God's Own Junkyard

I think anyone could agree that life has dramatically changed recently. Despite all of the changes that COVD-19 has brought upon my own life, I decided to stay in London rather than go back to my home in California. In some ways, it’s enhanced the conclusions that I’ve come to throughout my reflections of this school year. If nothing else, I have all the time in the world to reflect on everything that has happened during my first year at Uni, and if it was everything I had anticipated.

When I first landed in London, I was still as excited as I had been for the years that I had anticipated this moment. Hours later, the panic set in. I remember standing in Forum Magnum Square that night just thinking about how surreal it all felt. I had never in my life made a decision that completely changed everything for me in the way that this had, and I only realized how permanent everything was once I was allowed time to process. It was a shocking revelation for me, and I began to worry about everything. Was I really capable of deciding for myself that this was the right place for me? Would I make friends? Would my course fit me right? Most of all, would my second choice Uni live up to the academic rigor of my first choice?  All of my excitement seemed to dissipate into sheer anxiety just like that.

Ice Bar

Before moving here, I had always thought of myself as fiercely independent. My parents did too. I tried my hardest to maintain this front where I wasn’t terrified by the thought of being this level of self-reliant, and it only made it harder on me. I didn’t want my family to worry about me being on my own, but not admitting how hard things were was having an effect on my happiness for a while. I tried to have a “fake it ‘til you make it” kind of mindset to fool myself into nonchalance. I wanted to make the most of this situation and take every opportunity. I became a course rep. I joined the Uni’s yoga society having never done yoga before. I even tried blog writing for the first time. I found that giving myself extra responsibility kept my mind occupied and didn’t allow me the chance to worry so much about my new life.

Attending the University was a big change, at first. My High School was in the Silicon Valley, meaning that competition between students wasn’t about how much money you had or what clothes you wore, but instead, how high your grades were. Now, for the first time in my life, my peers didn’t care about assignments above all else. I guess it’s a positive thing as there is more to life than coursework, but I wasn’t used to that attitude. A lot of people in my first semester saw me as too intense and bossy (I actually had this said to me), so it was a learning curve for me to tone down this side of myself.

By changing this part of my identity, I got increasingly comfortable with adapting my personality to be more well-liked by my peers. I’ve never wanted to be a chameleon, but as I was so far from home and seeking a feeling of belonging, I found myself chasing it at all costs. I made friends with people who were not like me at all, and went to clubs and bars and other venues which I had never the slightest interest in. It wasn’t my lifestyle, and I was unhappy and uncomfortable most of the time. Since realizing how little I benefit from these friendships, I’ve begun to pull back bit by bit. I’m hopeful that I’ll find people who bring forward truly meaningful friendship, rather than empty experiences.

Academically, my first year at Uni had major ups and downs. My peers did not stimulate motivation within me. I found it hard to find people who genuinely wanted this learning experience and to benefit from it. It’s extremely difficult to work with others who view University education as a chore rather than a desire of their own, which seems to be a common mindset among those in my course. For the sake of being optimistic, I tell myself that people only have this mindset because it’s the first year. Eventually, I found the right people who could motivate me and vice versa, which is something that I’m really grateful for. I know that should I ever need guidance or help, there’s a small group of people who would always give me that assistance.

Overall, my first year has been really hard. I don’t want to sugarcoat anything, because being on your own as a student in a foreign country is not easy in most ways. Regardless of what trials I’ve faced thus far, I know that I’m on the right track. Having this time to myself to self-reflect on everything that has happened has been very positive for me. I’ve been able to slow down and really notice the negative patterns within my friendships and habits that I’ve cultivated over these recent months, and work on breaking them down. Amidst all that’s going on, I hope everyone is able to take the same measures and find some sort of peace within themselves.

Julia Hastings

First Year, BA (Hons) Marketing Communications student at Westminster Business School
Student Mind contributor

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