First stop: Studentsville
Lily is 19 and from Kingston-upon-Thames. She's studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at York University. Will she survive?
Blimey, this going-to-uni lark aint half stressful. With her suitcase packed and her bedroom looking frighteningly neat and empty, Lily is about to abandon family life for three years in York. But will she make it past the last hurdles to get there?
The muddled mind of a fresher
I've spent two days hurriedly repacking all the things I unpacked last weekend, when I suddenly decided I wasn't going. Sitting on my bed and looking around my room, I'm feeling a bit confused. My room's never looked so huge - or so clean. I feel bad for sitting in it because it looks so tidy. I'm certainly not neat or clean enough. So I've decided this room can't be mine, this room clearly belongs to a very neat person, or it could of course belong to someone who doesn't live here anymore.
I suddenly feel like the Jacqueline Wilson's The Suitcase Kid. Instead of my parents divorcing each other, my education and family have become divorced. From now on, I'll spend Christmases with family and live with education.
My home friends are already competing with new friends I haven't yet made: "Come home soon, Lily! We'll be up to visit you! Don't forget us - we're way cooler than any new friends you could possibly make!"
All summer, I've been a bum and a layabout, picking up the odd shift at Waitrose and watching Neighbours twice a day. Tomorrow, however, I'm going to become a special kind of bum known as a student. I'm kind of excited, but not very excited, because I don't really believe I'm going. I'm kind of scared, but not very scared, because I still don't really believe I'm going. As you can probably tell, I'm mainly a bit confused.
I've put a lot of effort into making my school-to-uni transition as smooth as possible, but recently it seems that everything has swung back to smack me in the face. While I worked pretty hard for my A-levels, doing the whole staying in and revising thing (controversial, I know), but when results day finally came I found out that my grades had slipped below what was required to get into my first choice of uni. Was it the fault of the exam board? Or did I not work hard enough? Or was I just too stressed on the day? I'm hesitant to provide excuses; so many people are screwed over by their school, parents, examiner, hay fever or broken biro that I don't like to complain too much. Nobody wants to have the 'do you still want me?' conversation with their first-choice university, but since it worked out fine for me (they do still want me), I've moved on. If anything, I'm launching into my course with a vengeance, hoping to compensate for my A-level disappointments.
"I've been a bum and a layabout, picking up the odd shift at Waitrose and watching Neighbours."
No room at the uni inn
Following that, I had various disagreements and miscommunications over whether I'd deferred my place or not, whether I'd received all the information regarding my course and finally whether I had anywhere to live. Having downloaded and sent off my accommodation application before I even received it by post, I was confident that I'd get one of my three choices. I called about once a week asking when I'd be allocated a place. Then, a week-and-a-half before I was going, someone finally checked beside my name and told me that they'd never received my application. Two days later I got a letter with an explanation that there was no accommodation for me, accompanied by a list of temporary youth hostels. I hardly read the letter - I just threw it at Mum, who saw my finely-tuned 'independent young adult' act crumble before her eyes.
I didn't want to go. I didn't want to start my student life living off-campus. After all, as my boyfriend was still going to be living at home and two of my best friends were gapping, what on Earth would be appealing about not deferring my place? There seemed no point in reasoning anymore, so I just cried.
I'm not a lazy person; I don't expect everything to fall into my lap. I understand that the university experience is about doing things for yourself. But at the heart of my upset was the fact that I suddenly didn't understand why I had to work so hard to even get there in the first place. I know that somewhere there's someone who did little to no work for a set of perfect grades and whose Mum sorted out all their paperwork. I'm pretty sure they're in the room I'm meant to have got. Fate seems to be saying to me - nay, screaming - that I should stay home and put off uni for another year.
Should she stay or should she go now?
But I'm not staying home. I've put myself firmly into my Mum's hands (which has made me realise that being 19 isn't that grown-up after all). She took the day off work, called the accommodation office over and over again until I got a staff flat. Temporarily, I'm in said flat at the end of a corridor of normal rooms. Obviously there are going to be little problems to overcome, as I'm slightly segregated from my corridor and I could be moved across campus as soon as a room becomes available, but at least I have a room. Putting off university another year with no gap year plans, not to mention gap year funding, could have easily ended up with me wasting a year earning a little and spending a lot.
I've always been one for a fresh start and it's not because I have secret social ineptitudes and physical deformities - I just enjoy the excitement. So it may have taken me what seems like an age, three boxes of tissues and a massive phone bill to get to university, but I look on tomorrow with... Anticipation?