Leaving University

TWSS’s Senior Editors, Kim and Rachel, meet to reflect on their feelings about their university experience, friendships, lessons, and hopes for the future, as they prepare to graduate and leave Bristol behind.

If you’re in your final year, like us, you may be thinking a lot about coming to the end of your university years and possibly your time at Bristol too. TWSS’ next print edition, ‘Nostalgia’ is a celebration of reminiscing and affection for the past. We’re welcoming submissions in the form of poetry, artwork, and photography – this can be anything on your camera roll that makes you nostalgic. Send in your submissions to twss.magazine@gmail.com with a few words about your piece. We can’t wait to hear from you and to share all of our nostalgia with you all very soon. 

R: I’ve changed so much from the 19 year old version of myself that came to uni. I don’t feel embarrassed, it’s a good change. I do think you change in such a short period of time, like there’s no other time in your life where that happens. The jump between 42 to 45 isn’t that astronomical, but the difference between 19 and 22 or 18 and 21…it does feel astronomical to me. 

K: I think I’ve become more creative, and I think that’s because of Covid as well. But I also think that’s because of Ottilie [my flatmate], because I lived with her in first year and she played keyboard and is really arty, and we always used to do things like go and watch the sunset and do very creatively stimulating stuff that I only really did with her in first year. When Covid happened, I was doing a lot of creative stuff and sharing that with her, sending everyone homemade bookmarks. Since then, I’ve kept that up and now I feel like even in my degree I try to be as creative as possible. Whereas coming to uni, I always thought I was more academic and more ‘by-the-book’, but leaving I feel less like that…I just want to make everything fun and creative.

R: I think that’s such a good point and I do agree. When you’re academic at school you’re not really encouraged to be anything else, but coming to Bristol uni obviously everyone here is clever, but I’ve met loads of artistic people. There is a real space here to be more than one thing. 

K: It’s weird, since coming to uni, I’ve become less academic, because I’ve realised that there’s more to life. But all throughout school, I was all for academics, it was probably my main source of validation. It’s so cliche to say you’ve ‘figured yourself out’ at uni, but I feel like I’ve figured out what I enjoy and what I need.

R: Exactly. Uni has so much value outside of the course. I feel like I’ve become so much more independent and I’ve worked out what I enjoy independent of other people, when I used to just go with the flow and not think about it too much. 

K: Is there anything negative about the experience? I feel like we’ve been very positive, and of course it is a very positive experience – I’ll always look back on it as a core and integral three years years – but is there anything that’s been negative or underwhelming, or just a bit sad? 

R: I think if I did it again I’d do things differently. I think I was too anxious, if I’d relaxed a bit it would’ve been more fun. At school I had the same group of friends for years, but coming to uni I didn’t know anyone here. I was a bit desperate to make friends and I overthought it. Going on with my life now I think I’ll just relax a bit more, because I know it  will work out in the end. .So that’s  a good thing in a way; you learn. Do you feel that?

K: I don’t know…I had a really different experience in that I got so lucky with my accommodation. This year, me and my flatmates have spoken to other people about their living experiences and first year experiences, and I just think we lucked out so much at Woodland Court. No one’s heard of it, so we were like these little nobodies [laughs]. We were all very normal I guess, obviously you did have the characters and all that, but it wasn’t too big or too small. I found my footing there quickly. But then that came with its own anxieties; there were all of these people all of a sudden, and often I couldn’t get a minute to myself and I couldn’t say no to things, because of FOMO. 

Kim’s photo – Bristol’s floating harbour, taken July 2020

K: Do you think you’re kinder to yourself since coming to university? Or even did lockdowns and Covid make you kinder to yourself? It’s difficult to separate the university years and the Covid years…essentially they are the same. 

R: Kinder to yourself…I dunno. I realised that self-care doesn’t mean what I thought it did. We all think it’s taking time for yourself, relaxing, that’s the messaging we’re given and that’s what I was doing, but I’m a naturally lazy person and it’s been a real learning curve to know that self-care to me is getting up and doing it. Because I naturally don’t do that and that doesn’t make anything better. For me, self-care is making myself routines and sticking to them. That was something I had to learn for myself. Am I kinder to myself…yeah I think so. But I don’t know, that’s a really hard question. I’m probably more self-accepting. We’re in an environment of lots of different people and everyone’s being themselves. Also, I think school, especially in my school, everyone was very similar, even with clothes. There’s a lot of space to try and be yourself in Bristol. What do you think? 

K: I think I am kinder to myself, because I think in first year…I don’t know. It’s so long ago, I can’t really remember. I think I am more accepting of things. You know how some people are completely confident and so like themselves in front of everybody, I mold to the situation a bit more, and I’m okay with that. I’m more accepting that my social battery dies sometimes and I don’t need to be on top form all of the time. Also, I’m more accepting that I don’t need to be everybody’s friend, and I don’t want to be. 

R: That’s an interesting point. I suppose some people live their whole lives never being okay with people not liking them or knowing their business. There’s been times in my life where I’ve not got on with someone but I’ve tried to be liked. It’s such a weird thing that I’ve put on a likeable character to get on with someone I don’t get along with! It’s such a waste of time. Though I’m not there yet, I definitely don’t not care about what people think.

K: Yeah, so true.

R: Another thing is that at school I didn’t really pay too much attention to why I was friends with someone, it was always like, ‘oh we get on, so we’re good friends’. Whereas coming to uni I find myself drawn to people that I admire and respect as people, irrespective of friendship. I think they’re interesting and kind and they have something about them that makes them commendable as people, but that’s also why I want to be their friend, which is nice in adulthood. To have people around you and think, if we weren’t friends, I’d admire them anyhow. 

K: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think I’ve become more mature with friendships, but I think that happened very quickly when I came to uni. I remember feeling incredibly secure in the friendships I made in first year, and by the time I was in second I knew that me and my friends, especially me and my housemates, were very tight. The experience made me feel very grown up, like I’d properly found my people. 

Rachel’s photo – Marlborough Hill, taken March 2022

K: I don’t think I have a coherent thought process about it all. 

R: I feel like I’ve been at uni for about fifty years. 

K: Yeah [laughs]. I just can’t put my finger on a lot of my thoughts, and I don’t know if I’ve changed that much since first year. 

Okay…did you think you were going to come to uni and meet the love of your life? 

R: No. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind. 

K: I can’t remember what I thought. Although, I didn’t think it’d be so difficult. 

R: I blame this on Covid. 

K: Oh yeah definitely. But I did think that I’d be in a seminar and I’d catch someone’s eye! I expected more romance. I don’t know why, I don’t know what I was reading or watching, because I don’t expect that now. 

R: A lot of my friends’ parents met at uni. My parents met at uni. There’s a feeling of like, I’m not gonna meet someone in my home town so it needs to happen at uni. It hasn’t happened but I’m not sad about it.

K: I think coming to uni I’ve realised just how much of a role luck plays. So much of life is dependent on where you are at a certain time and who you’re with. I’ll always look back on my university years knowing that I had such a wonderful time, because I got very lucky with the people I met. 

R: Yeah, so many of my experiences have been due to circumstance and I always used to take things so personally. But then you have to take opportunities and put yourself out there, and make your own luck. Be brave. 

Kim’s photo – Victoria Square, taken November 2021

R: In my gap year, I had this group of friends and we did everything together everyday. We’d go to work and then go to the pub, go for meals, go clubbing. We had this feeling that this was forever, but we did all disperse and we don’t talk as much anymore. We talk when we’re back but we’re never all back at the same time. I think adulthood is being okay with things that are sad because it’s no one’s fault – that’s just life. 

K: Yeah, and that so much of living is leaving things behind. 

[Laughs]

R: Fucking hell. 

K: Horrible thought. I’m such an idiot sometimes, because I look back on last year and I glorify the lockdown days, convincing myself that I was thriving. I was having panic attacks! I was really stressed and had a lot on my mind, but I look back on it like I was the happiest I’ve ever been. 

R: I’m so guilty of that. 

K: And then I doubt this year, like has it been wonderful? But it has been! 

R: Slightly off topic, but can we mention that we met in the first lecture?

K: Yeah we met in the first lecture. And here we are. 

K: I don’t feel old, do you feel old?

R: I feel so old! I just want to have fun this summer and relax. 

K: That is one thing I’ve learned: all I want is to have fun in this life. 

R: Life is happening now, it’s not coming. You know when you’re like, I’ll live after my exams, the truth is that your life is right now. 

K: I feel fine now, just living my life. But I’m waiting now, in anticipation for that moment a few months down the line when I’m back home and all of a sudden I’ll break down because everything is gone. It’s the loss of the place and the people and the experiences…the feeling that the ‘you’ in Bristol has gone. 

R: Yeah and you can’t go back. For me, I considered staying in Bristol, but you have to know when the party’s over.

K: Yeah that’s the thing. I feel like I’m mourning it before it’s over. It’s like how girls mentally break up with their boyfriends before the relationship is over…I’m mentally breaking up with Bristol. We’ve got two months left. I just want it to go slowly.

R: I’m enjoying myself now, but I’m excited to go back home. My best friends are moving back home too. I’m excited to go back to that and we’ll all have each other. Recharge, reconnect. I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with romanticising the past because there’s no point in remembering sadness. I would just lean into it…unless it leads you to make stupid decisions [laughs]. 

K: So true! And I’d rather look back on this time as happy, and ultimately just quite funny. Like it’s been hard, and stressful, and I’ve learned a lot, but it’s mostly just been fun. I’m desperately sad to leave; I’m such a nostalgic person, constantly reminiscing. I definitely think I’ll struggle with the loss after graduation, but I’m also so excited – it’s very bittersweet. I’m planning to be based at home, but also plan to live abroad for a few months at a time while I can. I’m also excited to see what my friends get up to and hear about their lives for the next year and the years to come. 

Rachel’s photo – Wills Memorial Building, taken July 2020

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