Soon-to-be-graduate Sophie Mitchell reminisces on her time at Queen Mary, emphasising that it’s the little things that really count.
One of my most prominent memories on going into first year at Queen Mary was the constant uttering of — “university will be the best three years of your life”. I dismissed this as cliché rhetoric, used primarily to ease the transition of moving away from home. Upon recollection, three years later, I can now confirm that these words were, in fact, true. It has been the best three years of my life, and I know the majority of my peers would agree.
What people didn’t tell me is how fast it would go, and that before I knew it, I’d be propelled into the real world, whilst still maintaining the mentality of a first year (which proves difficult to shake). I’m not here to spread horror stories about how fast life comes at you, and how the three or more years of your degree will flash by you before you know it. It’s an inevitable reality, but there’s definitely a certain beauty in it. Each year is so profoundly different from the next. Different challenges, different faces coming and going, the city around you existing in a state of constant, colourful flux. Each year has its own collection of traumas, successes, and nostalgic moments that undoubtedly form the person you are.
In reminiscing on my three years, endless images are conjured in my mind. Things that you experience in your daily life at Queen Mary, and pay little credence to, end up staying with you as tenderly affectionate memories. I think I’ll find myself missing a peculiar collection of things – the close brush with death every time I hurl myself into a gap in the rotating library doors at midday, the feeling of crowd surfing as I battle through Bancroft at 11am, walking into a lecture late with a coffee and being ‘that person’, walking through library square and inevitably seeing faces I know, waiting in Ground for an undeniably average coffee that will make me happy regardless, walking along Regents Canal in the sunlight, reading the strange names of canal boats, feeling like a baller any time I walk straight onto a tube before the doors close, seeing each different part of London as little individual towns, turning round the corner as I come out of East Gate and 9 times out of 10 bumping into someone, seeing who’ll be the first to bolt across the road outside uni, walking on the lawn of the Queen’s building and living with minor guilt for five seconds, being endlessly disconcerted that the people I share my university with are the ones posting on QMC, failing week upon week to resist the unknown thrall of drapers and its perpetually sticky floor, seeing chicken bones strewn across the pavement everywhere from Mile End to Whitechapel… those are a few of the menial, everyday moments that have come to create what I know to be studying at Queen Mary.
When I first came here, admittedly I didn’t know much about the university, and completely underestimated the impact it would have on my life. Of course, we all joke about campus being ‘in ends’, drapers being dire, the village shop being daylight robbery, and the library being nothing short of a zoo — but every criticism has just turned into an area of knowable fondness for me.
If you’re in first or second year, you’ve still got a while to go yet. The only advice I can give, as obvious as it may be, is to just get yourself involved in what Queen Mary is. Societies, Student Media, the Student’s Union; all of these are entrances into a wider community that comprises the university, and within it are some genuinely lovely people. Just get stuck into it, don’t worry too much, take chances, try to overcome nerves, join societies and speak to people (they aren’t always awful), but ultimately; enjoy yourself and the opportunity you’ve been given.
I’ll be going on to work as a policy advisor for HM Treasury, or to drift off down another unknown trajectory post-graduation. Either way, I’ll always carry a fondness for Queen Mary that I never expected to have. We’re all just genuinely lucky to be here, and there are innumerable opportunities lying before us. Sometimes, it does take being at the end of your degree to look back and appreciate everything it has done for you. If there’s anything I ask of anyone reading this — it’s that you take a moment to reflect on every experience you’ve had in your degree thus far. Appreciate it, learn from it, and let it give you optimism for the future.