I’ve never felt like more of an adult than now, the end of my final year at Warwick. It’s a bizarre feeling. It’s like the university that was so friendly, warm and welcoming just three years ago is subtly, slowly, excruciatingly extruding me (and others in my year) from it, like the product of some vast, impersonal machine, preparing raw materials for the huge open market that is the world outside the Bubble.
It’s an awful cliche, but time does fly when you’re having fun, and the last three years have flown by more quickly than I can describe. It seems like only yesterday I was moving into halls; going on drunken walkabouts with my new Whitefields family; waiting in the long, miserable queue outside temporary Union we lovingly called ‘The Fucking Tent’; struggling through introductory lectures in strange things like ‘epistemology’ and ‘neoliberalism’.
Now, three years later, I’m left not with a sense of belonging but of longing. I sort of expected the end of university to be full of epic parties, long nights in the pub, putting our undergraduate lives to rest in style. But it hasn’t been like that. The Warwick that felt so much like my home three years ago has gradually become foreign, the people I knew best leaving, going on to bigger and better things, and a new intake of students arriving in just a couple of months, who will never see my face on campus or read my articles in the paper and whom I will never have the privilege to meet. It feels kind of sad.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, though; maybe the longing shouldn’t be for losing out on continuing the university experience but for the next life adventure. Indeed, independence can be a wonderful thing – you’re no longer constrained by the same rules as in halls or relying on your parents’ funding, just as in coming to university you’re no longer constrained by the rules of living under your parents’ roof.
More than that, I wouldn’t want to start over. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without the experiences I’ve had at university. I’ve met some of my best friends, and met some people I never want to see again. I’ve made some mistakes, but hopefully learned from some of them. I’ve become (slightly) more knowledgable about my subject, and (a lot) more knowledgable about other things. All in all, I feel like I’ve arrived at the end of my degree without an excessive number of regrets, and that’s something to be happy about.
This article isn’t about me, though. It’s about what university means, what it does to us as people, and how to make the most of it. So, to return to my awful cliche: time flies, and nowhere does it fly as fast as at uni. And there’s nothing like university to overwhelm you, to make you feel like you simply don’t have enough time to live. It makes you stress about the little details, to lose sight of the bigger picture.
The bigger picture should be the knowledge that life is actually pretty fun. It’s all too easy to forget that, but it is so incredibly vital not to. Uni flies past in the blink of an eye, but it is full of limitless opportunities – for socialising, for becoming more knowledgable, making connections, and learning from your mistakes.
So make the most of it, don’t look back, and don’t have regrets. Every part of your life at uni that seems at the time to be horrible becomes a part of you – embrace it. Without the horrible bits, you’ll never be able to learn and move on.
Life is full of ups and downs, but it’s what you learn from both the highs and the lows that counts. At university, you can learn about so much more than what you’re taught in lectures and seminars. Equally important are the life experiences that being away from home, surrounded by your peers, and living independently for the first time can give you.Learning how to learn from whatever life throws at you is probably the most important lesson to take away from university.
University, above all, is about growing up. As I said at the start of this article, I’ve never felt more like an adult than now. As scary as that sentence looks, staring back at me from my computer screen, it’s a good thing. That’s the point of university. If I don’t feel like an adult, then it hasn’t done it’s job.
And the best part about it – that I’m only now beginning to realise – is that adulthood is pretty awesome. You set your rules. You live the way you want to live. The mistakes you make at uni, the things you learn, the experiences you have, are all part of enabling you to live as a proper adult in the Warwick-Bubble-less world. The thing about the outside world though, that we tend forget while we’re at uni, is that it’s amazing. A whole world where we can forge our own way, make our own tiny imprint on the future of civilisation.
Thanks, Warwick, and so long. Roll on the next great adventure.