Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Returning to Aberdeen

Kings College- credit: wikipedia.org
Every student who returns from a year abroad will say that it was life-changing. It doesn’t matter who you speak to about it, it will have affected them in some way. Few people talk about the return in such a positive way. But coping with the return to ‘normal life’ is just as life changing as the time abroad.

After a year abroad, I have returned to complete my degree in Aberdeen. Returning is strange, another first in three years: the first time to repeat a setting. The location and people are familiar, but through a sort of lens of nostalgia, as if I am returning from twenty years away rather than just one. No longer being a fresher, in any sense, brings a new set of trials to face, with a new collection of pressures and challenges. I am able to keep going with what I want to do, within academia and out-with. Being the first year spent helping out at events rather than taking part, I feel like I have moved on with my life. I don’t have a completely new beginning this year. It is a new beginning, but one in which I do not have to carve my own identity into. I have a support group around me. The safety of this familiarity is refreshing, and allows me to really work hard at things other than making friends and being on ‘first impression’ mode for the first term.

A year abroad alters the mind-set about how to face challenges. To get the most of the year, you have to be able to go out and just do things. Talk to people, take part in events, go along to things by yourself, and not to be a wallflower. It gives someone courage to be clear about what they want or don’t want from people. It’s a special kind of courage that lets you get the most out of the year without regrets. You are able to say no to the people you want to say no to, and prioritise your own agendas. Keeping this going into your return to university is hard, as it is easy to slip back into old habits, but hold out from doing this. Keep yourself and your life in the forefront of your mind when committing to things. If you don’t really want to do something, have the courage to say no.

The lack of immediate socialisation after being in halls for two years makes it easy to fall back into isolation, and to lock yourself in your room as a result. As a fresher no longer, things are not put onto a plate easily for you. More effort has to be put in to find out what is going and what is open to you. In order to see your friends, you have to actually go and see your friends. There is very little immediate socialisation at all times of the day, other than maybe a flatmate, and staying on track with work is much harder. As a returning student you are expected to have a higher degree of responsibility with your money, work load and social life. Simply signing up to everything isn’t an option; you don’t have the time or money.

Returning from abroad is harder than you think it’s going to be. You have to balance catching up with your old friends, while coping with the loss of your friends abroad, and keeping up with your studies, as well as looking forward what will happen when it is time to leave university. Just remember, it won’t come immediately, but give it time, and you will strike your own balance.