What is a placement year?
Maria and her friends decided to spend their third year on a work placement. Here Maria explains what that can involve.
by Maria Clark
My first year of university is over. A year of name-forgetting, essay-writing and late-night-walking across campus. Though there were certainly unprecedented aspects (coronavirus, I’m looking at you), my first year at Lancaster - no matter how it ended - has taught me a great many things. Here are just a few:
When my parents left for the first time, and I sat in my new room, trying desperately not to let the tears spill, I wanted nothing more than to run out after them. I wanted the comfort of my own house, my own town, and cuddles from the dogs - not the faceless corridor of doors that held my new flatmates. In short, I was absolutely terrified of independence. I was encouraged to be independent as I grew up, but somehow, the freedom that came with living on campus was very intimidating, on that first day.
I’m writing this now from my bedroom at home (having returned due to COVID-19). I love being at home, but being back in my family routine - and restrained by governmental restrictions, too - felt like going from one extreme to another. The independence at university (being able to get ice cream at 2am; staying in the kitchen for hours) is something that I grew to love, and now desperately miss. It was extremely annoying, sometimes, to do all the ‘adult’ things (like house viewings, and defrosting the freezers!), but having the chance to experiment and try things my way was incredible.
If you asked my flatmates, course-mates and friends about their first year, you would get a multitude of different responses. My first year was characterised by the warmth of cookie dough, the taste of rain on the netball courts and the smell of curry in the kitchen. Others will tell you about all the wonderful nights out they had, and all the lectures they attended hungover, but that didn’t even feature in my first year. I was worried, before starting university, that I would be the odd one out, because I don’t like drinking and partying, but it wasn’t an issue at all. I was incredibly lucky to meet others exactly like me, and we spent time doing things that we enjoyed. So, I would encourage all uni students (both future and current) to remember that the experience of another student will never match your own - and, with that wonderful independence I mentioned, if you don’t want to do something, you have the freedom to make up your own mind!
Depending on the type of person you are, in the first few weeks, you might find yourself anxiously calling your parents every night, updating them on every new person you’ve met and what you ate for dinner. Gradually, however, as you settle in, the life you led at home may fade into the background, and ringing home may be at the bottom of your priorities. Something I’ve learnt this year is that moving out and starting uni is as big a milestone for your family as it is for you - and they feel it just as keenly. You may not want to call your family all the time, but staying in touch and keeping them updated with your life (no matter how often) is important for everyone’s wellbeing. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear about someone else’s life outside of the Lancaster bubble. Making new friends and relationships is obviously an important part of university - but staying in touch with those from home is just as important, too.
My first year at university will always be a little more unusual than most due to the uncertainty surrounding teaching and learning from February onwards. Yes, things may not have gone completely to plan, but if coronavirus has taught me anything, it’s to make the most of the present moment. If I’d have known that my first year was going to end much sooner than anticipated, I would have embraced more opportunities and spent more time seeing and trying new things. I wish I had spent more time exploring the area, and making memories through events and moments. It’s very easy to say that it’s not important, and that there’s always next year, but the sudden shock of the pandemic has taught me that nothing’s certain. Make the most of every moment, and create memories to last a lifetime.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year at university, despite the abrupt ending. I’ve done things I never imagined, and met people from all across the globe. Lancaster, thanks for having me - and I’ll see you in second year!