Half an hour ago, I was sitting outside a café with some of my classmates. I don’t know them that well, but sipping at my overpriced mug of coffee, we were laughing and it felt as if I could have known them for years. All my fears of not making new friends had totally evaporated.
I didn’t always want to go to University, yet it is not my first time at the University of Portsmouth. Two years ago, straight out of college, I had come here without a purpose. This year, I decided to return, to start afresh.
You see, the history and culture of North and South America is something I have never taken any interest in. It was precisely because of this that I choose the course. I’m taking American Studies. I just wanted to learn something new! When I met the lecturers at the open-day in March, I knew I would be in safe hands. My lecturers are really passionate about their subjects and I feel I can approach them about anything. I have been particularly impressed with Park Building, which is the hub for all my classes. Like a grandfather clock, the building feels old, prestigious and yet reassuring. That’s not to say it’s out if date! It has computer suites, a café, TVs for free use, a selection of videos and DVDs to watch or borrow and quiet areas for studying. Everything I need is right here. The great diversity of people in the School of Languages and Area Studies (SLAS) is something I admire. So many different types of people, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes – I find this diversity fascinating, comforting even. In such variety, how could I feel out of place?
Like everyone, I was apprehensive during my first few days, especially as I was now twenty years old. I already felt like an old man! Yet I have met many other students who have taken gap years or changed courses like me, so I don’t feel out of place at all. I have learned you are never too old to attend University.
During Fresher’s Week, I mashed the proverbial butterflies in my stomach into a pulp and joined the ASS. Before you get any ideas, I should tell you that it stands for the American Studies Society. We’ve already been to see ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ at the New Theatre Royal and had some drinks out. The members are really friendly, and I soon felt like one of the group. I’ve also registered with the IWLP and am taking beginner’s Japanese. It’s not often that you get the chance to study a language so different to our own, and I am thoroughly enjoying it!
University really is a good place to be, but you have to put in the effort and make the most of it. If you don’t put in the effort to study, you won’t get the most out of your lectures, and if you don’t venture outside your comfort zone, you won’t meet new people and have new experiences. Take every opportunity, that’s what I’d say! Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done, although I’m actually very pleased with that. I didn’t want it to be easy. Every day I’m learning something new and challenging my perceptions of the Americas. More importantly, I’m challenging myself. The truth is, University’s not only about improving your knowledge – it’s more about improving yourself.
And I can already feel my confidence growing.