I think it’s time to finally talk about this huge part of my life (I’d say Newcastle overall, but I promise there will be a separate post on that) – coming to study abroad. These past two weeks in asbeerations is all about that as you can probably tell – not that it was our intention, we just had a weird inspiration to talk about this part of our lives.
’’How is it going in the university?” – people love to ask. I have never had any answer to this, because I couldn’t simply tell if it is ”going” ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when I first arrived to Newcastle. My first days, or let’s say, months abroad were full of joy, struggles and challenges, and I find it simply impossible to put everything into a one word. When I was once thinking about the broad way to express my feelings, I decided to write this post through the prism of comparison. Comparison of two huge steps in my life.
I’ve always hated studying
Firstly, I have never been this person whose life is all about education, not that it’s a wrong way to live your life. However, I can say I did really well in school. What might sound even weirder to say after stating what kind of person I am, I honestly loved learning. But I’ve always hated studying. I hated the contest of ‘who got the highest mark’; ‘who is first and who is second’. I don’t understand the point of that up until this day and probably never will. So, I have always been this girl who loved going out with her friends and family instead of staying all day studying for some test tomorrow. I somehow managed to find balance between these things and it worked really well for me. I thought, wow, I’m gifted with that forever. I guess having this mind set was one of the mistakes I did when I came to university – but how can you blame yourself for being happy about finding a way to keep your life in control?
Thus, when I was in school I felt good. I honestly loved school. Not that I loved the education system we had to deal with, but I only have good memories of this part of my life. I’m sure the biggest reason was friends I made there with whom we’re still the same people when we’re around each other today. Besides that – I loved events, I loved teachers, lessons they taught me, never-ending parties we had – almost everything. I could always hear my parents talk with their friends about how the best years of their lives were spent in the university. To be fair, I thought school was that time for me and there is no way university could ever beat that.
And so I carried this perfectly positive image to the UK. The image where I didn’t have to dedicate all of my free time to do well in learning, the image where waking up early in the morning was all about knowing you’ll see your friends in 30 minutes and get to spend the rest of the day with them.
When I arrived to the UK, I realised there is no such thing as a class or a group, as it is in Lithuanian universities. The whole course of more than 100 people are just together and you have to find ways to adjust to this completely new situation. I know it might sound like a pleasant challenge for those who love meeting new people every day, but it was a one unfamiliar and a bit scary experience for me. Thank you world for giving me a person who spoke the same language as me, as it was definitely another barrier. It’s not the case of being bad in English, it’s just the feeling of not hearing familiar words on a daily basis. You want it or not, it’s a big part of what is home (thoughts on home here)
Good luck on writing your dissertation about YouTube!
So, a couple of weeks pass and you’re here, sitting in a huge lecture theater listening about the Kardashians with 100 people around you, and you literally know one person out of them. And by knowing, I mean only her name and the city she’s from. Then you start to think – what am I even doing here? What is media anyways and why haven’t I chose to study genetics? Everyone around says it’s much more important, and in media you only analyse Instagram posts? Excuse me, who even needs that?? The more you try to convince yourself that your degree is interesting, the more others remind you that you’ll never know how hard it actually is to study. Good luck on writing your dissertation about YouTube!
Then you start joining societies, because, well, they say the more you do in university – the better job you will find in the future. I’m not trying to deny it, because to some extent it’s true. So first – you join Lithuanian society, trying to get yourself small pieces of home every day. Then you join another society – this one just for fun. Maybe you should join the third one? No, let’s wait and see how it goes first and how much free time is left. At the end of the day, you came over 2000 km to get good education, they say.
There are so many great things you actually love
And then, in the middle of the hustle of moving in and trying to cope with one hundred different struggles, you try to think about the place you actually are right now. Few months pass and you realise these problems you had were just challenges requiring your own effort and patience – and most of them don’t even matter now. Besides all of them, there are so many great things you actually love.
You love how free people are there. You start to love the feeling that you can go dressed up whoever you like and no one will point fingers or laugh at you. You instantly fall in love with the campus of university, which is even prettier than you saw in pictures. You admire the lecturers, staff and the whole institution overall – respect everyone shows you. What you really like is that there is no such thing as asking your lecturers to change your marks, begging them to let you resit the exam or redo some assignment. This is the difference between the university and school that I love the most. As stressful as it might sometimes be, you start to love the feeling of handling everything on your own. If you mess up – you clean your mess yourself; if you do well – you celebrate and reward yourself.
More time is needed to finally get used to living independently. You miss your home every day, but days go and you start to think about your parents who are extremely proud of you, your friends who promise you to come and visit, and your hometown that will not disappear just because you’re somewhere else. Somewhere trying to build your life, to live it to the fullest and to aspire to be someone you’ll be proud of someday.
A couple of months go and then you start to see – Media might be about the Kardashians. It might be about YouTube, stupid TV shows and fake world we see on the other side of the screen. However, this is part of most of our lives now, so why should we pretend it’s not? No matter how lame and useless it might sometimes sound, this world is caught up in this. It took me time to realise that, but this is just 1% of what media and communication studies is actually about. It’s all about the world we live in. It’s all about the society, its issues, the major part broadcast, print, and, especially, online media play in all of our lives every second. It’s all about the relations – between you and me, society, news, state and power. It’s a lot about journalism, its norms, understanding the way certain issues are reported to us, and how certain aspects are (re)produced through the circle of culture. I could go on and on, but both me and Agne decided to dedicate the whole post to this someday. Maybe when we graduate and have much more to say. All I can say now is that I still have no idea how this happened. How did I manage to randomly choose to study subject I now cannot imagine my life without. It’s about creating, thinking, writing and not setting any boundaries. Maybe that’s why I started to like the fact that it lacks accuracy, numbers or statistics. There is no room for entering the contest of who got the answer which is the closest to the correct one – no point to compare your marks with others, because you can always be free to choose the subject or topic that actually interests you, and only you.
It’s all about the journey and where did it take you
I didn’t intend to reflect on my whole university experience in this post, but just some thoughts I had during the first months I came abroad to study. Starting university in a foreign country wasn’t that easy and exciting as most of young people tend to imagine. This perfect image is usually created by what we see around: never-ending parties, living with 10 strangers who eventually become your best friends, skipping lectures just for fun, travelling and just being reckless. I let this idea into my head as most of the people I know did. It’s not wrong. Sometimes it’s easier when you keep your expectations low, but now I’m glad I didn’t do that. I’m glad I patiently waited and tried to do my best to adjust. When you do not face any challenges – it’s a bit easier to take good things for granted.
Now, when this post is coming to an end, I realise I haven’t really compared anything much. Maybe there is no valid point to do that. When I think about my thoughts on school being the time of my life after hearing my parents talk – I know it’s true now. However, I now know that university will not be any better or worse. It will be just a completely different, but equally important experience, and I’m sure someday I’ll recall my days and say it was the best time I’ve ever had. It’s much more fun when there’s more than some one specific period of your life that you consider the best, isn’t it? Moreover, I realised I cannot compare these stages of my life while being completely honest with you. Just because now, when I remember school, I say I only have good memories about it. This is true, but not because it was perfect. Simply because I cannot remember the first months, which were also challenging, now – when two years after graduation have already passed. At the end of the day, it’s not only about negativity and hard challenges you faced. It’s all about what did they teach you and where did they take you.
See you soon,