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21st February 2022

A fresher’s diary: Semester one secrets

Every fresher goes through a rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout semester one, so here’s some tips for surviving semester two!
A fresher’s diary: Semester one secrets
Photo : Erin Botten

There are so many things I’ve learnt from living and studying in Manchester for just 4 months, many of which are far less academic than to be expected at university.

First, if you live in Oak House, your sleep will be sacrificed. And so will your sanity at times. Just an hour after your cleaner (thank you Marcia) has left your kitchen it will be in a state again. The honey on the floor (spilt by your flatmate on a drunken rampage) will cling to your socks, and the cheesy-fart smells from your fridge will linger every time you open it – meaning every time someone walks in, you have to tell them that it wasn’t you, it’s the fridge. My flatmate’s mum sends her cheese in the post. Cheese, in the post. But don’t get obsessed about the kitchen and the mess – if you do, you’ll absolutely never know peace.

I’ve learnt (or am learning) to tolerate a much noisier living environment. My house at home was so quiet, especially since my sister had left for uni. I had become accustomed to a peaceful home (omitting the occasional argument), and the evening ritual of watching Gogglebox with my mum on the sofa. An easy, sheltered life.

In Manchester, when I get home to my flat, it’s usually pretty lively. The two will-they-won’t-they flatmates will be giggling in the kitchen or the corridor, the flat next door is over and occupying the kitchen, doors slamming and music blaring. I’ve got about 10 minutes to change for dodgeball which a friend dragged me into, and surprisingly, I had a good time (who knew that dodgeball boys were so good looking?).

The balancing of a work and social life is probably the hardest thing. Throughout my school life, I’d say I’ve been an overachiever. I don’t think I necessarily love doing work, I don’t think I’m very smart, but something inside me needs the discipline of work, or maybe I’m seeking the validation which a good grade can provide. At Manchester, I think I’ve had to let go of this a bit more, which has not been comfortable to say the least. Although my flatmates still take the piss at how long I spend at the library, it’s not even close to the amount of time I’d dedicated to work at A-level. I think I’ve realised how much of my self-worth is tied to academic achievement, and I’ve started to question the health of this a bit more. I’m still working on it.

I’ve learnt that (most of the time) I don’t enjoy organised fun. Don’t invite me to a crazy golfing trip – I’ll probably hate every second. Card games get boring, and karaoke is only ever enjoyable for the people singing, and painful for everyone else.

I’ve learnt so much about introversion. How around other introverts, I feel like I can be the loudest in the room. But around extroverts, I go into myself. I think whilst we know what introversion is, our understanding is quite a basic and limiting one. There is a pervasive negative association with introversion, one I find to be so damaging and so intrinsically untrue. Because there absolutely is space for introverts.

I’ve cried in front of relative strangers more than I ever have in my life. It’s been incredibly embarrassing and kind of liberating at the same time. Walking down Oxford Road crying on the phone to my mum and walking past faces I’ll probably never see again. Very weird times.

I’ve learnt that you absolutely cannot force friendships. The pressure to find your ‘forever’ group of friends at uni is real, and so damaging and unrealistic. Take your time. Everything comes together in the end. Spend time with people that make you feel like you, and don’t give in to pressure or worry about how quickly people around you are making friends. Especially during freshers, the likelihood is, the people that seem the closest probably won’t speak after a few weeks.

I’ve learnt that you need to take charge of your own life. If you are not happy in a situation, do something. No more mum telling you what to do; no one can make decisions for you anymore.

It’s a week into this second semester, and I’ve decided to change accommodations. A weird (and scary) decision considering we’re already halfway through the year, and that I actually really like my flatmates. For me though, the noise in Oak House is too much. The thin walls and doors should be illegal. Hats off to anyone who truly enjoys it, you really are super-humans.

Changing accommodations feels like such a huge thing for me. I’m going to essentially have to restart the uni process – meeting my new flatmates, settling into a new home. But it feels like the right decision (I hope), and a fresh start for semester two; putting myself first in an environment I knew wasn’t right for me. Don’t be scared to make seemingly big decisions. It’s better to try than to suffer and put up.

And so, this is how I’m going into semester two at Manchester, with, I think, a clearer idea of who I am (unashamedly) and what I want from my university life.

Good luck to everyone else in first year going into your second semester. It’s so hard at times and we tend to all pretend it’s not. But try to enjoy all the moments you can, if only to acknowledge them as learning curves.

Erin Osman

Erin Osman

Co-Features Editor for The Mancunion // Twitter @ErinOsman03

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