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.

Camera around Campus

8 IMG_9873Term 1 while I was stuck in the middle of it felt like an age, but looking back now, arriving in Freshers’ Week feels so recent that I can hardly believe it’s Term 2 already. I’ve been reliably informed that second term is always easier than your first, but with the prospect of organising a house for second year (I am absolutely not old enough to be emailing estate agents), taking on another load of work/essays/reading, and revising for those dreaded summer exams, I’m finding that hard to imagine at the moment.

So, instead of doing a review of first term (I’m going to sit on that one for a while), or reporting on the quantity of work I managed over the 4 IMG_0227Christmas holidays (short answer: pretty pitiful), I’ve decided to do something different. Namely, post some pretty pictures.

Aside from eating too much and doing very, very little, Christmas was a great time for me to look through the truly impressive number of photos I took in the first term. While there’s a fair few impressive selfies of new-found ‘friends’ who enjoy using up my phone memory, there’s also a whole lot of generally around campus.

Because have I mentioned what a beautiful campus Exeter has? The greenery and sweeping Forum and sheer quantity of trees was in part 3 IMG_0209what sold the university to a country bumpkin like me in the first place, and I’m still not quite over it. My favourite unofficial fact about Exeter is that it allegedly has the highest tree-to-student ratio of any uni campus in the country, and regardless of it’s origins I would be impressed if that fact was proven wrong.

Trees literally are everywhere. Even inside the Forum itself (though as they’re fake I’m not sure they fully count). A stroll to pick up a prescription from the Medical Centre involves taking a meandering woodland path past Reed Hall. Detour on your way to Lafrowda and you’ll find yourself wandering up a path between wooded 6 IMG_0778ponds and a corn-field. My personal favourite is a loop walk up past the gym that brings you literally out next to a Nature Reserve, popular with local dog-walkers. My best friend visiting from Manchester University on another of my de-stress stroll routes said something along the lines of “it’s like you’re living in National Trust park” and I can’t help but agree.

Don’t get me wrong, this blog is not some part of an advertising scheme on behalf of the university. I volunteered to splurge my thoughts on a university linked site, with no promise of payment (oh, if only.) There are plenty of issues about the university that I’m sure I’ll get around 5 IMG_0377to, and every day is certainly not a walk in the park (hah), but on this topic I am absolute. When it comes to natural beauty, you can keep your dreaming spires and city lights – Exeter wins all the awards in my book.

Clubbing: What if it’s just not for you?

Until arriving at university, I wouldn’t really have defined myself as an introvert. Sure, I hadn’t been much of a party-er in secondary school, but social situations didn’t unnerve me, public speaking was just a fact of life, and the idea of introductions to gazillions of new people in Freshers’ was something I had actually looked forward to.

That being said, by the 4th time out on the town in Exeter when I had yet again found myself hovering awkwardly on the edge of the dance-floor, empty glass (ice and lemon eaten) in one hand, my phone (open on Jelly Splash level 37) in the other, I realised that I might be onto something of a trend. Whenever I went out the night always started off well, with too many pre-drinks and lots of laughs; but once we actually got to the club, despite my best efforts at enthusiasm, sociable-ness and dancing, I was always more than ready to leave after only an hour or so.

Surveying the packed crowd of students, all seemingly having an infinitely better time than I was, a horrible sense of dread descended upon me. Was I really not going to enjoy this key part of student life? This defining feature of the university experience?

It was a depressing thought, and a pretty lonely one too. The fear of missing out on the gossip and memorable nights out has been part of what’s kept motivating me to keep going out in the first place. That and the awful idea of glumly warning whoever I’m with that I’m thinking of heading back, only to be met with a heavy sigh, a somewhat pitying, confused look and the immortal words: “Already? But we’ve only just got here.”

Fear of that precise reaction has resulted in more than a few ill-advised walks back through Exeter to accommodation on my own. These solitary treks up Pennsylvania Road, feeling unpleasantly chilly, a tad sorry for myself, and very, very sober, always put a damper on the night, no matter how well it began. I even ended up calling the student helpline, the VOICE, one night, and though my mood was definitely lifted to have someone cheery on the end of the line to chat to, it didn’t resolve my pretty pathetic situation.

So. What to do about it? My previous attitude of ‘just keep trying – you’ll get over it’ had been thus far unsuccessful, so a new plan of action is required. I talked to some flatmates and friends from home, and have decided to face up to the facts. I’ve given it a go, but clubbing just isn’t really for me (bar an occasional trip to Cheesy Tuesday’s but then they do play Robbie Williams).

And that’s okay. I can still enjoy flat parties and pre-drinks and maybe the occasional trip out to be back by midnight, and I don’t think I’ll feel all that left out when friends go on without me. There’s a difference between giving something a try and forcing yourself to keep doing something you don’t enjoy, so I feel a lot happier in knowing that I’ve reached that compromise with myself.

So feel free to party on my friends, have an awesome night and tell me all about it in the morning. Don’t worry about my evening- I’ll be enjoying Firehouse pizza, cheating at card games and an early night ☺

Top 11 Tips for Freshers’ – Part 2

• Use Freshers’ as a chance to explore Exeter

When you’re not socialising with people in your flat/block, out touring the clubs and bars of Exeter, going to academic inductions, timetabling in society tasters and oh, y’know, getting a bit of sleep in there now and then – I’d recommend using your precious spare moments to have a look around your university hometown. Exeter is a genuinely lovely city, and it’s worth orienting yourself (there’s the Cathedral, here’s Nandos etc.) before term starts in full swing. You’ll quickly find yourself doing a fair bit of work, so make the most of Freshers’ to do some tourist-ing.

• Freshers’ Fair – BE WARNED

So after an awesome morning at the Freshers’ Fair I was going to pop into town to do some food shopping when I looked in my purse and realised to my unpleasant surprise that I had no money. Literally. (Well, I had £3.20 if I’m honest, but that wasn’t going to get me much in Sainsbury’s.)

Funny, I thought to myself, I could’ve sworn I had taken out £100 the day before. Then it dawned on me – slowly and painfully – the horrifyingly realisation that I’d managed to spend nearly 100 quid at the Freshers’ Fair in society sign-up fees.

Terrifyingly, it’s very easy to do unless you keep close tabs on what you’re handing over, and my shocking total was by no means the worst I’ve heard of. The big sporting societies; football, rugby, netball and rowing come to mind, can easily be upwards of £230.

With this in mind, I’d say be very careful when it comes to the Freshers’ Fair – try to be brutal in which societies you go for, and don’t be swayed by the free t-shirts or other ‘gifts’ you’re actually paying £40 for. Be honest with yourself: are you really going to go to that 9am Pilates class every week? Or the 6am training down at the river for rowing on Saturday and Sunday? (I kid you not.) Aim for a maximum of 3-4 societies you really feel passionate about, and if you change your mind later it’s really easy to join online through the Student Guild website.

• Freshers’ Flu: it’s not a myth

I genuinely thought I’d be immune, but I was oh so very wrong. For full, gross, snotty details, see my other post – ‘Freshers’ Flu- A True Story (unfortunately)

• Look ahead to next week

I cannot stress this one enough, particularly for humanities students. Seminars require reading and prep, and if you’ve got one first thing on a Monday morning nothing throws you off like not knowing you were supposed to read those 6 chapters that the tutor will be going over in the two hours you’re with them. It’s a tad annoying having to put some time aside for reading, but definitely worth remembering in the hectic 9am-3am week of Freshers’.

• Freshers’ can be overwhelming, but it’s only a week

I’m normally pretty introvert when it comes to socialising, and disappointed my parents hugely by never really expressing an interest in clubbing (Parents: “But Tess, you’re a teenager! You should be out enjoying your youth!” Me: “This is so not something you should be complaining about.”) but I must admit, I made a huge effort for Freshers’. It was certainly draining, but pushing yourself to accept all and any invitations to go out, have pizza, visit this bar, go to this social, etc. etc. is, in my opinion, definitely worth it for this one week. I met some awesome people by being overtly-social that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and now I’ve established contacts I feel secure enough to go to bed at 9pm 🙂

Overall, Freshers’ can be hugely overwhelming, slightly terrifying, and also great fun. Don’t worry if you tend to (as I did) feel slightly more inclined to the ‘overwhelmed’ end of the spectrum than ‘having the time of my life.’ Freshers’ week is chiefly a chance to get to know people, have your introductory lectures and maybe trial a society or two – it doesn’t need to be more than that. It’s also important to remember that Freshers’ isn’t a good standard for university life as a whole, in fact, it’s pretty exceptional. Once the work kicks in you fall into a routine that, from my perspective at least, is already more my style.

Top 11 Tips for Freshers’ – Part 1

It’s the Monday after the first week of lectures, and Freshers’ feels like it was years ago already. With one whole week’s worth of university experience now under my belt however, I feel fully qualified to give some advice on the best way to tackle the first week at uni. I imagine everybody’s experience of arriving at university and Freshers’ week is different, but these are the life-changing lessons I think I’d be suggest to bear in mind:

• Bring a doorstop

No, seriously. In pretty much all halls you’ll be blessed with the wonders of two tonne fire doors, which, while doing a fabulous job at keeping you from burning alive in your beds, aren’t the best for socialising. The cliché of propping open your door for all of arrivals weekend and hollering an over-enthusiastic ‘hi!!’ at anybody who walks past is not to be underrated as a sure-fire way to find some friendly folk.

• Be prepared for Freshers’ events in advance

After joining the Freshers’ Facebook group on results day like the over-keen kinda gal I am, it didn’t take long before my feed was saturated with Freshers’ event advertisements and ticket sales. I bought a selection of the ones I thought looked good, and some of them were definitely worth getting in advance.

• ….But not too prepared

At the same time, I’d definitely advise not to buy everything just because you feel you should. If the idea of going on a pub crawl around Exeter dressed like a Minion doesn’t appeal in August, chances are it won’t in September. Plus, despite the Events Coordinators terrorising folk into believing there were only 10 tickets left, many people later try and sell theirs on Facebook, and it’s pretty easy to pick up one cheaper if you decide to go. Nothing is more annoying than paying for a ticket only to find out it clashes with an academic induction (bye bye £22), or that none of your new-found friends are going, so in many ways it’s worth holding off and avoiding wasting money.

• ‘Flatmates not Soul-mates’

This was my Dad’s final piece of well-intentioned advice as my parents left me hovering awkwardly outside my flat door, working up the courage to brave going in. 99% of the time, you’ll get on with at least some of the people you’re sharing with pretty well, but this doesn’t mean you’re all going to stay life-long friends. Some do, which is awesome, and some don’t at all – in which case you can always move to another accommodation without too much hassle. I’m fortunate enough to be in a nice flat of sociable, chatty people, but there’s a fair bit we don’t have in common and I’ve come to realise that’s totally okay. I may be living with them for a year, but they’re not the only people at university. Don’t let tentative friendships with flatmates stop you from going out and meeting new people!

• Make friends with your flat cleaner

Our cleaner Sue, bless her soul, has had her work cut out with our regular bombsite of a kitchen already. Naturally, in apology we all made an extra effort to be nice to her, and so far we’ve established a pretty good working relationship. Not only has Sue assured us that during Freshers’ and near exam times the cleaning crew are extra lenient because they understand how stressed we are, but she’s also a gold mine of local advice, and very kindly directed me to the huge Morrisons’ 15 minutes walk away that no-one else seemed to know about (my bank account is very pleased it no longer has to shop in the tiny Tesco Express).

• Try something new

I’m surrendering myself to the clichés because they’re all frustratingly accurate, if somewhat unoriginal. Exeter Freshers’ this year was made up of some 900-odd different events (the booklet was insane) so there is literally no excuse to not do something awesome every day. Whether it’s a Disney Pub Quiz, a Harry Potter Welcome Banquet or a trip to Exmouth for a windsurfing taster, if it sounds like something that might be a laugh, or there’s folk you know going, go for it. You don’t have to want to join the society itself, but definitely make the most of all the discounts and Fresher-orientated events on offer while you can 🙂

More top tips to come in the next post

 

Introductions

Well hey there!

So I may have an official bio and all, but I thought I couldn’t really start this off without a standard introductory blog post. My name is Tess (Tessa if you must, Theresa under no circumstances ever) and I’m studying History with a Year Study Abroad (2014-2018) at the University of Exeter.

I’m a Midlands-er at heart, originally from Nottingham, but am allying with the Northerners now that I’m at Exeter as they appear to be in need of support given how hugely outnumbered they are by the vast majority of the university student population, who all seem to originate from:

a)      London and surrounding area

b)      Brighton

c)      Anywhere south of Cambridgeshire

(I should mention that this hasn’t stopped pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to being lovely.)

Exeter was my first choice of university and I was (and still am) ridiculously, inexplicably, wouldn’t-stop-grinning-like-a-loon-for-a-month happy about getting in. I’m enormously in love with the University campus, the city, my course, and Devon in general already, but I know it’s not always going to be easy.

Through this blog I hope to keep track of some of the highs and lows of my time here, and to give an honest account of all aspects of day-to-day university life. I’d ideally like to be able to provide anyone out there reading this (hi mum) with a genuine insight into the student experience at Exeter i.e. not necessarily the flawless, glossy Prospectus viewpoint, where everyone is scarily attractive, grins incessantly and it’s always sunny.

I’m not much of a concise writer, but I’ll do my best to limit my ramblings to stuff that might actually be useful! Final note, if you’re feeling adventurous and fancy leaving a comment on any post, I will 112% answer 🙂