Inspirational Quotes: The First Year Edition

Surreally enough, the day I officially left first year accommodation for good coincided with a university Open Day. While surrounded by lost looking Sixth Formers clutching Open Day guides and wandering around with their parents, I was busy hauling never-ending boxes of books and kitchen supplies out to the car. As hundreds of potential new students descended on campus with their lists of questions and maps to subject talks, I was saying goodbye to my friends as quickly as possible so I couldn’t get too emotional about it all. I’ve never been very good at long goodbyes, but as everyone keeps reminding me – we’ll back before we know it.

Despite looking forward to seeing family and friends and having a few months of reading for leisure (which feels like a foreign concept it’s been so long), it’s comforting to know it won’t be too long before I’m back in Exeter again.

Now, I’ve already done several reflective posts on first year (I’m a sentimental sap, to be honest you’re lucky I haven’t written more) but this really is my final one. Looking back on it all, first year has not been what I expected. I hadn’t anticipated the challenges I ended up having to deal with, which were unexpectedly more on a mental level than an academic one, and at the same time I hadn’t imagined I’d meet the people I have, and that I’d spend my 19th birthday on the beach at sunset.

I think it’s important to realise that though lots of people hype up university to be the time of your life, that light at the end of the tunnel after years of GCSEs and A levels, we should remember that the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality just isn’t the way things work. Because while in the beautiful city and campus of Exeter the grass certainly is very green, it is also reality. University life has its pros and its cons just like secondary school did, but I’ve found them to be exacerbated. The good days at uni have been amazing; the bad days terrible.

This is not to say everyone’s experience will be the same as mine (if I’ve learnt nothing else other than facts about Charlemagne and the Great Irish famine, it’s that no one ever experiences things the same way) but that’s what this blog was for I guess, to give my personal take on things. I hope anyone who has skimmed a couple of my posts have found it to be what I initially intended – light-hearted, advisory and honest.

At the risk of coming across as horribly pretentious, I am going to share a few quotes that I’ve found to be particularly relevant and inspirational this past year to round this off. I have a lot of quotes I’m fond of, but these are the ones that make it to the cork board, and while I think they’re good advice for life at university I’ll probably try and remember them in the long run too.

    • “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

QuoteMost history students will be familiar with this one, as I’d wager it’s probably the most popular personal statement quote for historians out there. Despite it’s ‘cliché ness’ however (she says, writing a blog post on inspirational quotes), in the midst of inevitable course doubts and post-modernist induced crises of “but what is the point of the past?!” it can be useful to be reminded why I’m studying my degree. For me, the idea that our best guide to the future of humanity is to look to our past is what makes history such a relevant, fascinating and enlightening subject. Outside of academia however, it’s also relevant advice for other aspects of life – learn from your mistakes to make sure they don’t happen again. (*Cough* no matter how drunk you are, be sure to fall asleep somewhere you’ll be happy to wake up.)

  • “Today was the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.’” – Dale Carneige

If you are the type to lie in bed at night, worrying and over-thinking the things you’ve got to do in the day to come fear not – you are in good company on this blog. I only found this quote recently, but it really resonated with me. Too often I will stress and over-analyse the next day, the to do’s to be conquered, the tight time schedule to get through, and yet when the day is over, usually without event or incident, I move straight onto the next one. The reality is, however much I might build up a day with this presentation to deliver, or this book to get back by 11am unless I feel like facing a fine, nine and half times out of ten, everything turns out fine.

  • The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”– Anon

There are various iterations of this on the internet and no obvious source, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. The constant desire to compare and compete with others is one that I’d imagine most people encounter through their education, but while it can motivate you to work harder and improve, I’ve found it can also be very draining and counter-productive. Sure, knowing you’ve done better than your neighbour can be a bit of a confidence boost, but at the same time knowing you’ve done worse is a horrible feeling, and in reality neither scenario will change the fact you’ve got the grade you’ve been given. This past year I’ve been trying to remove myself from the temptation of comparing with others and just trying to focus on my own progress in a well-intended self-centred sort of way. Again, it works outside of academia as well; we all say or do things we regret or wish we could do differently, but when all is said and done, the best way to combat that regret is to try and do things better in the future.

  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Oh the woes of procrastination. Forget 4am fire drills and 9am Monday morning lectures – the real enemy of first year has been how much time I’ve spent putting off what I should have been getting round to. There are those who seem impossibly sorted and organised, but really they just got going before you did. There is no secret formula, no cheat sheet, no short-cut at degree level, just the cold reality that if you want to avoid the hideousness of an all-nighter in the library you’ve just got to get started. To reference another quote; “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” (Confucius).

  • “The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.” – JK Rowling

As perhaps the most famous University of Exeter alumni, it only felt fitting JK made this list, and this happens to be one of my favourite quotes of all time. Rowling was referring to her own struggle as single mother on the poverty line in this, but it can apply to a lot. Knowing that at one point I was seriously considering dropping out but made it through that phase is a comfort to me now. Times can be hard, but getting through them is only strengthening your resolve to face similar challenges in the future.

JKR(If you have 20 minutes to spare and are a fellow fan of All Things Inspirational, I highly, highly recommend JK Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech where this quote is taken from; if nothing else watch it for the gay wizard joke. The speech was so well received it’s also been recently released as a book ‘Very Good Lives’ which pretty much permanently lives on my bedside table.)

  • “You can’t control the outer circumstances of your life, but you can control how you react to them.”- Anon

A good friend of mine recommended this to me, and I think it captures pretty much everything the rest of these quotes are trying to say. Life happens and goes on regardless of the impact it might have on us as individuals, and all we can do is try and keep a level head and deal with everything that comes our way. Found yourself in a flat of party-hard folk as an introvert? Join societies or look elsewhere to find like-minded people. Got a third on that last essay? Learn from the criticisms, maybe ask your tutor, and change your technique for next time. There’s a line of thinking which says ‘the only thing stopping you is you’ and while this is easier said than done, I think for a lot of things it’s the truth.

I’ll definitely take up this blog again for second year, but until then I hope people have a great holiday and a relatively stress-free results day! See you in September! 🙂 x

University of Exeter First Year Bucket List

As you may have picked up on by this point if you are regular peruser of this blog (or, actually, if you have seen pretty much any of my other posts) I am a huge fan of lists.  In keeping with this trend, and in light of the fact I’m entering my final week at uni for this academic year, I decided to create the Ultimate Bucket List for a first year student here at Exeter.

Disclaimer: Some of these aren’t specific to Exeter and are more general first year university achievements. There is also a distinct lack of clubbing related challenges due to my own personal preferences on that front, but a quick Google has revealed the internet is full of them if you’re interested in that side of things.

So, from the bizarre to the admirable, to the must-do to the plain silly, in no particular order, here are 19 things I think it’s worth doing as a student in your first year at Exeter:

  1. Complete the Old Firehouse Challenge – devour an entire pizza and of course, the ultimate challenge of managing to find a table in the first place. If you’re feeling extra brave, follow it up with the calorific masterpiece that is Harry’s Heart Attack for dessert, it’s slogan being ‘Two will struggle, one will need the heart and stomach of lion!’ Challenge accepted.
  2. CountrysideGet lost wandering around the green forestry of Exeter’s campus. Things to spot: Reed Hall, that pond with the fountain, random art installations and thousands of bunnies. I imagine I’ll still be getting lost come final year, but the abundance of woodland paths in and around campus is genuinely one of favourite things about Exeter.
  3. Order curly fries at the RAM to fuel you through a late afternoon lecture or seminar, and meet up with a course mate to bemoan how much work you’ve got to do in the coming week.
  4. Join a hundred and one societies at Freshers Fair, and end up becoming a regular member of only one of them. We are all guilty of this and it seems none of us will EVER LEARN.
  5. Walk along the Quayside on a sunny weekend or pedalo if the weather permits and you’re feeling adventurous! If you want a real challenge, trek along the river to the Double Locks pub for a classic pub lunch.
  6. Order horribly overpriced Dominos (even with the discount codes I swear Dominos is the biggest rip-off in the history of pizza) because you are just that bored of cooking.
  7. Take the train to Exmouth Beach, have an ice cream/fish and chips on the front in true tourist fashion, and wander up and down the sand feeling very self-satisfied in the fact you go to a university on the coast.
  8. Take a selfie in Parliament Street. At an impressively tight 64 centimetres wide at its narrowest, Parliament Street has (falsely) been claimed to be the world’s narrowest street, but it’s still pretty cool.
  9. Complete Rock Solid. I didn’t actually manage to get round to this, but I’d say to anticipate a lot of mud and a lot of laughs if the Facebook photos were anything to go by. Definitely something to do for second year.
  10. Do a week’s worth of shopping in the Pennsylvania Road Co-op because you just can’t be bothered to walk into town or trek to Morrisons. Instantly regret the decision when you get your next bank statement.
  11. Do something for bonfire night, whether its getting a ticket to Ottery St Mary to experience the famously bizarre local tradition of flaming tar barrels, or popping down to Exmouth for their impressive firework display.
  12. Actually go inside Exeter Cathedral and look round, as opposed to just taking selfies outside it. So I’m a self-confessed history geek, but the Cathedral has been around for 600-odd years and is genuinely a beautiful building. It’s vaulted ceiling is the longest in the whole of England, and it has an awesome astronomical clock too.
  13. Visit the Exeter Christmas market. Arguably a student staple must-do; brownie points for buying homemade chutney.
  14. Have brunch in Tea on the Green (or Boston Tea Party, whichever takes your fancy.)
  15. Swim in the outdoor swimming pool by Cornwall House. It’s been closed practically the entire time you’ve been on campus, but come May and exam season, the pool suddenly throws open its gates. Make the most of being in on-campus accommodation and plod down in your flip flops and towel for a de-stress swim in wonderfully heated waters.
  16. Spend a lazy day in pyjamas. Eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner and revel in the bliss of no adult authority being around to tell you to do otherwise. You’re a fresher, that essay/reading/seminar prep can wait; Netflix can’t.
  17. Drink milk/orange juice from the bottle or carton to save on washing up. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  18. Stood on UoE stoneTake a photo with the University of Exeter stone. Okay, so perhaps not necessarily a ‘must-do’ for first year, unless you are super keen, but definitely something to get round to eventually.
  19. THE ULTIMATE EXETER CHALLENGE: Find someone from Yorkshire. Take a selfie with them, get their autograph, treasure their dulcet Northern tones – they are a rare and precious breed in Exeter and you might not get the chance to meet one again.