I’ve been very open about how I really, really wanted to go to uni, both on here and in my YouTube videos. While I was sad to close the chapter of my childhood, I was equally as excited to begin the next chapter and start something new. One week in, and that sentiment hasn’t gone away.
When I arrived last Saturday, I thought there would be some big moment of realisation. It would all dawn on me: London is my home now, I live on my own, everything will be new and fresh and exciting and scary and mad. Instead, I just felt normal. I simply went about my business, doing things I would normally do, meeting people, all that jazz. Truthfully, I’ve been mentally prepared for uni and for living in London for well over a year. I spent an extraordinary amount of time travelling up here for work, in 2016, and then to look around universities. I’ve wanted to live in London since I was very little. So calling this sprawling behemoth home isn’t particularly weird.
Indeed, I’ve always just assumed that I would get into university and get what I wanted. I see now how incredibly presumptuous that was, but I didn’t really have any reason to… not think that? As in, I had enough confidence in my academic abilities to know I wasn’t gonna get DDE in my A-Levels, and much of my philosophy is very futurist. I knew I was going to university, because you’re basically guaranteed a place somewhere these days, and it’d probably be my preferred choice. I knew I was most likely gonna be living in London. It’s probably why I’m always late to things. I know I’m getting to the place, wherever it may be, but the exact details are up in the air, as it’s the end goal which matters. I’m not sure whether I’m just really self-confident or really aware of my own abilities and limitations. I just knew that I wouldn’t let myself not go on and do what I’ve always wanted to do. I wouldn’t let myself fail in beginning a new life and making a new home.
It doesn’t feel like home, though. Granted, I’ve done little exploration beyond the road outside my uni, and it’s only been a week. I suppose that bit is weird; I recognise that this is my home, and I don’t feel like I’m on holiday or whatever, but it just feels vacuous. It doesn’t feel like anything, because I don’t yet have any kind of emotional connection to this place beyond ‘I’ve always wanted to be here.’ As I so painstakingly outlined in my Goodbye Winchester video (which I already linked but watch it below anyway), I lived and breathed that city. I knew every corner, every place, every bit of reputation, every, well, body.
A running joke throughout my time in Winchester was “Jasper knows everybody,” epitomised by how the people saying it would change year after year. I don’t really know how this happened. Even if people didn’t know me personally, they would still know me as the guy who’s into films. I suppose I just did an awful lot of socialising in Year 7, which stuck throughout this entire time; Winchester is a decent-sized place, but it’s not so big that you can hide a reputation. I knew everybody, and everybody knew me. A lot of the time, that was fun (while I didn’t literally know every young person in Winchester, it often felt like I did), because a walk into town would always lead to bumping into and chatting to at least 5 different people. It’s just nice to be friendly with lots of people, although the highlight of all of that was undoubtedly getting discounted Starbucks during exam season because I was friends with one of the staff in Year 7. Never burn a bridge, because you never know if you’ll need to cross it again in the years to come. Unless the bridge is already on fire, in which case pour as much petrol over it as you’d like.
It also provided a sense of security and stability. I left Winchester with many of the same core friends I’ve had for years; even with the people who were new, they were still somehow connected to others from secondary school or earlier. It meant I never had to feel out of place, I never had to endure the awkwardness at a party where you don’t know anybody to speak to – there was always at least ONE person – and I never really had to worry about introducing myself too much. Of course, this gets a bit sickening and tiresome after a while, because it means there’s nothing and nobody left to discover. It’s why I couldn’t have taken a gap year. There would be nothing new: no new classes, no new education, no new nothing. Just stagnating in the same existence I’ve lived for eighteen years, yet short by the vast majority of my friends. If I were in a relationship, or had a group of friends also taking gap years, or could go travelling, then it might have been somewhat OK. But I wasn’t, and most of my friends were heading out, and I’m poor. There gets a point where you need to prioritise discovery over security.
That’s not to say that discovery doesn’t have it’s challenges. The other night, my flatmate asked me if I was into comics. I laughed, before quickly realising that he genuinely didn’t know. That’s just not a question I got asked back in Winchester – at least not since, like, 2010. It really hit home how I am truly beginning everything anew, and how literally nobody knows me here. Well, there are a few people from my college here, but I can count them on one hand. And I have made friends, who obviously now know me. But besides that! I’m just a stranger to these people.
It’s a very liberating feeling, because I’m not beholden to any preconceptions or reputation except for that which I create for myself in these first few weeks. I can truly mould something brand new. Equally, that is very tricky and tiresome. It’s also simply impossible to build up a similar level of security and stability as what I enjoyed in Winchester, because London is fucking massive, as is my university. For the next three years, at least, and probably many more years after that, I will always be a stranger within this community.
Overall, though, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the process of making new friends and going to new places, and of living independently. I’ve always been a very independent person, so the transition isn’t massively jarring, although there are still a few things I need to work on. I need to get truly adept at using a washing machine, and stop treating it like a big scary things which will shrink all my clothes and turn them pink (because that is a very real fear). I need to manage my time better, and not start every day at lunchtime or later. I need to stop going to bed so late and stop waking up so late. I need to work up a coherent eating pattern. And I need to find a barbershop.
I suppose the only truly odd thing about this first week has been how unknown everything is. Every single person is in the same boat of wanting to meet every other person and make as many friends as possible, yet none of us know how many of those friendships will stick for the duration of the year, and the two after that. I’ve had so many conversations this week and done so much stuff, and I have absolutely no clue whether that’s exclusive to this first week or not. I have absolutely no idea whether the friends I make this week will still be friends next week. There is no way of knowing. You really do just have to throw yourself in and hope for the best.
For now, I’m feeling quite happy doing that. I’m excited for in three years’ time, when I will be able to recount my time at university just as fondly as I could in Winchester. When I will know this place like the back of my hand, when I will be able to truly call it home, when I will have formed a proper emotional connection to the people and places that reside here. And I am tremendously excited to keep going with that discovery.
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Enjoy it – you only ever have one fresher’s week! First term is usually great, so make the most of it.