enjoying one last year of living with my friends before having to move back home and thinking about the future.

My three years at Exeter were some of the best of my life so far. I'm still completely dumbfounded that I'm sat here right now having completed those three years and I'm not sure it will ever sink in. But I feel so so lucky to have had them and to have ended uni on such a high. If you've just started your final year of university, enjoy every second - before you know it, it will be gone...
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