If you were to ask me what the scariest thing I have done in my life, so far anyway, was. I would hands down say going to university. Back in the day I was such a home bird that doing anything without my parents was incomprehensible to me. I couldn’t even go to a till to pay without them being close to me. Looking back, I wouldn’t even recognise myself as the person I am today.
I knew I wanted to go to university. I didn’t know why, I just knew I did. But the night before I went I was that nervous that I made my mum sleep in my bed with me because I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a strange room, alone and away from my parents, in less than 24 hours time. I was silent in the car ride over, pressed up against the window whilst I shared the back seat with what seemed like all of my worldly belongings. After unpacking and dinner I stayed out with my family so I wouldn't meet my flatmates before they went out. However, I clearly didn't stay out long enough and when my parents dropped me off at my halls, low and behold the residents from not only my flat but the two flats above me were in my kitchen.
But... we’ll come back to the rest of that story later.
Since that day and living away for four years, there is a lot of things I have learnt and a lot of things I wish I had known before university. Now that the time is coming closer for my brother to fly the nest, I thought it would be a good time to give you 6 bits of advice/things I wish I had known before moving. So whether you're making the leap to university or just moving out in general, maybe these points can help you along the way.
Jacket - Zara
Top - Stradivarius
Skirt - Zara
Shoes - Topshop
Bag - Accessorize
The next time your mum tries to teach you to iron, listen!
Nobody likes chores. Whether it’s washing the dishes or taking out the bins, they all have a bad rep for a reason. Although there are countless life hacks and ways to make doing chores so much easier, I couldn’t imagine not knowing how to do them to begin with. When you move away you no longer have your parents to rely on so that means your clothes won’t be washed and ironed ready to wear, your dinner won’t be cooked and waiting for you when you get home and your pots won’t be washed and put back in the cupboard. So trust me when I say it is a massive game changer knowing how to cook and clean for yourself. I mean, what's the point in moving out if you're going to call your parents every day for a step by step guide on how to work a washing machine? The knowledge that you can look after yourself even in the most basic of ways will make your life so much easier and probably settle your worries a little.
Take your health into account.
Speaking of looking after yourself, your health is so important! Whether you’re studying or working, germs spread like wildfire and although pasta is the quickest and easiest option after a long day, you probably shouldn't have it for the ninth night in a row. The freedom to buy your own food and consume whatever you fancy can be quite overwhelming (I'm saying nothing of the jar of Nutella I demolished on the basis of “it soothed my sore throat”). But your health is paramount and something you should keep in check for the rest of your life. Why not eat what you want when you move, you aren't being force fed your greens anymore, right? But failing to eat that fruit and veg for those much needed virus fighting vitamins or drinking your own body weight in alcohol, without so much as an pinch of motivation to burn it off, can have major effects on your mental and physical health either now or later in life. I am never one to say don’t treat yourself but a treat everyday doesn’t stay a treat for long. Do what feels right for you, just don't let your health suffer because there is no one there to tell you not to eat a whole lasagne.
Utilise your course mates and colleagues.
This is something I am completely guilty of not doing and maybe writing this will kick me into gear. One of my biggest regrets from my time at university is not utilising the facilities and people who are there to help. Whether studying or not, chances are you aren’t going to stay at this point for the rest of your life and gaining those invaluable contacts and knowledge from the people around you can have such an impact in the next couple of years. Does the person you sit next to in a seminar want to go into the same field as you? Or does that colleague that has been with the company for years know the right person to contact for a new position? My advice would be to get in there and introduce yourself. That person you sit next to could be a much needed friend when you move into the working world or that colleague could be the stepping stone to a promotion. Although I hate the term “network”, you should take these opportunities to build yours. It is never too late but it doesn't hurt to start early.
Use your time wisely and work your butt off.
Again this can be applied to either students or full time workers. Using your time wisely and finding the right work/life balance is essential if only to stay sane! When you move to university, you go from a fully scheduled day at school to having a lot of time on your hands. It can be the same with working, especially when you aren't in a regular 9-5. It is so tempting to use this free time to just chill. Meh, you can finish that thing off tomorrow, right? But knowing when to settle down and work hard and when to grab your best friends and a good bottle of wine helps to keep the scales balanced. It can be hard to say no, especially when it seems like everyone else is going out. But speaking from experience it is no fun going into work or an important day at uni with a throbbing head and the fear you may throw up if you look anywhere but straight head. If you choose your times wisely you can enjoy the benefits of working and of a social life in harmony. Every once in a while you may do what pretty much everyone else has done at least once in their lives and that's okay. Just don’t waste a vital dissertation seminar or endure the torture of a Saturday afternoon if you aren’t willing to pay the price for it. But remember, above all, just have fun!
You will lose some friends but you will gain so many more.
Part of my fear of moving was not making any friends. I was comfortable with the friends I already had and didn't feel like I needed anyone else. We had grown up together, we knew each other inside and out and I couldn’t ever imagine that anyone else would understand me. How wrong I was. In my halls I met four of the most amazing girls who I went on to live with for the rest of my time away and who I still keep in contact with regularly today. In fact, we're having a huge reunion at the end of March. But these aren’t the only new friends I made. From my course mates to the people I met when joining a society, I met some awesome individuals. Even after university when I worked for a year I had some of the most incredible colleagues. I lost contact with some people from back home but quickly learnt that the people you stay in contact with are the people worth keeping around. Plus, the new friends don't have to replace the old. I still keep in contact with my closest friends from school and am even being a bridesmaid to one this year. I know I was rather lucky to have lived with great people in my first year, a luxury a lot don't have, but if you’re willing you can make friends anywhere. So join a club or have a chat with the people you work with because you never know who you might meet. I cherish all of my friends, new and old, and I couldn’t imagine my life without a single one of them.
You aren’t the same person leaving as when you arrived.
And that my friends is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I dread to think where I would be if my confidence hadn't grown and I hadn’t met the amazing people I did. For starters, I wouldn’t be with my boyfriend because I would have never met the friend who held the party we met at. Some people choose to stay the same when they move away and some decide to embrace the new and reinvent themselves and either one is totally fine. However, we hardly ever remain exactly the same no matter how hard we try. So embrace a bit of change and be your best self at every present moment.
I could have done one of two things when I saw all those people in my kitchen. I could have ducked under the window and locked myself in my room until the morning, or I could have taken a deep breathe and opened that door to join these strangers who would become some of my closest friends. I did the latter and I have never looked back. So not only will I say it was the scariest moment of my life but it was also the best. That decision to face my fears and suck up any doubt in my mind and just jump right in shaped the person I am today. I am by no means saying I am the most confident or self assured person in the world because I certainly am not. But at least now I can pay for my own stuff in shops, eh?