To my fresher self…

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Dear fresher Sol,

It’s been two years since I was you, arriving in Durham for the first time for freshers’ week, but I still remember parts of it like it was yesterday. I know you’re really excited (rightly so) but you also want me to tell you that everything will be okay. It will – though, as it usually goes, perhaps differently from how you imagine.

I know it feels like everything is about to change for you. It is, but the most important things I’ve learned (especially because in a year and a half, precedented times will become a thing of the past), is that change can be what you make of it. Yes, change is scary, big decisions are scary and you’ll face a good number of them. But all the changes you experience will give you something valuable. Homesickness is a fact of moving away – but the freedom of being in a completely new city is worth it, and you should always remember that the people who love you will always be a phone call away.

But all the changes you experience will give you something valuable.

Speaking of change and new beginnings: let yourself open up to new people. God knows you’ll meet plenty of them. Some of them will stay in your life and bring new people with them. Some won’t – and they’ll still bring you joy while they’re there. So, the best thing you, a veteran introvert, can do, is remember that everyone here is in the same boat right now. Everyone is at least a little scared, and everyone wants to make friends. There’s nothing to lose in going up to someone and introducing yourself – I can tell you now that you won’t regret it. You’ll actually make some of your best friends by doing just that. Make the most of that this first week, where everything is new. Also remember, though, that you can and will still meet new people after freshers’ week.

I also know you’re nervous because everyone here seems so smart and experienced: to paraphrase a cliché, you now feel like a goldfish in a very big pond. But always remember that imposter syndrome is normal, and it’s not real. You don’t have to spend all those hours worrying about your degree. You can afford to have more fun. If I could impress upon you more that first year doesn’t count, I would. Try more new things! Let yourself explore all the societies that interest you without worrying about whether you should be working. You’re doing just fine.

That being said, don’t stress about first year being the be-all and end-all of your university experience. Second year will bring more work, it’s true – but it’ll also bring more societies you enjoy and more lovely people to meet and befriend. It’s totally fine if you didn’t have your friends for life by the end of freshers’ week: you still met people and saw just how many cool things Durham has to offer that you haven’t done before. Freshers’ week is fun, but you’ll have even better times after it’s over.

You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going and what you want yet.

If I can leave you with one last piece of advice: I know it seems like everyone has things figured out and like they’ve had a plan for their whole lives. And I wish I could give you the certainty you want so much, but it doesn’t exist, and that is one of the toughest lessons that I’m still learning. The best experiences you’ll have are the unexpected ones. You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going and what you want yet – the point of going to university and starting a new degree is to learn. You have so much to learn about yourself, and that is a good thing! So, get to know yourself, unapologetically and open-mindedly. It’s tough work, but also the best work you’ll do. And if it makes your plans change, let it.

You’ve got this, even when it feels like you haven’t, and I wish you all the best.

Enjoy your adventure! You deserve it.

Image: Kevin Snowdon via Flickr

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