It’s a new year. And how strange it feels to once again hang up a calendar filled with 365 blank dates ahead. More than just a new year, 2017 marks the beginning of a new period of long-term ambitions.

Previous years have blissfully continued off the back of each other. A return to school, and a return to the same environment with the people I have shared each day growing up since before this decade even began. They were glorious years. But the goal from that time has been achieved now, and here I sit in a flat in London as a first year university student. I am in a completely different environment, with different people, and a new set of goals. For the first time in an age, it really does feel like a new year.

With school year memories preserved affectionately in the past, it is now time to look ahead at the end years of this decade, as these are the years where new long-term goals await. Should all go to plan, these final years in the 2010s will be centred around obtaining a credible degree from university.

If 2016 was the year every piece of school work climatically came together, then 2020 shall be the year university reaches a similar conclusion. Whether or not such a conclusion will reproduce the euphoria and emotion from yesteryear remains to be seen, and as always, the first years of these new challengers are always blurry indicators of what is still to come.

From what I’ve experienced so far, settling in is far easier said than done. The first term was by no means a disaster, but definitely not academically satisfying. The constant rhetoric that I had begun the “best years” of my life alongside the even more irritating “the first year doesn’t matter” were difficult to empathise. It appears university life in London is a different world when compared with conceptions from other parts of the country. In this bustling concrete bubble, packed to the rafters with students from all corners of the world with untold riches and completely alien views, you’re out there to survive and make-do; you’re essentially enrolled into the intensity of a job. There is constant pressure to always be actively working.

As a first year student, I am once again a small, insignificant, and somewhat vulnerable piece in an even larger jigsaw. I would like to think we’re all adults by now, but in the context of the university environment, other first years and I are incredibly young still. That shows, not just in my cohort, but universally across all groups. I’m back at the root of the tree, the Year R in primary school, the Year 7 in secondary school. I’m looking at what’s above me, and unsurprisingly, once again it is not too dissimilar to where I am now. The school consists of mainly big kids, all a step nearer to entering the real world, and yet appearing so far off from being able to cope once the safety-net of education is pulled away. I mean this by saying I have found little inspiration from those in the middle, or at the end of their tenure at university. It still feels like a school. I still get held up in corridors by a queue of brain-dead students waiting for opposite traffic to pass through the door when there is a second door shut right in front of them.

This feels less of a booster into the real world, and more of an extension of  what I have been through 13 years prior to enrolling for a degree.

Did I think the same around this point in my first year of secondary school? Of course I did, and a lot of what I think and feel at the moment is entirely natural. Sometimes you just have to stop listening to yourself moaning, and get on with it.

The reality is I am here for five weeks at a time, before I briefly return home to more quiet surroundings and to the people who I really know. I am not in London long enough to push for a social life, especially when almost every interaction here is impersonal. I have recognised myself as an outsider, but that doesn’t need to be a disadvantage. The city is what you make of it, and I have always been an individual. Which is why, starting from this month my vision is clearer than before. The waters have been tested, and I have reached the resolution that I want grades and nothing more. My happiness and view of university relies solely on academic progress, which I am certainly not content with at this very point. Having a social life would be such a nice bonus, but we’re in a city, we’re here to work.

So, by taking into account everything I have experienced in the first term, I approach the second with a far more organised approach, and some pretty profound changes. As I mentioned before, I am here for only a short period each time, and so it makes sense to work as hard as possible in these brief stints. That involves cutting a lot of distractions, and a lot of what is unnecessary when it is time to work. This is where the idea of quitting social media was born.

To be fully honest, I have uploaded most of my life to social media since I started using it in late 2008. To me, the rise of social media was when Web 1.0 truly died, and the computer became far more than just a quirky novelty in the corner of a living room. I have no doubt enjoyed being able to share photos and interact with people online for these years, but a term of university away from my known environment has taught me that being able to meet friends after a long while brings a much more warmer and genuine interaction. These interactions are all real, and that is exactly what social media is not. It has become an overused means of impersonally tracking friends and acquaintances, when in reality I shall be able to soon return and meet them again properly. Social media is not a necessity, and that is not even mentioning the numerous hours wasted on brief gratification received from regurgitated one-liners and memes.

Exams are going to soon arrive, and now is the time to prepare for them. Social media will have no part until I have proof I am able to be successful at university.

What will become of this change? It may take some time to really see any effect, especially when I am leaving the impersonal internet when still in an impersonal city.

With distractions aside, mentality will be the key to success in this term and the next. To achieve this I believe a surge in physical strength will be beneficial to mental focus. As such, I have decided to push myself and aim for a goal which I can potentially achieve as soon as the spring. I am registered to run a marathon on the 27th May this year, a date which could potentially fall very soon after my final exam. In a way it will be the true conclusion to my tenure as a first year student, and I hope that by intensively training alongside revising, the physical benefits will translate into mental benefits, giving me a healthier, and more active mind for cramming in information.

The work for both exams and the marathon have already begun, and the effects are immediately showing. By running 6 miles every other morning, I already feel more focused, and much more motivated- a promising sign in what is usually the bluest month of the year. This has helped me really crack on with revision material to aid exam preparation in the spring, and I firmly believe the hard work put in now will be detrimental to whether or not I am successful in this year’s exams.

However, even if I do manage to achieve the success I am aiming for this spring, it is by no means the conclusive end. None of my long-term goals will be realised in 2017, as this is only the foundation which sets the pace for years to follow.

2017 is the year we start from zero, the year we look towards new horizons. Whatever new goals each of us have, they all begin now.


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