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Student 101 : The good, The bad and The ugly.

I wonder what you think of when you hear the word ‘student’? Do you think of sex, drugs, rock and roll or do you think of the youth of today bettering themselves through higher education? The truth is, the most authentic student experience lies somewhere in the middle.

All students experience that first rush of freedom when they first go to university. Whether it’s spending all your student loan during the first week of freshers, joining eight societies at once or eating a pot noodle for every meal of the day (because no one could tell you that you couldn’t!). However, for every new experience, there is a new responsibility whether that be cleaning, cooking or money management. If you’re smart, you’ve figured out that you will need these skills before university. If you’re … well ‘preoccupied’ … you won’t know how to turn on an oven or a washing machine! This was definitely true of me and some of my friends I made in first year!

No matter how many different ways my Dad taught me to slice an onion (diced or sliced), nothing could have prepared me for my first year at university! I like everyone was sold the university brochure life of being constantly surrounded by friends, meeting the love of your life and partying every night whilst somehow managing to get a first in your degree?!? Hats off to those who achieve all of these things, I know it is possible for the very few!

So, I moved away to university believing that I was promised this gold standard experience! But like many things in 2020, my vision of university life took an unexpected turn! I’m here to tell you what it’s like to get the ‘Bounty bar’ of university experiences, how you can get through it and how I’ve grown stronger because of it. Freshers, hold onto your hats!

One of the most exciting things I enjoyed before the summer of university was imagining what my dorm room would look like! I had carefully picked out a VERY pink, VERY Kath Kidston theme for my dorm room! And to my giggly fresher’s glee, I had lots of space to put it in when I got the biggest room in my halls flat! (Show off but shout out to Room 8!). I was so excited to unpack everything, wave goodbye to my parents and finally be the kick-ass independent woman I had always wanted to be! I’m so fortunate in the fact I LOVE my parents so much! I love them so much that I had only ever spent four days away from my parents and twin brother before moving out! Which brings us to our first hurdle… homesickness!

There’s a point for freshers where they suddenly realise, they are not on holiday and they have upped and moved to university. For most, this is after induction at their first 9am lecture, if you’re lucky it might take till Christmas or the end of the first year before you’ve even realised you now live at university! For me, the cheery-waver-offer-of-her-loving-parents, well it took me… 2.5 hours! Which, (traffic-free) is actually the time it takes to travel between my university and home town! I remember the exact moment I began to feel homesick at university.

To pinpoint it, I had just had a microwave curry meal ( that was nothing like my mum’s homemade curry!), hand washed my plate (no dishwasher’s in halls!), sat down in my dorm room and thought…. FLIPPING HECK, WHAT HAVE I DONE!!! I had just moved my entire life to a different county to everyone I knew and loved, all dependant on me being able to become a paramedic!

AH! Now Freshers, when this panic does set in (big scale or small-scale light bulb moment), it would be wise to find your new flatmates. Thankfully, due to a VERY emotional Snapchat story (or sob-chat in my terms), they came and found me! It was such a relief, as although they had managed to avoid feeling homesick on the first day – we were all in the same boat! Also conveniently made for a great ice-breaker?!

NOTE TO FRESHERS: You do not need 8 different sized frying pans, but you do need tissues! If only for freshers’ flu – which you will get even if you only hit the clubs twice! Sadly, this homesickness carried on for … well most of the year! It turned out that being on my own for the first time ever in my existence (as I’m a twin!) made me realise so much about myself. I had truly felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. I had left for university SO excited about the city I was moving to – yet felt too scared to explore it on my own.

I had been so confident that I was so strong and independent at the age of nineteen; yet my struggle to ease into the routine of university, making friends with strangers, keeping on top of everything and having my own back for the first time felt IMPOSSIBLE. I was left in tears every day of the first term for what seemed like the whole day, with absolutely no confidence that life at university would get better.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to drop out nearly every day before Christmas. It is beyond sad, that I became this way. But it is worth mentioning as I found out from several of my friends that this is a common experience at university, just not the shiny version of life that is advertised. I’m here to tell you that if you get this end of the stick during university, IT IS OKAY.

The things that got me out of this rut? Well, it’s not a quick fix, it took determination and resilience to build a happier life for myself. I recognise some factors that got me through were by nothing I did but by what others did that I could cling onto. One of these things was the support of my loving family, the tearful video calls and the constant optimism they were able to give me when I had lost my spark in my darkness. Whether it’s a family by blood or the friends that have become your family, hold them close and let them help you!

Possibly the biggest factor in my holding on was my faith in Jesus. It says in the Bible that God has a plan for all of us to ‘prosper not to harm’ us. In believing that everything happens for a reason, I was able to understand that maybe my struggle was just a ‘refining through fire’ and that good would come from it. Maybe writing this and it’s potential to help someone is that good. Other honourable mentions for turning things around: a thankfulness jar, inviting friends out and round your flat (shout out to SAS club!) and messaging your course mates who might just turn out to be your bestest friends! Having this resilience has helped me to be a better student paramedic. That is a whole ‘nother feat in itself.

Life on an ambulance was hard to adapt to in a time where I was struggling to swim through the tide of my own life. But with time, resilience, searching for joy and lots of herbal tea (among the above mentions), I have adapted! I have never been prouder of the work that the NHS does and the humans that act like superheroes during not just a global pandemic but every day. I can personally tell you it is INCREDIBLE and I would clap for them every night if I could!


Bottom line is, the struggle this year has brought has made me who I am and who I believe I am meant to be.

Life might not always be rosy, but that doesn’t mean good can’t come out of it! It is through being out of our comfort zone that we grow you will probably struggle in some way… but the best things are always worth fighting for. I am now entering into my second year of university. Although I have grown throughout this year, I am FULLY aware I am not the finished masterpiece. That is MORE THAN OK. I am entering the new academic year with GENUINE confidence in myself and a realistic perspective of life (still keeping my splash of optimism!).


So whether you’re experiencing this strange lockdown life or going off to university yourself. Good can come out of even the worst of times. It turns out either experience of university that you have, can be a good experience. Even if you reach into the chocolate box of uni life and pull out a bounty- remember this and that strength came from it. There are never 365 days of badness, sometimes you just have to work extra hard to find the joy in it. But you will and it will be worth it.

All my love and prayers for you,
Georgia.

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What does it mean to be a woman?

“What is the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one, she’s already had all she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not.” – Rupi Kaur

When do I feel like a woman?

I feel like a woman when I park my car perfectly straight into a space, without having to readjust its position. I feel like a woman when I put food in the oven and it doesn’t end up with a charcoaled taste. I feel like a woman when I whack out an assignment, well before its deadline.  I feel like a woman when I yell “Yasssss Queen!” at one of my friends or visa versa, for picking a particularly good outfit to go out clubbing in.

I feel like a woman when I am at my strongest.

For me, calling myself a woman still has a funny ring to it.  I realise I am no longer a girl yet a lot of the time, I feel as if the title of ‘woman’ is like a jumper I am waiting to grow into.

I believe I am still transitioning into myself, but then when aren’t we? None of us are the finished article, and I always believe there is room for improvement.

 That said, I can talk about what I have learnt so far in my transition into womanhood, and what I believe describes it best. To me, three words instantly strike me when I think about being a woman. These three words are perseverance, strength and acceptance which I think all go hand in hand.

Perseverance

As humans, only good can come when we persevere. As women, the seemingly unimaginable can and has happened. Female’s perseverance is littered throughout history and although we are not completely equal to men across the world, we would not be experiencing the freedoms we have today without it. 

The most impactful movement that comes to mind when considering perseverance was ‘the right to vote’  in the 1900’s; which was campaigned for by The Suffragettes. These women radically campaigned for their voices to be heard and were willing to be abused, imprisoned and even die for their cause. This suffrage was a huge trigger for the waves of female liberation that stretched across the 20th and 21st Centuries. 

This meant that women could now own property, manage their own money and almost speak their minds in the same way that men had always been able to.However,  I’m in no way suggesting that we all take such extreme tactics to reach our goals, often we don’t need to.

However, I believe it is incredibly important to recognise why in western society we now have the freedoms we do. Personally I use The Suffragettes movement, to inspire me to fight for what I believe in and use the power they helped me to gain.

Strength

“The best protection any woman can have is courage!” -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

In order for women to persevere, we need strength. Strength of character does not come easily for a lot of people. We must analyse our deepest beliefs and truths  to find it, we must stick to our causes and understand that we can achieve anything we put our mind to.

My strength comes from my belief that God is always with me and helping me fight my battles. He gives me my badass strength and this is a big part of why I have such a strong sense of self. 

On top of this, I constantly remind myself of all I’ve achieved and tell myself “I am strong, I am powerful, I am capable”. When we find our inner strength, we are prepared to own who we are, and laugh in the face of discouragement. 

We respect ourselves and recognise what precious individuals we are. We become a force to be reckoned with. I believe one woman with might, is stronger than a thousand of the world’s strongest men. Physical strength can weaken and die, but inner strength is eternal.

Acceptance

The third quality I believe is prevalent in femininity is acceptance and sometimes the lack of it. Growing up, I like many women struggled with body image. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never had it overtake my eating and behaviour, but I am aware I am blessed for this not to have not been the case. It has been a battle to accept my body for what it is, constantly poking my wide hips and begging them to shrink. 

The main culprit for this is comparison. 

I was always taller and wider than my friends in primary school, developing early and all at once unlike my friends at school. During sixth form, I struggled with standing next to my slimmer friends in photos. I had an issue with not being like everyone else when the fact is none of us are the same. Above all, I’ve wrongly spent most of my life believing (whether I admitted it or not) that my value was found in my clothes size; when in actual fact it is in my character. This is why the last quality is acceptance.

I want to invite my fellow sisters to learn to accept their bodies for what they are. They are all beautiful, strong homes for our souls to rest in. None is more homely than the other, they all are created specifically for the person who lives inside. 

We must learn to love and cherish our bodies for what they are, our safe havens just for us. Even if we upsize or downsize, the thing that makes our homes so great is that who lives inside.

This said we must not peg acceptance as our entire female experience. We must accept ourselves and not accept the poor circumstances we are often put into. We must speak up for when our ‘safe havens’ are taken advantage of, and when the person inside is being belittled. We must realise that our ‘houses’ are ours and only to be shared with another on our invitation. 

Georgia Peach

Guest Blogger Instagram – @geeepeach

Georgia is a nineteen-year-old student from Bournemouth, who is about to begin a Bachelor’s degree in Paramedic Science at Bristol UWE (University of the West of England) this September.