Don’t Worry If You Hated Your First Term At Uni – It Gets Better

With high aspirations, I commenced my studies at Cambridge, desiring to change the world. My goal was to rewrite the Iraqi Constitution. From the beginning of my law degree, I had expressed my ambitions to Mrs. Padfield, my professor. After eight weeks, the term came to a conclusion, and Mrs. Padfield and I spoke once again. She inquired about my progress regarding the rewriting of the Constitution. I responded with resignation that nothing had been achieved, but I was now one step closer to a nervous breakdown and a caffeine addiction.

At the outset, I had visions of the paradigm college experience- making new friends, finding camaraderie and romance, as well as engaging in intellectually stimulating legal debates and unforgettable late-night outings. However, reality dissipated these aspirations. The nights out were dull and became quite routine, with the rugby players consistently becoming intolerably intoxicated and grabbing all the attention. Romance was not present, and casual sex did not quell the lustful desires. I found myself at odds with the prevailing culture, and the only thing I knew about law was that my perpetual weight gain would relieve the scales of justice in favor of the straight, white, middle-class men.

Eventually, I began to make friends, but only after accepting things I despised, such as Taylor Swift and protein shakes. I swam through the campus, looking for a community in which I could feel comfortable and accepted. My experiences were dodging the guy who snorted coke on a British Airways flight, and attending networking events for budding bankers. A friend in a red snapback asked me if Ramadan was a gin-based drink.

Despite these challenges, I assured my childhood friends that the first semester was fantastic. They had seen my filtered photos of club nights and the smiling faces of my new buddies on social media and assumed that my experience was equally as elating as it appeared.

The reality is that many individuals have a challenging time during their initial semesters at university. But, as time passes, things get more manageable. Making friends in college requires a lot of effort, much like rummaging through a shop full of things you don’t want to buy before finding that one special item. Finally, after much perseverance, I found six friends who don’t care for protein shakes and weightlifting and a supportive group.

The rest becomes background noise. The one who drank his liver in the first semester will do dry January (ostensibly for charity), but it is just an excuse to avoid rugby beers. The Harrow boys will continue to be confused between the unacceptable and freakish, but I met a fellow northerner who was a good companion. In the month prior to the exam, I developed a habit of cramming a year’s worth of work. And to my surprise, I passed and felt quite proud when I made eye contact with the lecturers who claimed that I might receive a mere Third.

Not everything improves. I still have a long road to becoming "beach body ready," and the Iraqi Constitution has not been rewritten by me. But my message is clear- the second semester will be everything the first one wasn’t- the calm after the storm. Stay updated with the latest news from Guardian Students by following us on Twitter, @GdnStudents. Become a member to avail of exclusive benefits and a weekly newsletter.


  • isabelbyrne

    Isabel Byrne is a 32-year-old blogger and student who resides in the United States. Byrne is an advocate for education and has written extensively on the topic of education reform. Byrne is also a proponent of the use of technology in the classroom and has spoken at numerous conferences on the topic.