I have a series of vivid memories from high school that revolve around seemingly endless meetings with my guidance teacher in that foul smelling office. In most of them, she is urging me to apply for halls.
Of course, this was ridiculous.
As someone who already lives a brief ten-minute bus ride from the city centre, and who still gets along with their parents, there was very little to be gained from paying for student accommodation. But dear old Mrs. H was relentless. Her main concern for me was that in not staying in student halls, I would be missing out on valuable bonding experience with other students, and likewise isolating myself from future social circles. Her persistence was annoying, to say the least, and – if only to shut her up – I eventually told her I would look into halls. Which of course, I didn’t.
As someone whose only experience of student life existed in her abundantly vivid imagination, it was easy for me to shrug off her warning; I would meet people in class, at societies, and my friends from high school would introduce me to their friends. Before long, I’d have enough connections across the university campus to potentially overthrow DUSA itself. One can dream.
It wasn’t until it was too late that I finally started to heed my teacher’s warning.
The first day of Fresher’s Week was a bright remnant of summer, with autumn creeping into the air. It must have been only eleven o’clock when I arrived on campus to collect my Fresher’s Pass, but in the mere moments that passed between my mother’s car and The Union, and back again, my hopes were brought tumbling down to something far below optimistic. Groups of people milled around the shop, the green, and I knew from the feverish air about them that they were newly acquainted flatmates. For them, this was the first morning of the rest of their lives – a judgement day of sorts, as lifelong friendships would be forged and others, not. For me, this could be the first of many days spent alone.
And I was scared. The prospect of finding myself isolated during what are preached to be the most enjoyable, sociable years of your life had me – for the first time – considering paths that did not cross with university.
But the fear only helped to water a seed of resolve that was buried deep within me. It was this resolve that promised my decision to live at home would be worthwhile, and it was this resolve that vowed I would not let my teacher’s prophecy come to fruition. I threw myself at everything; societies, events, people (Tip: actually throwing yourself at people may have less than the desired effect.). I cringed through seemingly hundreds of awkward conversations about the weather, learned the courses and hometowns of dozens of people; most of whom I have no recollection of. The majority of the people I spoke to at Fresher’s Week, I have never seen – let alone spoken to – again. The point is: I put in the effort, and that effort paid off when I looked at my social media to find scores of new faces.
Though I didn’t have the university-friend-starter-pack that comes with halls, I still found myself a member of a vast Venn diagram; dozens of different social circles overlapping in such a beautiful variety of ways to create one fantastic student body. If you will take it from anyone, take it from the shy introvert that somehow found her place among a swarm: living at home for university is not a disadvantage. Not only does it act as a haven of familiarity in your world riddled with so much change, but you’d be surprised how many laughs the line, “Everyone is from exotic places, and I live five minutes up the road!” gets during icebreakers.