My First Term At University: Independence, Studying, Socialising & Wellbeing

The 12 of September of 2015 a new era in my life began: I moved to Brighton to study BA International Development in the University of Sussex. My family drove me to the campus, and after visiting the city together, they left. Then, my new life as an independent young adult began. To be honest, living on my own isn’t something I was scared about, nor is something I can’t handle. I’m fine cooking, washing up, cleaning, doing the laundry… I’m used to doing house chores. And in fact, now I only have to do house chores for myself, not for others, so everything is much better.


(My room)

I don’t live completely alone: I share flat with another eleven students. Without doubt, that was the only worrying aspect of moving out from home, since I’m not good at socialising. However, I was quite lucky: my flatmates are nice, many of them outgoing, so interacting with them is easy. When comes to living together, even though sometimes it gets chaotic and messy (we only have one kitchen, our eating/cooking hours can be similar, and some of the cooks and ovens don’t work), we haven’t had any major problem. Just minor issues like a microwave that disappeared over night, someone who smashed one of our windows, and squirrels that enter the kitchen every day and try to steal our food!

Living in a flat differs greatly from living in my aunt’s house, but I prefer it since I don’t share room with anyone. My residence is the cheapest one on campus, hence it isn’t exactly a Hilton Hotel, yet it is comfortable enough to study, eat and sleep. I can’t ask for much more. Furthermore, it is near to the majority of buildings I visit every day. That’s one of the reasons why I love living on campus. Everything is close. And I barely need to go outside of it, since on site there are shops, bars, restaurants, sports centres with gyms, and other useful facilities. Nevertheless, buses run regularly and the train station is close, so getting to the city centre isn’t hard at all. I haven’t had many opportunities to explore Brighton, but I’m hoping to do so the next term.


(Some pictures of my campus)

When comes to the most important part of my undergraduate student life, my course, I couldn’t be happier. I would be lying if I said my studies aren’t being the highlight of my time in university. I’m loving my degree. International Development is a very interesting subject and every day I learn something new (if you don’t know what International Development is, I invite you to check this blog post, which explains the concept quite clearly:

I had four modules this term: Colonialism and After, Education for Development, Ideas and Actors, and Concepts for Development. My favourite one was Colonialism and After. I learnt a lot about historical events I knew little about. Most of the lectures were about the British Empire, but during seminars we talked about other European colonisers such as Germany, and in the last weeks of the term we went through the basics of USA’s foreign policy (linked to American imperialism) and issues in contemporary Australia (in relation to aboriginal communities).

I must admit that sometimes I hated being in the Colonialism and After lectures. Some of the topics were hard to digest. Examples include the transatlantic slave trade, systematic genocides in Africa and the rise of racial privilege/ white supremacy in Europe. My biggest issue is not learning about the events themselves, but the denial and ignorance that surround them. There are individuals who still believe the slave trade wasn’t “that bad”, European colonialism was “good” for Africa, and white supremacy isn’t “real”. They ignore all the facts and believe in their assumptions. And this is very irritating for someone who is black African and has seen (sees) and has lived (lives) the devastating effects of imperialism and racism in her diaspora and continent of origin.


(My main books and notebooks for the year)

The rest of the modules were fine, but I didn’t enjoy them as much. When comes to assessments for the term, I had to do two concept notes (1000 words each), complete two portfolios (1500 words each) and write one essay (2500 words). I’m good with coursework and I prefer it to exams, but academic writing at a university standard is complicated. Completing the work during Christmas was stressful. However, last week I received my results, and I learnt I passed the four modules! The grades were fine: 70, 70, 59 and 64 (all out of 100). My average is currently 65.75 and I’m hoping to get at least a 70 at the end of the year (it is equivalent to a first class, the highest degree classification in UK, even though the first year doesn’t count towards the final grade). I know it sounds ambitious, but I just want to do the best possible. This was my first term in university ever, so I have room for improvement. And I know I can do better.

Lastly, I should talk about another significant aspect of my first term in university: my social life. As I have already mentioned, socialising isn’t my strength. At all. I was very scared of coming to university, not making friends and being alone. Yet, Fresher’s week silenced my fears. I met many people with whom I hanged out every day. Some of them were my flatmates, others people I randomly met in the street or in parties. We went out to nightclubs and to events organised by the university and by the student’s union. It was great. Then, when my lectures began, I met a few nice girls that do the same course as I do, with whom I attend many of my lectures and seminars. Overall, I could say that I made friends and I always have someone with whom hang out with if I want. This makes me feel very well, taking into account how bad college was and how I didn’t make any friends there during three years.


(On top: an event for international students. Below: pals and I in a pub during Freshers’ week.)

However, my social life wasn’t every active after September ended. I barely went out. I think I only went out once during the following three months and it was in New Year’s Eve (the term had already ended, so does it really count?!). I suppose this sounds bizarre, taking into account I had people with whom going out and I was even invited to parties/ nights out (my own flatmates host a lot of parties in our flat!). My general excuse to avoid going out is that I don’t enjoy clubbing or partying a lot which isn’t a lie but it isn’t accurate. Another excuse I have used a lot is “I don’t feel very well”, which again, it isn’t false but it isn’t precise. The real and main reason why my social life has been so inactive during the past months can be found in my mood and state of mind. Even though last term was great in terms of learning and making friends, it was awful for my emotional wellbeing and mental health. I spent most of the days either frustrated or sad, I constantly felt uninterested in everything going on, and feelings of hopelessness invaded me every night.

I always thought that moving to university would guarantee me happiness. After all, my family was behind 90% of my distress back at home. Of course, I was wrong. Very wrong. My family issues followed me to university and due to a series of events too complicated to explain, things got definitely worse than ever. They still are worse than ever. As always, I had no control or power over any of the problems, but certain people involved me on them and before I could realise I saw myself in the middle of an ongoing storm. My family has always been problematic, I can’t remember a time in which things were peaceful. However, when I was younger, I didn’t realise because I was a naïve kid. Now I’m 19 and I can understand situations better. And understanding situations betters means they affect me more. I don’t want to dwell on this topic much more right now, but I’m planning to write a post specifically about this in the (very near) future, keep an eye on the blog if you want to know more.

On conclusion: my first term in university was better than I expected, but harder that I thought it would be. I’m so grateful about making friends and having people I can talk to everyday and even hang out with. After college, I never thought it would be possible. I was convinced my personality was too boring for anyone other than myself. It probably is, but I’m glad some people have given me a chance to show them more about who I am, instead of relying on first impressions.

On the other hand, my emotional and mental health problems have blocked my willingness to get involved in social events and do anything outside my comfort zone (which is basically me being in my room writing or reading). In addition, my self-esteem and self-confidence have been severely compromised by these issues, and not feeling irritated, anxious or sad has been quite hard. All this has affected my mood and behaviour, making me crave loneliness. Nevertheless, despite of my negative persona, I always have a bit of hope hidden somewhere in my brain. I also have good friends that always support me, even if they live miles away. And I finally made a huge decision in order to be emotionally and mentally better next term. Hopefully it works out.

Sharing my experiences,

Emilie 🙂

(PS: If you want to have a look at more pictures of my time at university, check this link:


2 thoughts on “My First Term At University: Independence, Studying, Socialising & Wellbeing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.