The commencement of second semester is one of the most exciting moments of first year. You’re feeling like an old hand at university already; you know your friends, you’ve settled into your course, you know how to cook at least one meal (besides cheese on toast) and having found yourself bored out of your skull approximately half an hour into being home for Christmas you can’t wait to get back to fresher’s life.
A lot changes over that first break and being back home can actually feel a bit unsettling. Your new found independence is suddenly revoked as you can no longer party till the early hours without dropping mum a text when you’re back and neither can you subsist purely on a diet of Nutella and Jaeger bombs. Coming back for Christmas takes some adjustment as well as numerous retellings of your airbrushed first year to every one of your relatives (“oh I love it, the library’s great, I’m already best buds with all my lecturers”). When you find yourself home at 10pm on a Saturday night helping wrap a nice scarf for your Nan, the pull of university life can feel stronger than ever.
A major difficulty of that first return can be meeting up with friends who didn’t go to university. Your life has changed completely while theirs has stayed far more stable and as they seem all you want to talk about, it can feel tricky not going on about your new city and friends. It’s important to remember that while you may have fallen head over heels, the university lifestyle is not for everyone, so tone down your affections and remain grounded with the friends you’ve known forever.
As well as yearning to get back to Norwich, I found myself having what I saw as a mini epiphany over the Christmas holidays. With marks back from those first big essays, New Years resolutions formed in my mind to take studies more seriously and fall in love with the library’s 24/7 opening hours. No longer would I fall into that sad fresher’s trap of sprinting to the hand in box at one minute to midnight along with my fellow panicked students, all looking as though they’ve been awake for the past three days fuelled only by Relentless and Pro-Plus. Christmas is a time to consider your work strategy and focus in on the grade you actually want to come out of first year with and this regrouping approach doesn’t only apply to your studies.
Having blown all your first student loan on glitter bombs and fancy dress, your gift offerings have probably looked a bit bleak (I really went to town on a homemade theme, wrapping paper and all) and it suddenly dawns on you that you might have to start spending a little differently to avoid eating Alphabetti Spaghetti all year. I found myself thinking about budgeting and responsible spending; the idea that I probably don’t need to buy a new outfit for every trip to the student union would mean more money free to eat like a normal person (no more turkey dinosaur shapes).
Overall, the main shock of the Christmas holidays and returning to semester two is the realisation that, by accident or design, you might just have become a functioning human being who can cook, budget and survive all by themselves, and upon realising this, the lure of university life becomes stronger than ever.
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