Features | 10 Things You Learn in Your First Semester

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We did it, guys! After twelve gruelling weeks, we made it to the finish line relatively unscathed. Despite countless episodes of essay-induced despair where we may have threatened to throw in the towel altogether and join the circus because university is too damn hard, we finally reached the end of the first semester, and for that I send you all a virtual pat on the back. As a first year, these past few months at Leeds have been a whirlwind of awkward introductions and getting lost on campus. And drinking. So much drinking. Now I’m back at home, I’m beginning to reflect on my experiences and I can safely say that I am not the woman I was in September. I have learnt so much since coming to university, not just on my course, but from doing things like walking through Leeds city centre at 2am wearing nothing but socks on my feet (IMPORTANT: only wear heels if you can walk more than five steps in them without wanting to keel over and die). So I thought it would be appropriate to share ten things I’ve learnt this semester that will hopefully make the second one easier.


1. Making friends is hard…


I’d just like to blame the mass media for giving me unrealistic expectations about making friends at university. What I expected was to go to a party and immediately form a super-cool friendship group consisting of interesting people who do interesting things. What actually happened was the majority of freshers’ week was spent having the generic “hi-what’s-your-name-where-are-you-from-what-are-you-studying-what-halls-are-you-in” conversation with what seemed like hundreds of indifferent people who were unwilling to take the conversation beyond superficial chit chat (NB: I have actually made friends this semester, it just took a lot longer than I expected).


2. …but easier when drunk


After a few alcoholic beverages, I go from being a socially-challenged caterpillar to a vibrant social butterfly. I believe that everyone in the room is super-interesting and that I should converse with them all, usually in a loud, obnoxious voice that I was not aware I had until coming to university. And everyone else wants to make friends too, so the conversation flows well, even though most of the time it consists of incoherent slurring. Say what you like about alcohol, but it sure does bring students together, albeit in rowdy drunkenness.


3. I have a low tolerance for alcohol


Before coming to uni, I didn’t really drink that much. I’d only been drunk once before, and the sensation scared me so much at the time that I practically drank a litre of water at once to try and regain composure. However, at uni it seems that 90% of all activities involve some form of alcohol consumption, so I knew there’d be no way of eschewing the devil’s nectar if I wanted any semblance of a social life. Alas, I am ashamed to admit that it takes about two units of alcohol to turn me into a giggling, stumbling (but extremely friendly) mess, making me a danger both to others and myself (I still have a small scar on my left shoulder from my first Otley Run). As well as public embarrassment, I also wake up the next day feeling like I’ve been trampled by a herd of wildebeest, which mysteriously fails to deter me from drinking in the future. I’ve also learnt that bread is a great hangover cure, a piece of information given to me by a friend back home who I texted desperately after a night of drunken depravity.


4. Clubs are gross


I suppose I shouldn’t complain about clubs in Leeds seeing as most of them cost a fiver or less for entry, compared to the obscene prices London clubs demand. Plus, if you’re suitably intoxicated and with a group of pals, sometimes they can be almost enjoyable. However, clubs are also a hotspot for moral decay and a lack of spatial awareness. It’s kind of hard to shake your groove thing when you’re sandwiched between a couple who appear to be joint at the tonsils, and several sweaty chaps who keep trying to grab a dance despite your desperate attempts moonwalk away before they can touch you. Not to mention the inevitable moron who will spill their drink on you and mouth a half-hearted apology as they glide away into the crowd. Also, the floors are always sticky, the music is usually below par and I nearly always lose an item of jewellery. Not fun.


5. En suite bathrooms make you a better person


After living in a home with three other people and one bathroom for eighteen years, I decided that this life was no longer for me. I can honestly say that having an en suite bathroom at uni is one of my favourite things about the whole experience. Do you know how beautiful it is to be able to take a forty-minute shower without some family member shrieking at you to get out so they can use the toilet? Having one has certainly made me a more loving and tolerant person, and I don’t know how I’m going to cope next year without one.


6. Dancing is hard


I have one dance move. It consists of shuffling from side to side while flailing my arms about haphazardly, in an attempt to keep in time with the music. No matter how hard I try, I always end up looking like a drunk uncle at a wedding, while the people around me look like extras in a hip-hop music video. On the bright side, one of my closest friendships at uni was formed by bonding over our mutual inability to dance.


 7. Being cheap goes a long way


I’ve always been a bit tight-fisted; I hate spending money, and will always try to spend as little as I possibly can (with the exception of clothes, which are my one weakness). This is a quality that has served me well at university. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved walking home instead of taking a taxi (although in retrospect, a taxi would have been a safer option). I’ve seen people go into the triple digits on a single night out, and I wonder how anyone can be that reckless when I refuse to buy a drink if it costs more than £2.50. Keeping a watchful eye over your finances is beneficial in the long run, because the money I save from not going out every night and buying Morrison’s value spaghetti can be put to good use in the future. And by ‘good use’, I mean ‘new wardrobe’. It’s important to treat yourself.


8. Cheap meat is a gift from the gods


Kirkgate Market, the place where dreams come true. The first time I went there and feasted my eyes upon the plethora of stalls selling decently priced meat, my eyes filled with tears of wonderment and admiration. I’d never realised how expensive meat was in supermarkets (because I’d never had to buy it myself), and as a self-confessed carnivore, I knew this was going to be a problem. You can therefore imagine my glee upon finding a stall selling six pieces of SEASONED chicken for £2.50! Literally the highlight of the semester.


 9. Cheese is super important


Cheese should be a staple in every student’s fridge because it can make any meal infinitely better and can also be a sufficient meal on it’s own if you’re behind on shopping. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case, sorry.


 10. Lectures are a great way of selecting potential spouses


Before you judge me, can you honestly say that you maintain optimum concentration levels in every lecture you attend? Didn’t think so. When you’re in a situation where all you’re expected to do is listen, of course your mind is going to wander. And if you’re in a room with over three hundred people in it, your eyes are going to wander too. And if they happen to land upon the countenance of a handsome gentleman, is that so wrong? As riveting as my English literature lectures are, I cannot be expected to avert my eyes from God’s handiwork. I went to a single-sex school for seven years and am therefore entitled to a bit of ogling.


Melissa Gitari

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