Three girls (one yellow, one red, one blue) stand underneath a freshers banner and balloons
Credit: Dora Dziki

If I could turn back time…

By Ciara McAlinden & Rothery Sullivan

Our Views Editors reflect on the mistakes and mishaps of their time in first year

Rothery: As a Fresher, I was one silly goose; I thought I had my life figured out, and even though I went into university with an open mind I was still shocked by the growth that was waiting for me. I thought I knew who I was until I stepped into Kelvinhaugh Gate for the first time and realized I was alone in a new place where no one knew me. I could be anyone I wanted, and I knew that there were so many things about myself that were about to change for the better. However, a lot of my personal development would never have happened without making mistakes along the way. 

One of the scariest things about starting university is having to open up to a stranger for the first time. I remember sitting in my room one night, watching Gilmore Girls on my laptop and eating popcorn in bed. I was perfectly content with my lonesome Friday evening when I heard a soft knock on my door. When I opened it, I found a pouty-faced baggy-sweatshirting-wearing flatmate with tears running down her face. I welcomed them in with a hug, not knowing that this moment was a catalyst for one of the deepest and healthiest friendships of my life. The lesson I learned from this experience was the importance of opening yourself up to others despite the fear of rejection. We never would have become friends had they not reached out to me because I was too afraid to share my emotions with others. Not everyone will like you when they first meet you, but giving a little bit of yourself can go a long way in creating meaningful relationships. Looking back, I wish I had been less afraid of rejection; if I was a little braver, I would have been more authentic with my friends, and put more effort into my relationships.

Another thing I learned my first year was the importance of taking yourself seriously. I had a lot of interests, but they were things I considered mere hobbies and nothing more. However, as I progressed through university I realized that these time-fillers were actually things that I was passionate about. I didn’t want to join societies because I was afraid that everyone would be more talented, passionate, and smarter than me. I didn’t take myself seriously and I let myself believe that I shouldn’t pursue my interests unless I was the best at them. After quarantine hit and I missed out on the end of my first year, I realized how silly that mindset was; I would never become great at anything if I never tried. As I joined the societies I had been jealously observing, I realized that everyone in them was just a student like me, looking for a place to pursue their dreams and people to share their passions with. I had everything flipped around; I took life too seriously but didn’t have any faith in my own abilities. 

I’m glad that I grew to be the person I am today, but I would advise any fresher to take risks in their relationships because you never know what the benefits will be. Make sure to have faith in your abilities because people stop pushing you once you become an adult. Take control of your own growth and although it’s hard, do your best to be brave. 

Ciara: As a fresher, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll mess up in front of people. There’s honestly no shame in it, and more often than not, your hiccup will become a funny story that you’ll laugh at for years to come. I’m going to tell you a couple of mine, in the hopes that you can learn what not to do to avoid embarrassment. 

We all want to make friends as quickly as possible when we start uni, but it’s crucial that you are your authentic self, and don’t try too hard to be “cool”. I know it’s a cliché, but when I had one of my first conversations at uni, someone mentioned smoking a joint, and I very robotically responded “oh yes, I am drug-friendly”. I mean, I was being honest but I sounded like a massive narc, and rest assured, they did not talk to me again – just be yourself, and your people will come to you.

When it comes to your studies, I’m not going to lecture you; it’s difficult to find a work/pub balance when you start uni, but you’ll find it in time (perhaps prompted by a telling-off from your mother). One important thing that I can tell you, however, is to make sure you’re in the right room for your lecture or seminar. I once walked into a room and took a seat, and everyone began speaking Russian – I don’t think I need to tell you that this wasn’t the English Literature seminar I had signed up for. Not only did I have to tell these strangers I was in the wrong room, I had to tell my actual tutor why I was late. So please, in memory of my wrong-doings, remember where you’re meant to be.

After finding your people and beginning your studies, the last thing you have to remember is to know your limits – at the very least, do NOT mix vodka, wine and Sourz into one bottle for chugging. Yes, sadly this is another one of my stories. It was a chilly November night in Queen Margaret halls, and, as you can guess, I mixed the lethal trio in a bottle and chugged. Exactly 20 minutes later, I requested that Wuthering Heights by the one and only Kate Bush be put on, so I could give a show-stopping performance. As I reached the chorus high note, my stomach gave up, and I vomited all over the communal bean bags before passing out on them … and let it be noted that I didn’t stop performing through this ordeal. Do I wish that night had gone differently? No – it was just too fucking funny, and it brought me closer to my friends. Do I wish that I didn’t have such a killer hangover the next day? Yes, definitely. 

I can’t tell you much – I’m now in my final year and I still embarrass myself on a weekly basis – but I can tell you that being yourself, keeping organised, and knowing your limits will keep you safe and happy.


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