Dear Fresher Hannah,
This letter is from your future self, Third-Year Hannah. I wanted to offer you a few words of advice seeing as today is your first ever day of lectures (well, lecture – you are an Arts student!) at university. It might seem daunting, but it will eventually become normal and not scary. When there are people making very clever-sounding points in tutorials, remember that you are not intellectually inadequate; you’ve made it to Durham and you deserve to be here as much as everyone else. Besides, listen closely to those clever-sounding points and you may find that they aren’t quite so clever after all. That first list of deadlines you receive certainly won’t be your last and your reading lists just keep getting longer, but the academic process will get easier to cope with.
Try not to fret too much about the work/social life balance, but do make sure you get some sleep sometimes! You can probably go out more than you think as a fresher. Work is important, but make sure to seize the opportunity to experience Europe’s worst nightclub while you still can – just don’t expect to end the night singing ‘That’s Amoré’ with strangers after a night out back home!
As for making friends, there is no need to panic! As a final-year student, I’m still making new friends in Durham. Anyway, the people you met in Freshers’ Week turn out to be your future housemates, future boyfriend and a group of amazing friends. The people around you are feeling just as nervous as you are; stop agonising and start saying hi to everyone you meet. You’ll thank yourself for it in the future. By the time you leave, you’ll have met people from all over the world, with lots of different beliefs and interests, and getting to know these people will be one of the best things you do while you’re at Durham.
You went to the Freshers’ Fair last week, didn’t you? And I know you signed up that certain sports society even though you are practically allergic to sport, because I still get emails from them two years later… While signing up to absolutely everything isn’t necessary, definitely try as many societies as you can, because when else can you go from a canoeing taster session to a Quidditch match to an academic society’s bar crawl all in one day? The societies you get involved with as a fresher make up a huge part of your life here in Durham. You’ll gain several positions of responsibility that allow you to get an internship, and you’ll also make some incredible friends with similar interests. That girl you’ll speak to at the English Society social next week – you’ll be running the society together two years later.
Make sure you appreciate Durham while you’re here. I’m going to miss not just my friends and the university once I leave in a year’s time; I’m also going to miss Durham as a place. It feels quite different to my hometown, but it’s another home of sorts and it will be strange not returning except for fleeting visits. Make time to explore the area, and also try not to spend your whole student loan in the cute cafés… Durham and the North East have a lot to offer and you’re lucky to get the chance to live here, even if it’s not for very long.
You will also grow up a lot while you’re at university. You’ll learn new things, find out how best to fend for yourself (as well as learning how best to clean mould), but most of all, you’ll learn to be more confident, possibly the most important thing I’ve gained so far at university.
I’m sure you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, thinking that I’m only two years older than you, and that things can’t be that different. You may be right to roll your eyes at this rather nostalgic letter, but you’ll realise that you’ve achieved more than you think you will and you’ll certainly surprise yourself. However, if you’re only going to take one piece of advice from my letter to you, let it be this: your time here will go so quickly; don’t let it pass you by because these will be some of the best years of your life.
Third-Year Hannah x