My First Year At Uni

Today we come to the end of my first year at uni.

I have finished two semesters of work, and 8 subjects.

I made roughly fourteen new friends. Maybe 15, if I’m pushing it.

I handed in around 20 assignments.

My hair was four different colours.

I have spent my entire time at uni so far single.

I have the rest of the year to go, to be fair.

People were telling me that uni is the best time of ones life and it is when one truly finds or understands themselves. However, now that I am in university and I tell people what I have been told, they scoff and tell me no, really I’ve just got to try and get through it. Cynics.

I don’t know whether I’ve found myself, but I can trace a clear trajectory from the first day to the last. On the first day, my hair was pink (blood orange), I was nervous and I was sad because I had just broken up with my boyfriend. Today, I have people to regularly sit with, I have an undercut and I know my way around the campus. It never occurred to me at any point to drop out of my course, although I did consider changing it but, after seeing my classes rapidly decrease, I realise that’s not usual- I’m glad to still have that feeling of belonging.

I can clearly remember the moment I made most of my new friends- in the first week, although I was very quiet, for my “secret talent” I wrote “story telling”. The only other person in the class with something similar was my new friend E, who wrote he’s good at talking. Another friend I made over her reading my blog post while we were acquaintances on breakups- she too had just gone through a break up. Although I met one girl very late last year, I would confidently say we were only made friends during my time at uni- similarly, I met another girl when I was in primary school but only truly got to know her over good food and reflection as we decided to meet up this year.

I think I have gained more than I have lost, although I feel l have lost a little.

I have lost contact with many of my year 13 people, and lost that comfortable atmosphere although I strive to keep in contact with those who are important to me.

I have lost a bit of anxiety as I have found where I am meant to be, but gained a tad of depression, which mellows life out. This year at uni, I started seeing a counsellor.

I lost (got rid of, flung out a window) a crap job and gained two great ones, one actually working for my uni- I met an old friend while making a speech at open day.

I did actually gain a lot of knowledge about teaching, and heaps of experience in the classroom (both the opening photo and the blue banana are characters made out of playdough by some kids I did a workshop with).

I have lost a lot of time to gaining great stories.

I know I am better off and I suspect I have changed in ways I cannot even see.

The year didn’t turn out how I’d thought- I haven’t been to any mad parties, I haven’t travelled, I haven’t found the love of my life. However, I have tried tea flavoured jelly, duck with waffle fries and a sweet Indian dessert I was previously too afraid to get. I have been to three concerts (two by myself), been to a French bar and gotten Netflix. I attended two different university bible groups, smuggled onto campus by my friend. I have done things that seemed previously impossible, especially when I had a safety net of people- I am blessed with parents who are protective but have encouraged me to pursue adventures and opportunities. Although I still prefer the bustle of children, I started hanging out with an elderly gentleman, learning patience – a lesson that has waited too long. Not a conventional adventure, but still a journey.

All in all I am grateful for a year that was largely out of my control. It was not always fun, but I believe it was always monitored by God, laughing benevolently at my roller coaster ride. I say benevolently because, after all, I am still alive and do not regret anything. I have purchased a planner for next year which has a large focus on to do lists and goals and resolutions and on one hand, I am immensely excited to fill in those lines and tick those boxes but if there is one thing I have learned from this year, it is to embrace the unexpected routes and trust in God unreservedly.

And, as I say, the year itself is not yet finished.

A comic found in Science class, artist unknown.

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Why I Decided To Be A Teacher (part 1)

I was inspired to be a teacher by three particular women.

Unfortunately, you have probably never heard of them but weirdly, they’re the sort of women who wouldn’t really mind that. Quite happy to leave their mark on a small portion of the world, they certainly made a mark on me.

If you want to put it into simply terms, they changed my life.

The first, Ms N., inspired in me a love of English teaching. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl- not much has changed in that respect. I have also always appreciated the English language and everything it affords people from dry sarcasm and puns to deep explorations of the human condition. However for a long time I wanted to be a primary school teacher. A few people told me I would be good with high school students but frankly, especially while I was IN high school, they scared me. Sometimes they still do. But thankfully, my university offers a course where you can end up teaching primary and high school, so I can back out in the end if they are still too threatening. Maybe I’ll wait until I’m Ms N’s age.

Ms N had a smile, when she was truly elated, that looked like she’d just tasted a lemon or done something naughty. I don’t know, perhaps she had. She told us stories about the farm she owned [she drove a convertible and her neck was usually adorned by pearls], and explained how she believed the world should be. She once told us that buildings should only be half as high as the street they’re on is wide, so we don’t feel trapped by concrete as we so often do in the city. I often think about this and agree, especially as apartments are built in my area that I am old enough to remember used to be quite quaint.

Best of all, though, she made books interesting. She was happy to make fun of authors who were stuck up [Alain de Botton, we are looking at you]. She read out the entirety of Shakespeare’s “Tempest” by herself, pausing to add her own commentary or thoughts on the characters [after much reflection, Miranda was decidedly naive]. She read our essays and short stories with intrigue, not with the keen eye of an eagle minded marker who has many other papers to mark. When I myself had to do some marking on practical placement recently, I tried to afford each paper the same care. My supervisor told me I wrote too much, but after all, that’s what I wanted from my teachers and that’s what Ms N afforded in her spindly, graphite handwriting. I wonder if it was lead pencil so, in case we wanted to, we could rub it out and treasure our work rather than the black crosses drawn by other teachers.

She made me feel smart.

She also once told me I have great style.

Then there was Ms P. She was the favourite teacher of many of the students at my school. Soft spoken with loud opinions and a quick wit, she was as affectionate as she was clever. Once we walked into a lesson on Pompeii only to be faced with Russell Brand who had recently said something smart, so we watched that and discussed it before getting into the lesson. Perhaps that sums her up rather nicely- she had a deeper fascination and care for what was living rather than what was dead and unchangable, although she was very good at teaching it. I appreciated her for her heart for us. When it came to our final exams, she said she expected us to help each other rather than work for our own marks, which is the way it’s usually done- she told us we were a team.

In year 11, the thing happened with my friends. She was actually the only one who sat all three of us down and asked whether we couldn’t work it out and apologise. “Sorry” was muttered simply because we couldn’t bear to disappoint her. She was strong, and calm and steady- a good mother hen figure who reminded me that teaching is not just a job. It makes you a conductor, facilitator and fixer of relationships, communication and love. You are not dealing with machines but people which makes it both dangerous and exhilarating.

The final lady who encouraged my love of teaching was Ms J.

She once told us that she was actually a businesswoman but, frustrated by the lack of world knowledge young people were arriving to her with, she decided she could either complain about it or fix it, so she dropped everything and became a teacher. She once jumped a fence in New Zealand to bring back a contraband sample of raw cotton for us. She wore 1920-1940’s style hats and high heels every day, except for when she sneaked running shoes out of her purse so she could jog down to the road to her other job teaching at a university. She just spent every day changing lives because she could. And I wondered why I shouldn’t do the same.

Last year, I held a concert to fundraise for a mission trip to Fiji and went to school to personally invite her- she came.

She told me I am a good person, and I believe her, especially when I don’t feel like one.

I could have that sort of impact one day.

Me in high school, on the right. (Cancer fundraising face painting.)