Kitty Blackadder

A Scottish blog about making art, too much eyeshadow and becoming a grown up.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Starting Universtiy; My Thoughts and Advice

Firstly I should probably start by pointing out that I lived at home during Uni and I don't drink or party so this will not be a standard; "run as far away from the 'rents as poss and hit the booze" style post about my thoughts on Uni. I am however, blasting Biffy Clyro's Blackened Sky as I write this in an effort to take myself back to that angsty, teen time that saw me starting Uni.


The most overused, cliched bit of advice ever, but you know what, there's a reason for that. Looking back - while I wouldn't say I have regrets as such, the moments I look back on less fondly tend to be the moments where I strayed from my inner compass' guidance. I've always been relatively immune to peer pressure, the more I was picked on, the more it made me determined to be my weird little self. But at Uni, where you're not only dealing with all the cliquey peer pressure school had, but also jobs, and being left to cope with a lot of stuff alone - well that can shake anyone, and it did me. I'm not proud to admit it, but I chose a module because all my friends did - not because I was worried about fitting in, but I worried I couldn't cope doing the other module alone; nobody to ask for help, or to study with. I was worried I would fail and have nobody to reach out to and it would be all my fault for straying from the herd so to speak. So, I took the module everyone else did... and got the only C of my whole academic career, and I was freaking miserable!


With all of that being said about staying true to yourself, it's important to recognise why you're doing things - not just to assume it's because "it's who you are". Are you sitting in the library alone at lunch because you really need to study or fancy some peace and quiet, or because you're scared to walk up to a table full of class mates who's names you can't even remember? At Uni you will most likely meet people from all walks of life, of all ages, and nationalities and cultures - people have so many stories to tell and so many experiences to share with you, make sure you don't say "no" to potentially awesome opportunities out of fear.


This is one I'm currently repeating to Kenny daily at the moment! Too often I've known people who start Uni and hey, the work load is light at the start, so notes get accidentally squished in a bag, deadlines, well, they're more like guidelines and of course you'll remember what that brief was. Basically what I'm trying to say is it's important to not only be on top of things, but to put things in place that will help you stay there. Kenny is constantly arguing with me saying he won't need labels, or folders or a Tippex Mouse (well, OK, so I guess he's right on the last one... maybe...) but I keep telling him that two years from now when he desperately needs notes from a lecture, he will wish he had filed things away in clearly labeled, colour coded folders! It probably sounds over the top, but honestly, it will make your life so much calmer and easier in the long run, and at exam time!


I was very hard on myself during college and Uni; I worked incredibly hard and went beyond what I had to. My family would always telling me to take a few days off, or leave it until after Christmas, but I always said; "I have to know at the end of this, if I don't get the grades I want, I have to look back and know with certainty that I did my best". As it happened I graduated with a 2:1, pretty good right? But, what if I was to tell you, that I needed one mark in one module - that's 0.25% overall - to get a 1:1. 'Cos that's what happened. I was one mark away from a potentially career changing grade. It hurt then, and to be honest, it upsets me a little now - but at the same time, I know I did everything I could, I know I checked, and rechecked and stayed up late and I know I didn't slack. That's what makes it bearable, knowing I did my best and it just wasn't meant to be. 


University or college is an important time in your life. It's a time when you can experiment a little (no, I'm not talking the kind of experimentation with 'funny' cupcakes), try new things; a radical haircut, a whole new look - and you can learn some more about yourself. There's a lot of options and freedoms given to you suddenly, and meeting new people and learning so much will raise questions and issues in your mind that it's good to work through and resolve. Even returning as a mature student, I think Kenny will go through some kind of student-metamorphisis. He's been living as an adult for 15+ years, but he'll still grow and learn so much along this path that change and evolution are entirely probable. Don't force yourself to be a certain way, don't be hard on yourself for struggling with things, don't put yourself down for being who you are - look after yourself and be kind to yourself; you'll come out so much stronger at the end of it.


... Like for real, one time I nearly choked on an onion bhaji so dry it made the Sahara look like a freaking ocean.
Now obviously, although I've been through Uni, I'm faaaaarrr from an expert, but I thought I'd throw my thoughts out there in case anyone wanted to hear them. They are of course just my opinions and thoughts, and can be completely and utterly disregarded if you wish.

I'm planning to do a more 'practical tips' post soon, I apologise for this one being so serious and rambly; I switched to listening to Taking Back Sunday, half way through, so I think that might have brought out the emo within. See, this is why I normally just write in silence...


  1. This post was really nice to read and helpful. I'm quite a reserved person and when I was at college I only spoke to one person in my class who went to the same school as me and I didn't really talk to the others. Do you have any advice on how to mingle a bit more?

    1. I was incredibly reserved/outcast through school; I felt almost like I was so far gone from the group that I didn't even know where to begin fitting into it.

      For me it got easier at Uni because you already have common ground with people. I mean people go to school because they 'have' to, but at Uni people are there because they're genuinely interested in and passionate about the subject, and odds are if you're on the course too, you share that interest; so starting conversations can be easier and feel less 'forced'. Or at least it did for me anyway.

      My mother always used to say to me 'sometimes you just have to brass neck it'. I think often I would wait to be invited, or spoken to or acknowledged - I'd worry if I tagged along to lunch everyone would just stop and be like "um... why are you here?". Talking to my uni friends now, they tell me they didn't invite me at first because I seemed distant and disinterested in them - which of course I wasn't, I was shy and insecure. I certainly found when starting Uni people did things in big groups at first, and even though I felt really weird and awkward, I just tagged myself onto the group.... and of course, nobody said anything about 'why was I there', they just took me as part of the group.

      And that was a big part of it for me, I had always felt like an outsider waiting to be invited into the group, whereas I just had to change my thinking and see myself as already part of the group - and everyone else saw it that way too.

      In terms of starting conversations or mingling with people my tips would be:

      - Start with a compliment. If you're shy about approaching someone, telling them you like their hair/bag/shoes will always generate a warm response and opens up conversation.
      - Look out for other people who are quiet. One thing that helped me mingle more and be less shy, was seeing how many other shy people are. There were times when we'd all just sit silently at first in the classrooms, and I'd just started talking to the room at large; "Did anyone watch *** last night?", "Anyone ever played ***, I could totally use a guide!" etc. I found that by doing this and making an effort to include people who were even more shy than me, it made me feel good and boosted my confidence. People would then come up to me to talk one on one after the kind of 'group' chats.
      - Of course, honesty works too. There's nothing wrong with telling people you're a little shy and apprehensive; most likely they are too anyway. Shared experience is a great thing to bond over, even if that shared experience is "Oh my God, do you know where this classroom is, because I am so lost and freaking terrified of being late"

      So err... sorry about the essay of a response here... I'm such a rambler. Honestly, my advice would just be to be yourself and just take baby steps towards mingling; even smiling at people can start a conversation. Oh also, something I would do too at the start of a new term of whatever when everyone's feeling awkward, it may sound really superficial, but it works; take in a big bag of sweets or box of choccies - casually offer them to folk and a) everyone loves sweeties and b) it surprisingly will start conversations!


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