Things I wish I’d known as a fresher

Megan reflects on the things she’s learnt during her time at St Andrews.

I could tell you exactly what I wore on move-in day. Everyone I spoke to. Whom I sat with at dinner. I was the definition of a nervous little fresher unsure of myself and unsure of what the next four years have in store. Although I cannot provide a how-to guide for your next four years because everyone has a very different St Andrews experience, I can let you in on a few hints.

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I had grown used to doing well in school and, to put it as nicely as possible, I was far too aware of how well I did. However, coming to university, suddenly I had gone from comfortably sitting at the top to laying in the middle. Suddenly I was average. I was so naïve thinking I could start again at a top university, keeping at the same level because everyone in St Andrews has come from that level. In the beginning, I was far too harsh on myself. I couldn’t understand why I would continue getting the same mark on my essays without getting any better – the same thing with tutorials. The large discussions scared me to death because I was so afraid of getting things wrong that I wouldn’t speak unless I knew for sure I would be right.

It may not seem like it now, but these things fade. Eventually, I got into a rhythm, worked hard, and slowly but surely got better. As far as tutorials are concerned, yes, I still say things that may not be deemed academically correct but now I really do not care. Participating has been my greatest teacher because it puts me on the right path to success rather than struggling to find it on my own. Of course, it’s beyond easier said than done but there is no harm in being wrong. Trust me, at one point or another, my tutor warned me that my stress levels were raising her blood pressure but don’t be afraid to make mistakes in your classes or with assignments because there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying.

Finding your place in St Andrews is hard I will say that. Finding the friends you’ll keep throughout the year, knowing what societies to join these things can fix from the very start or not seem clear at all until the fourth year. In typical St Andrews fashion, however, my flatmate is the first person I spoke to as a fresher and I still have the same group of friends but that isn’t at all without its own ups and downs.  Same with societies, I knew to get involved with writing, but it wasn’t until 3rd year where I felt the confidence to take a leap of faith and join things like the charities campaign. If you’re thinking of giving something a go, do not hesitate. The opportunities are there, and they are there for you to take them.

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I was told this week that you either graduate from St Andrews in a relationship or an alcoholic. Unfortunately, I find the real love of my life to be a glass of wine so that’s where I’m at. Dating in St Andrews is nothing short of a nightmare. A nightmare I wouldn’t be able to fit in a weekly column, let alone a whole article and that’s just on my experiences alone. As a fresher, I seemed to have a very collective thought process that I would instantly meet someone here and that would be that. However, what I progressively realised was that in “the place to find your one true love”, I have found that love in my friends, and in a small town in East Fife.

That is not to say I haven’t given dating a good try. To name a few; I’ve dumped someone outside Costa, obsessed over someone who sat next to me in a lecture once, and asked a photographer at a ball if they were a photographer as a chat-up line despite the fact, they had just taken my picture. It’s been three years and too many embarrassing, cringe-worthy and horrible experiences later and all I can say is dating remains just the same; you can only seem to meet people in the union or the line for Shawarma. So, when you call home and they ask if you have met someone, but you are reeling from an awkward encounter or just feeling very single – freshers you can take solace in the fact that everyone bar a few annoyingly happy couples are in the same boat. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, there is a whole world outside our bubble, we might as well have these experiences now.

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So here I am, writing this three years later at the start of my final year. The constant thought of my dissertation looming and deadlines as always fast approaching. As a fresher, I looked up to those in fourth year. I would see them around town, at events, and think wow, I cannot wait to be them and to finally have my life together: to be able to walk around town like I own the place. Yet now here I am. In their incredibly stressful shoes. Slowly realising being a fourth year isn’t what you think it’s going to be. You don’t just wake up on the first day of classes and suddenly know what others don’t. I’ve simply gotten better at faking it till I make it and if I’m being honest, I’m still learning. There is no grand advice when it comes to university. Everyone has completely different experiences and there is no way to measure these to each other. However, the one consistency I have found is that friends are always just a call away in St Andrews. Whether it is looking stupid in a tutorial or a full-on breakdown, someone is always there, with a bottle of wine, ready to unpack.

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