Blog: Reflecting on my first semester as a UoB undergraduate

Written by Student Content Shaper Ellen Campbell 

Hi, my name is Ellen and I’m a first-year student here at UoB. Being an undergraduate here has been an eye-opening and incomparable experience. When coming to grips with leaving home and moving to a new city, I switched between feelings of excitement and anticipation, to gut-wrenching anxiety and denial. However, I could never have imagined how much this unknown and previously alien city would feel like home.  

Why UoB? 

The main reason I chose UoB was the content of the course, BA English Literature with Digital Media and Communications. I struggled with the idea of studying straight English for three years and have always loved anything media and content-creation related. Therefore, this course seemed like the perfect combination of my passions, so it felt like the right decision to make it my firm choice. Alongside the academic reasoning behind my choice, the campus itself made everywhere else I visited appear second-rate. The green spaces, traditional red brick buildings and beautiful modern library immediately struck me, and I knew I could picture myself here.  

Finding my people 

In terms of friendships and socialisation, it’s been six weeks and already my flatmates are my best friends. I was lucky enough to immediately click with two of the girls in my flat and I even find it difficult to be away from them for more than a day. Small things like sharing a packet of biscuits, watching TV together or de-briefing on the sofa the morning after a night out are some of the moments that have shaped my university experience so far.  

Three female students stand in front of gold balloons which spell 'Happy Birthday'. One of the female students is wearing a pink sash which says 'Birthday Queen'

As well as my flatmates, my course is full of like-minded and diverse people who I get along with really well. I’ve found there have been so many opportunities to meet people (e.g. societies, sports clubs, and events), that it’s been easier than I imagined making friends in my first semester. Despite this, making and maintaining friendships isn’t always easy, and feeling lonely is a completely valid feeling. It always helps to talk to someone about how you feel and luckily, UoB has a great support system available if you’re finding things difficult.  

Not escaping homesickness 

Moving away from my small town in the Cotswolds to the second-largest city in the UK was an enormous change. I think it’s inevitable to feel homesick at some point during your studies, and for me, I was so distracted by my newfound independence this didn’t kick in until week four when my mum drove down to Birmingham to take me out for lunch. 

The second she left, I felt this emptiness and wished she had taken me back home with her. The sudden reminder of just how far away I was from everything familiar left me feeling wobbly and anxious, but luckily, just two weeks later I was able to head home for student support week. Being home really helped me, and I learnt that I need to see a friend from home or one of my parents at least once a month. This was a shock for me as I didn’t expect I would need contact that regularly, but now I know what I need and therefore it’s significantly easier dealing with feelings of homesickness.  

It’s easy to get caught up in the workload, socialising and nights out that form a part of your key uni experience, so much so that you bury any feelings of homesickness or worry. However, I’ve learnt that these feelings are so common, and are nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing that grounded me was the thought that my friends and my family back home weren’t going anywhere and were never more than just a simple phone call or train journey away.  

Lessons learnt 

My biggest piece of advice for fellow first-year students is to make time for yourself and prioritise your wellbeing. As important as assignments and exams can be, ultimately your mental health comes first. If you need to go home every couple of weeks, have a self-care night or speak to someone about how you’re feeling, – do it.  

It’s incredibly easy to compare ourselves to other students, not only in terms of academia, but how independent, organised, or social they appear. Our university experience holds so much excitement and memories that’ll last a lifetime, but it can also be overwhelming and daunting at times. Try not to sacrifice your mental or physical health for your degree, and always reach out to someone if you’re struggling, even if it feels impossible at the time.  

When reflecting on my first semester, I became even more excited for my second semester. There are still so many things to look forward to, such as brand-new modules, social events and sporting showcases. I’m also eager to develop and deepen my existing friendships, especially with those I'm living in a house with next year. Above all, I’m enthusiastic to develop my content-making skills and produce quality blogs, vlogs and videos for the University’s various media outlets.  

2 male students and a female student stand on the edge of a fountain, posing to the camera

One thing I want to take with me into my second semester is confidence, I feel comfortable enough and settled in with the University scene that I'm motivated to challenge myself. For me, I hope to put myself out there more in social situations, specifically seminars and group discussions, as in the first semester I've found myself shying away from such environments.  


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