In 2017, I received my A Level results and was accepted into my first choice uni – the University of Leeds to study Biology.
This day was a day full of mixed emotions because even though I was happy with my results and excited to start my course, I was also extremely anxious and worried about what these next steps would mean. This was a massive step for me, all the way through school until sixth form I’d always been underestimated in my abilities, so being able to prove to myself I was able to get in was really important to me.
Even though I had proved to myself that I was able to get into my first choice university, I was worried about taking these next steps. Especially because it would mean moving away from all my friends, family and everything that I know.
The day of moving in was another day of mixed emotions, but as more of my flat started to come through the door, the more excited I became. In my flat there was 9 of us all together with 5 girls and 3 boys, all on a range of different courses and from a lot of different places. Although slightly awkward at first these 8 other people became some of my closest friends, some of which will be lifelong friends. It’s important to remember that when you go to uni you will meet a range of different people, and not all of them will be ‘your kind of people’ and that’s okay!
After the initial settling into Leeds came the first day of lectures, this was an extremely exciting day where I was first introduced to the campus, course mates and lecturers. This kicked off with a orienteering activity around campus where I met 3 more people who I soon became close friends with. By the end of the first semester I had settled right into university life and living in Leeds. I couldn’t believe it was time to go home for Christmas, and begin preparing for my first lot of exams. Through my course I was assessed in many different ways including multiple choice, essay questions, lab reports and presentations.
Another great aspect of my course was the option to go on field courses and collect our own data out in the field. While at uni I was able to experience two amazing field courses. The first being a costal habitat field course in Millport, Scotland. In this week long residential we focused on rocky shore ecosystems. This was also an invaluable experience to create stronger friendships, and to socialize with people from my course I hadn’t yet met. The second field course I was lucky enough to go on was one to South Africa where me and a small group of others were able to design our own experiments and collect our own data. This trip is something that I never would have experienced if I hadn’t gone to uni and something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I loved that through university I had the freedom to explore what really interested ME, not what was on a curriculum. This wasn’t just with the field courses but throughout my degree, I was able to pick topics that I wanted to know more about and learn about current areas research which was very different to school learning.
There was also a lot of aspects of moving to university that aren’t directly linked to your degree. For example I my first two years of uni I worked as for Leeds United Football stadium, and through this I met a lot of other students from the different universities around Leeds that I wouldn’t otherwise meet. I enjoyed having friends that were independent from my flat and course mates especially since some of these people were older than me so could give me advice and suggest places round Leeds to check out. As well as this in my second year I was elected social secretary of the Biology Society which is responsible for the organisation of events for biology students. This again allowed me to socialize with a wide range of people from masters students to students who had done a year in industry/abroad and even students who studied different aspects of biology to me.
Finishing in 2020 has been a anti climatic end to my time in Leeds, and did mean changes to teaching and how we were assessed. However the university and staff were in constant communication with pupils to ensure everything ran smoothly.
I think the advice I’d give myself if I could go back to 2017 Abby would firstly, be to have more confidence in yourself, you can do it and you are supported no matter what happens. Also be willing to put yourself out there and ask for help if you need it. The second piece of advice I’d give myself would be to make sure you join in and participate in everything you can. There are so many opportunities, part time jobs and societies at uni that you can join to meet new people and learn new things, I wish I had made more of that opportunity.
Finally I’d tell myself it’s okay to be nervous and have mixed emotions. This is a scary time in your life! But it’s also going to be a time where you are able to make friends for life, make amazing memories and learn more about yourself than you think. I am SO glad I decided to go to uni and would do it all again if I could!