Diary Of A Fresher: 'University is the most intense, bizarre, otherwordly place ...'

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The Independent Online

So it's over. Or, at least, the first third of it is. I'm home now, and, I suppose, no longer a fresher. This will be my last diary entry. If you've been following me, I hope you've enjoyed watching my first year unfold. Bonus points if you've managed to work out what university I'm at. Double if you guessed my subject. If you actually know who I am, say hi sometime. Discreetly.

Just for the record, I'd never claim that I typify what it is to be a student. Even within my university, there is such diversity that I refuse to believe there's such a thing as a "typical" student, any more than there is a typical adult. Nonetheless, I hope my point of view has been interesting and, to those of you not particularly familiar with the nuts and bolts of uni these days, enlightening.

People keep asking me whether I've enjoyed my first year. Oh yes, I always say, enormously. It's the most intense, bizarre, otherworldly place I've ever spent any real time (excepting Stratford-upon-Avon). What I don't always say is that it's almost impossible to come away from an experience like this without feelings that aren't somehow mixed.

Uni is so huge and so varied, you can usually make it into what you want. It can be an academic hothouse, or a non-stop party, or a conservatoire, or a drama school. There are so many students that you can always find people you like. I've met so many wonderful, kind, funny, good-hearted, talented individuals here, and, without wanting to sound like I'm giving an Oscar speech, I'd like to thank them all. They make all the rubbish I've had to put up with this year – academic and otherwise – worthwhile.

The rubbish, of course, is the other side of the coin, and one whiny post-adolescent moaning about it isn't going to change things an iota. The structures embedded in the uni social scene are, to put it kindly, unpleasant. Before I came here, I thought that Mean Girls-style cliquiness was confined to fiction, or, at the very least, America. I was wrong. I find it sad that a lot of us operate almost exclusively in packs, official or unofficial, drinking society or live action role-playing society.

In the end, after much deliberation, I've decided that drinking societies come in varying shades of evil. They're fun, and they have their uses, most crucially in the business of meeting girls, but they come at too high a price. I say this, somewhat hypocritically, as one who has dabbled, and may well dabble again.

You may notice I haven't yet referred much to academic work. That's because, at least for my first year, it's not actually too important. If you're interested, I wound up with a decent 2.1, much to the bemusement of my parents, my supervisors, and myself. If I hadn't already decided I didn't care about exam results in principle, I'd be overjoyed. Actually, I'm lying. I'm overjoyed despite myself.

The other thing people keep asking is whether university's been what I expected. It's difficult to say – I don't recall thinking about the specifics too much before I started. All I remember is having the conviction that, whatever was about to come, it would only come once in a lifetime, and whatever I did, I mustn't waste my chance. I'm pretty sure I haven't.

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