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When I joined the throng of fresher's students in the marquee tent, I could feel dread gnawing at my stomach. There were so many people — it was hard to know where to sit.
Nevertheless, I spotted some of my new course mates that I recognised from Facebook group chats and sat amongst them. Awkward smiles were exchanged and the ice was finally broken.
It can be horrifying to move away from everything you know and have grown comfortable with, and get thrown into an intense, different pace of living. I was one part deer-in-headlights and one part freed jailbird. Freed from the chains of country-town life and fixed mindsets. Since those first moments, I have learned so much about people, and I'm still trying to learn.
The first thing I wish I was told exactly one year ago, is that the bonds you form online aren't necessarily going to be the same bonds you form in person. I knew this, but I didn't truly understand this. Meaning, I didn't realize the virtual world and real world were so separate from each other. Too many expectations of friendship had stacked up without me realizing.
I was so excited to reinvent myself. I assumed I could finally know what it was like to be popular. Of course, that didn't happen. People can change within a year, but the fundamental aspects of yourself are a lot harder to shift around. No matter who tries to provide you with wisdom, the only person who can flick that switch on is you. I had to teach myself.
My wisdom is this: Just because you click with someone, it doesn't mean they want to become your friend. Friends are a complicated blend. One taste of their friendship is sweet, one taste is sour. It all depends on what mood you catch them in.
After having the same circle of friends for years, finding a new one took me a long time. Some friendships fell into place very early on, and I have remained close to those people throughout the year.
No one ever tells you, though, that a place of learning and open-mindedness could hold students that were so unwelcoming and twisted. I encountered a few people that were...let's just say "hard work." They wanted to make friends too, but did so in the wrong way.
Of course, me being the concerned person that I am, I gave them all a chance. Did it work? No. I was left feeling frustrated and upset that these people had wasted my time and energy when I could have been focusing on my own progress. I soon realized I was giving too many parts of myself away.
I spent a whole year analyzing everything until I needed to lie down. It's probably not healthy. Definitely isn't. However, this year I won't be fretting over every single person I meet and whether they like me. It was already exhausting enough being around so many people when I was so used to my own company.
What surprised me the most was when I got into the habit of being around people — suddenly, it was hard to stop. Time for studying was time spent in groups with our books open, halfway between writing our very first scripts and talking about memes on the internet. Times I could have spent on further reading, I spent sitting under a staircase with my closest friend and making strange noises (I promise, I'm not insane).
The most strange thing I've learned about attending university is that I'm really tired out from being a student. I want to learn so much and I definitely want to be a writer, but part of me wishes I could have done that gap year to gain some work experience and go to Camp America. If only I had known about the other options slipping under the radar.
In the end, it doesn't matter about the route you take. University is not just about careers, it is about discovery. Something I only knew about superficially, not deeply. Until now. Perhaps these are things I would never have learned without moving away from home and fending for myself.
If you're about to start your journey at university, don't dwell on what could have happened. Don't dwell on other people's short term needs and neglect your own. It holds you back more than you realize. You're a piece in your own board game, no one else's.
Roll the dice, it's your turn.