So here it is. Five years later – well it will be once I finish my internship at the end of next month – I’m finally leaving Southampton!
You know most stay here, get their degrees and bugger off just shy of three years. Me? Well apart from the two semesters I spent abroad, Southampton has been my base, my home since September 2011. And next week I’m moving out at last…!
Five years and somehow it feels much longer and yet so much shorter at the same time. Each year here has been different from the last. A new set of adventures. Sometimes new people. New lessons to learn – lecture, job and life-wise.
I arrived here a nervous 18 year old and I’m leaving a qualified and confident-er 23 year old. One with so many stories!
Originally I was going to put my most serious adult-y advice bits in but thinking about it, it would actually be so much more fun to add one thing I have learned for every year I have lived here. And maybe I’ll elaborate some other time.
So here it is: 5 things I have learned in 5 years living in Southampton:
First year: “Being a uni student is awesome!” (It’s ok to let your hair down – including growing out that bloody block side fringe teens love so much!)
My first year of uni was probably the first year I really started being a young person. I’d been pretty sensible growing up, partially because I was a heavy saver and partially because I was scared.
But I came to uni and from about Christmas 2011, I started giving myself a break. Which led to some of the biggest and craziest adventures. Making strong friends for life, establishing who I wanted to be at uni, just living a little. I remember my mum being relieved that I was finally having some actual fun with my life. Where most mums would be pleased their offspring was not out all the time, my mum was happy to hear whenever I was going out – weekdays included.
I made myself super sleepy by the end of that year, but I have no regrets.
Second year: “I must do all the CV things!” (It’s ok to care about yourself, and others).
Second year rolled around and for the first time since I was 16, I didn’t have a job. I had quit my Saturday job and I took myself back to campus for lectures and paid work.
As I wouldn’t be around in my third year – when most people got the best positions on student group committees – I kind of overdid it in the amount of committees I ran for. I was Sec for Street Dance (because free classes and a bit of status, lol), Social Sec for the Spanish, Latin American and Portuguese Society (I’d kind of established this position already last year) and Course Rep (long term goal Academic Pres).
I had had it drilled into me from GCSE age that extracurriculars were everything! I said yes to everything. An optional trip to Italy, student ambassador work, more nights out etc.
The only problem I had that year – all the drama aside – was that I ran myself down big time that year. I look back on a couple of pictures and I look a bit too pale and have slightly too pronounced dark circles under my eyes.
I also realised that summer that I was sad to leave a group of people for the first time in about ten years. I had got so used to detaching myself from people before leaving that I wouldn’t get upset. I didn’t get upset when I finished school and I couldn’t wait to leave Sixth Form. But in April 2013 I remember the moment when I pushed myself to go to parties and gatherings more, letting go of my age-old reason that we would be leaving soon. I told myself it was ok to care about people and I had one of the best summers of my life that year! It’s incredible what you can do for yourself when you take control of your auto-pilot thoughts.
Third year: “Oh c@£& I’m getting on the plane!” (It’s ok to be scared £&*%less. Feel the fear and do it anyway!).
So I’ve written a few times that I had some struggles on my year abroad. I finally started realising that it doesn’t matter where you are, you can’t run from your problems. And I had some huge ones around the worry of disappointing people and being afraid of my true self.
However the only thing I would trade for that year would be either my degree title or the hindsight to tell myself to let go and enjoy the year! Rather than getting caught up about it.
I spent my 21st birthday sand surfing, drinking wine and ordering pizza at midnight. For a first summer birthday I’d say it was a good’un!
It is fair to say I actually overall had one of my best years. Travelling around constantly and several times across the Atlantic – quite often with the businessmen. I wish I’d listened to my gut then and kept working on my blogs from there as I could already seriously see myself getting into that career.
One of the things I’m also proud of is that I did speak out about the World Cup. Amazingly you heard more sides of the effects of the Olympics this year, but apparently you heard nothing about the problems Brazil was having during the World Cup – so I happily obliged… It still comes up in conversation now.
Fourth year: “This one time, on my third yar…” (D’you know what, I’m going to be ok).
Soooooo it’s safe to say I came back from my year abroad with a few stories and not being able to talk about anything but. However as fourth year went on, I realised that actually, being out in the real world showed me how much I was looking forward to it. Sure it was great to get back to Southampton and get going on our last year in our beloved city, but I began to notice how I treated my degree like a job and the issues that seemed so huge before my year abroad were actually nothing.
I had survived a year in Brazil which was already quite big. So why not keep reaching?
I campaigned for a Director position in the Students’ Union (see pic above) and won!
I didn’t need to worry about academia. It was the skills and everything else around it that got and is getting me through.
I am going to be ok.
Fifth year: “Not sure if I miss being a uni student or I’m glad I’m out of there…” (But I wouldn’t change a thing).
So this past year it is safe to say that I couldn’t decide whether I liked students sometimes or whether I was on board with local residents. I couldn’t quite decide whether I missed being a student or actually I was rather happy to have graduated.
Once work began – even in a Students’ Union – I began seeing the world slightly differently.
Interestingly though, while I really struggled this last year, I wouldn’t change a thing. It is these experiences, these connections and this life that have made me Me.
Somehow I’m able to quite often shock people with some of the things I’ve done – and particularly for my age – and d’you know what? It can sometimes still be quite fun.
It goes back to the whole ‘Han’s a dark horse’ thing. People never know quite what to expect with me.
But I have Southampton to thank for that. University and city. I spent quite a big portion of being here, kind of looking forward to leaving it. But I am actually rather sad to be leaving.
It was my first big step away from the small country town life towards a bustling city. And it has provided me the platforms to explore elsewhere, always giving me a home and safe space to come back to.
I would say that the biggest thing for me will be making sure I follow my dreams and my life the way I want to.
I’m kind of battling an invisible voice at the moment that tries to hold me back in the safe place. It’s my third year all over again, I’m scared to move on because it’s new, I have some weird fix that I’ll disappoint somebody or I won’t belong.
However I’ve completed what I can here – after the 23rd of September – and so now it’s time to make the transition to the next adventure. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
A friend of mine recommended I make a Spotify playlist for when I leave. Which I’ve started filling wth some 2010-2012 classics. I’ll see if I can add a link to it.
I saw a quote on Instagram this morning that said “Success is not for the lazy” and it’s basically true. And I’m NOT lazy haha!
If you have any song suggestions then let me know!!