Arguably, starting university could be regarded as the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself. Whether you’re disillusioned with life on the outside of the crowd, fed up with not having any particular hobbies or are even just peeved that nobody’s yet forgotten that one thing you did one time, this new phase presents the chance to shed your current persona and embrace a new you. But is this really the case?
On the one hand, this makes total sense; university as a completely new environment makes it the obvious choice for a personality overhaul. Here, nobody knows anything about you (or the thing you did…) You could easily utilise this chance to become more studious and sociable, since nobody will know that beforehand, you were a work-shy wallflower. If you’re carrying some baggage, you can figuratively leave it outside those new halls. In the midst of pre-drinks, foam parties and those staggeringly awkward tutorial ice-breakers, you really are just a blank canvas.
Curious for insight from other students on this matter, I took to social media, where the response seemed to be mostly in favour of reinvention. Some even claimed that it was actually the “best part” of starting university. “You can move on from things that have happened in the past” one Tweet mentions, whilst another confirms “it really is a clean slate. I decided at university that I was going to try to do more things and make conversation with everyone I met” The consensus appears to be that if people don’t know you, you could carve out a whole new personality for yourself. Your new buddies would be none the wiser.
Yet, something about the idea of “reinvention” suggests drastic measures. Arguably, the notion is unrealistic. Some qualities are simply innate; you can’t force yourself to be outspoken or to be at ease with new people if it’s not your natural personality. If you ordinarily suffer from crippling shyness, struggle to open up or feel wildly out of place in clubs (ahem), these unfamiliar – and often daunting – new settings may not allow you to spread those shiny new wings with ease. University brings about enough uncertainty without having to throw an identity crisis into the mix.
My own experience supports this. When I arrived at Glasgow, I was determined to dig deep to find my inner party animal, mistakenly assuming that it’d be easier to make friends this way. I wanted to be tagged drunkenly grinning in club photos, I wanted all the stories to tell my friends at home, but most of all I wanted to not be, well, not incredibly boring, and ideally not companionless either. A few weeks later and I found myself out of energy, pocket and still not united with those best friends I was promised I’d meet instantly. The whole experience taught me that you can’t eliminate and replace intrinsic elements of your personality simply because the scenery has changed. Instead, I found my friends – and indeed, those previously undiscovered parts of my personality – within student media, where I felt far more comfortable. This allowed me to become more outgoing in a way that was organic, not forced.
University is most likely not the place to totally reinvent the individual you are; rather, explore different parts of your personality, learn more about yourself and discover what it is that genuinely interests you. With the sheer number of people on campus, you will eventually find those who naturally bring out your better attributes – none of which you’ll ever have had to actively choose to put on. Your course and the societies on offer may enable you in shaping the kind of person you’d like to be. As one Twitter user succinctly put it, “starting university should be less about reinvention, just working out who you really are and what’s good for you” Which is just as well really. I looked awful in those club photos.