Some say that university is the best time of your life.
I’m not necessarily sure if that’s true, or even if it’s true for me (I am only 24 after all) but I’ve certainly been looking back on that time with no small amount of nostalgia recently.
On Sunday, my mother and I dropped off my little sister at university. At my alma mater, no less, which is kind of cool. During the lead up to that drop-off – when my sister was busy with shopping and packing, and otherwise preparing to start living a Fresher – and up until now, I’ve found myself missing my own uni experience.
It’s been a couple of years since I left university and it was six years ago that I started, so my memories of that time aren’t exactly clear. But I remember snatches; moments here and there that together make up the experience I find myself reminiscing about.
One of my more coherent memories is the memory of meeting the people who would become my friends for the duration of my uni life, and who remain my friends even now. I remember being randomly approached by a girl as we waited to head into a lecture and later that day being introduced to a few girls she’d already met. Next thing I know I’d found a spot in my very own university friend group.
In the years that followed I remember talking to and gossiping with my friends between lectures; wandering around campus together; the lunch-time treks we took to the medical building because they had the best cafeteria; and the trips we took into the city centre to eat (several times at Bodega Cantina which does amazing nachos), and watch movies, and explore.
And with them and other friends/acquaintances I made along the way, I remember the occasional night out; Halloween parties (always fun for someone like to who loves to dress up; and lest I forget Grad Ball, which saw me and my friends get dressed up to enjoy fair rides and then dance until the wee hours of the morning.
So many moments, both more and less memorable, exciting or a little mundane, really made my uni experience.
But it wasn’t all fun.
My university experience also included lows like the several stress rashes I developed over the years, typically around exam time; late nights studying for those exams and sometimes being brought to tears of frustration; the flu which put me almost completely out of commission for about a week; and years of being the only one, or just one of a few, to bother to clean common areas in shared houses and flats. Additionally, even though I did actually manage to make friends and enjoy social events every now and then, I also remember the times when I really struggled to have fun and fit in with other people.
It’s my memories of the low moments which drag me out of my bouts of nostalgia and make me think ‘never again’.
Still, despite the more difficult moments, I think my time at uni was worth it. I came out on the other side with a degree – and as a result, a pretty cool job – I made friends who I hope to have for years to come, and I have all those good memories to look back on.
University may not be for everyone, as they say, and it may not even truly be the best years of a person’s life, but I’m happy to have had the experience. And I really hope that when her time is up that my sister will be able to say the same.
When we left her in her new room, being me I left with a hug and a reminder not to get murdered (caring yet practical advice). My mother forgot her keys in my sister’s room so I saw her again before we left when she came to deliver them, and I gave her one final hug (because I may be terrible with the non-written word, but I’m decent with my actions, and really will miss that kid). After saying a final goodbye to our mother as well she set off back to her uni room and my mother and I drove away, leaving my sister to her new life as a Fresher.
Sad as I was to be saying goodbye, it was only that night that I thought to tell my sister to enjoy her time at university, which I did via Snapchat.
I wish I’d been able to say the right words in the moment, though. I wish I’d been able to leave her with some words of wisdom from her big sister. If I could go back I think I’d have liked to say something along the lines of: “Enjoy all the moments that you can, keep in mind that the bad times don’t last forever, and don’t procrastinate too much because you will inevitably regret it.”
I really do hope that my sister has a brilliant time at uni. Hard as it may be considering the current pandemic, lectures moving online, and limitations on partying and clubbing, I hope my sister and other students just starting out at university can enjoy themselves. And hopefully once their finished they’ll have some good memories of their own.