A reflective understanding of the importance of being yourself, irrespective of the model drawn out for you.

Coming into first year I had many preconceived notions about what my university experience would and should be like. The kinds of people I was going to meet, the adventures I would have, the drinking, the laughing, all of it. I was sold this linear ideal of a university experience. It then came as no surprise to me when I found that I didn’t fit that mould. My university experience, albeit thanks to COVID in part, was not characterised by how many snogs I could get at a snogathon, or how many 4 for £10 jägers I could ‘back’ before a night out. Needless to say it had a fair sprinkling of that, but it was not overwhelmingly about that, but rather a journey of self-understanding and love.

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

Before coming to university, I had the privilege of being sat down by my friends at home and told not to worry if I didn’t find friends in the first few weeks. That I was a unique character, and for some people, this just took time to warm up to and understand. However, in spite of their wonderfully encouraging words, I decided on the M23 down from London to Brighton that I was going to just be me, and in doing so, hope to attract similar kinds of people. So, this is what I did, and I did it with conviction. Be it staying in when I didn’t want to go out, making horrendous jokes that I (and thankfully a few others) found funny or encouraging people to pick up my weird ‘Stevieisms’, I, wherever possible, remained beautifully and authentically me. It was only in doing this, in having confidence in myself and the person I am, that I was able to make a group of friends in record time – only to later turn around and rub it in the faces of all my friends at home who doubted me.

You see, it’s not about fitting the mould at university, quite the opposite. University, and especially a university like Sussex, is an inclusive, unrestrained and creative space to explore and express yourself. Being minutes away from Brighton centre allows you to immerse yourself in the world of the weird and wonderful, the creative and the orthodox. So don’t waste it. Don’t concern yourself with the mould you were sold, in fact, I actively implore you to reject it, and instead, find empowerment in creating your own course.

Starting university is the first real lily pad on the pond of adult life, so step out on the right foot. Step out with love and support for yourself and honour the person you feel you want to be, whilst accepting that such a fluid notion will chop and change with time; but no matter what, remain authentically you. No-one leaves university without a better understanding of who they are and their position in this world, a few funny stories, falling asleep in a lecture and definitely finding some friends. So, don’t be afraid to grab the experience by the horns and trust that if you do what feels right to you, these things will follow. Be it in 2 day, 2 weeks or even 2 years, these things will find their way to you.

In short, I started university with long, flowing blonde hair, and I’m leaving with a dark brown mullet, and much to the despair of my Grandma I genuinely couldn’t be more confident, self-assured and fulfilled by it.

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