Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It was the Best of Times ...

‘It will be the best three years of your life’ … ‘the friends you make there will be friends you’ll have for life’.

My dad’s huge enthusiasm about university made it something I couldn’t wait to do. After all, he should know, he has like six degrees. I was very disappointed when I found out I didn’t get into Nottingham University and instead I would be going to Aberystwyth, a small university in Wales that I hadn’t heard of until a close family friend started there a year previously. It was little comfort that after writing it out so many times during the application process, I could at least spell it!

All my doubts flew far far away from the moment we started the picturesque drive on winding country roads and my excitement was uncontrollable when we stopped at a pub for lunch; one filled with several other students on their way to Aberystwyth.

I could talk about every single experience I went through at Aberystwyth but I have a full-time job and you probably have a life so I’ll just stick to the highlights but it would be accurate to say that it completely changed me. From the very first day, after my parents left and I was left alone in my larger than average room at one end of a noisy hallway filled with 35 girls, I became more me. I used to be pretty shy with people I didn’t know but I walked down from room to room saying hey to everyone and getting to know them as much as you possibly can in a 5 minute conversation. I had decided to study International Relations because I wanted to be a lawyer but I didn’t want to do a law degree because I heard it was boring. I knew nothing about International Politics; I didn’t even like watching the news, so there was a slight fear that while I might love uni life, I could hate my course. But I didn’t. I loved it. It was so interesting and so enlightening that even now, I read books that were part of the curriculum. It shaped the way I view the world, and made me much more aware of what goes on behind what we see on the news. I find international politics so fascinating that while I might never use my degree professionally, I would do it over again and I intend to study it further at some point just out of interest.

I also took part in an exchange program to Victoria, on Vancouver Island in Canada. I can’t pretend I was even slightly apprehensive about going across the world to a place where I knew literally one family, and they lived a 3 hour ferry ride away, but looking back, I recognize how bold it was. It was an amazing experience, one which fuelled the decision that I’d like to live in Canada one day, and one which left me with some amazing friends.

It’s funny when I think about how shy I used to be and how nervous I was on my second night out, playing the drinking game ‘I have never’ with second year students (wow, they seemed so worldly), eyes wide open while people took gulp after gulp to signify that they’d done things I hadn’t even heard people talk about before. I used to be more of a stay at home person and honestly, that first year in university, I must have gone out literally every night. It was just so much fun, making friends and getting to know each other, having crushes on boys, partying. I was having such a blast that I barely called home and completely lost touch with a lot of my old friends.

My sister came to the same university when I was in my second year and we had such a blast. She was a real party girl and she made my first year look tame but thanks to her, my second and third year lived up the precedent I set for myself in the first year.

I need to pay some respect to the town that undoubtedly had such a large part to play in all of this. Aberystwyth is a small town, it probably takes 45 minutes to walk from one end (any end) to another and it was a complete student town. There were only three happening clubs at any one time (including the union) but I believe it has the most bars per square mile than any other town in Wales. There were about 60 bars and we all knew which were good for which occasion. The Varsity on Tuesday for pound party before we all flocked en masse to Pier Pressure, the club everyone went to which was on a pier … The Cambrian for crazy cocktails and Scholars for a nice fire place in winter and comfy sofas. The Glen where we all went on Saturday nights and Academy, a surprisingly nice bar for Aber. Did I mention that it was a coastal town? This meant it wasn’t very cold in the winter although it was very windy and from March onwards, we literally spent our days on the beach or on the pier. While my fourth year doing my masters wasn’t as much fun as the first three, I got to accomplish a life long ambition of mine; live on the sea front. Believe me when I say that there is nothing better than going to sleep with the sound of turbulent waves crashing just outside your window and nothing distracts you from your revision as much as the sun streaming though the window and the sound of gentle waves lapping at the rock. I even saw dolphins once from my window. It was a magical place.

I made so many friends and got to know more people that I would have if my dad had let me come to London like I wanted to. Like I try and explain to people, in a big university, the people you see often are usually in lectures and only then if it’s a small lecture theatre. In Aberystwyth, if you sat next to someone in a lecture, chances are you’d see them out somewhere that very week, when this happens enough times with enough people, pretty soon you know practically everyone!

So I guess my father was right. I’m reluctant to call it the best three years of my life because I’m definite there will be several even better years ahead. But it’s definitely the best three years of my life so far.