So this is it, I’ve completed my degree at the University of Derby and with it I’ve gained more experiences then I could ever have imagined. As I look back there are certain memories of my experience at university that has been brilliant but also some not so brilliant experiences. I think that when I first started here and I’d moved into halls I was shy, hibernating and so afraid of the situation that I had landed myself in. All my friends from home seemed to be adapting and having so much fun and I can remember thinking that I wasn’t normal because I was terrified to leave my single room incase I bumped into one of my flat mates, which made it even more impossible to go to university and do the work I was expected to do. As a fine art student I was expected to be in studios every day, drawing and making things. I deeply regretted choosing the course I had chosen because I felt so uncreative, the course was so different from anything that I had done at GCSE and A-Level, and my ‘talent’ as a drawer seemed ridiculous and unworthy. I was surrounded by these new fantastically inspired people and I had 0% inspiration and 0% understanding of what Fine Art was. It was at this point I discovered that I had severe Social Anxiety. Instead of going out at fresher’s and getting to know my flat mates, I spent that first month having numerous panic attacks and deeply resenting my decisions in my room.
To explain what happened, or how it happened, that parts of my life slowly started to get better, I found mutual interests with one of my flat mates, which greatly enriched my experience at university, I found myself coming out of my shell a little bit at a time, and I’ll never begin to say how thankful I was to have found that one person which I could relate to, without them I dare say I’d have lived in halls for the rest of my degree or even moved home. The usual things started to happen, I was beginning to feel like I belonged and that I hadn’t made a colossal mistake. My flat mates and I signed a housing contract for second year, and that first term was the best. Now, I’m not saying that nothing bad happened, because believe me the people you will meet at university are complete nutter’s and you will have more awful awkward fights about housing arrangements at 1 in the morning with the flat mates you’ve ‘left out’. There’s no way around it and even that strange loner flat mate that you don’t really speak to (thank god I came out of my room) will get really pissed off when you tell him you’ve gotten a house with your other flat mates. There will be food stealing, annoying loud sex, disgusting toilet and shower arguments and awkward first greetings. As horrible experience halls can be, there are great moments and you’ll find that you could stay up till 4 in the morning talking about absolutely nothing or watching Grey’s Anatomy and eating pizza.
As my living situation improved I still felt horrendously awful at university, the work that I was producing was terrible and I hated it. All workshops and ‘school trips’ were long and exhausting and irritated me to no end, I felt as if I was surrounded by the most pretentious people and wasting my life away. I spent nearly all of my time in Derby and hardly visited home, which I felt awful about but when you get that taste of freedom it’s hard not to get completely absorbed by it. For my 19th birthday I went to Berlin as part of my degree, I couldn’t even explain how terrified I was, I’d have to spend a week with people I didn’t know well, in a place that was completely foreign to me and I’d also have to be on an airplane for the first time in my life, described as a flying metal tin to me, an uncontrollable fear of heights and a ticket for a window seat I dreaded everything. The culture was amazing there, and I found some friendship in this trip. I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday when it came around, I visited the Bauhaus Archive and ate pizza, yet my course mates surprised me with a card anyways, showing the kindness of strangers and I felt acceptance.
In June 2014 I got a job as a festival bar worker, number one tip, gross men will try and grope you. These men will be both customers and your managers. Festival bar work is the sleaziest work that I’ve ever done, and it was sometimes fun and sometimes really shit. The fun parts included working the bar in front of the main stage at Download, ensuring I saw all the best people. It also means you can choose your own shifts and work them around what you want to see. You will do 13 hour shifts with one 15-minute break, and you can’t complain because angry drunk metal heads are actually quite demanding with their ale. Over the course of my festival bar work I managed to see Fall Out Boy, Linken Park, The Offspring, The Pretty Reckless, Areosmith, Kasabian, Pearl Jam, Avicii and Calvin Harris, (Areosmith, TPR and The Offspring were the best.) Stand your ground and know when to say NO.
Moving into your first shared house has a lot of emotions. Stress. More stress than you can imagine because I’m a total worrier and I was 100% convinced that it wouldn’t go well. Paying your own bills, saving part of your student loan for 3 months to pay that first quarter of rent, it’s a lot of responsibility and when it happens there will be a part of you that just wants to hide and die. Those first 4 months in that house were amazing, living with 4 other people was great and I was embracing the life of a student and also kind of an adult. Now I cannot stress this enough, when choosing who you’re going to live with in first year it’s important to really be sure of the people because there’s no telling what will happen when you choose to live with someone, because being someone’s friend is a much different relationship then living with them. The year of living with my supposed friends went terribly and there was soon an incident that meant that we no longer spoke for the rest of the academic year, and plotted against each other.
Never try and balance working night shifts at Sainsbury’s whilst going to university in the day time. It is the most tiring thing you’ll ever do, and stocking biscuits at 3 in the morning whilst contemplating where your life went wrong will destroy you emotionally. Don’t do it.
January 2015 was a great month, many things happened.
1. I was gifted my camera, which obviously has changed my life and goals for the better, I started taking pictures everyday and started to improve my skills.
2. I was also bought my first record player which sprouted a 60+ collection of records so far. The first record that I purchased was Queens of the Stone Age - ‘Like Clockwork’ and it was the best thing I’d ever heard. I’m trying not to sound pretentious but that moment when I first heard the needle fall down into place and play those first eerie notes of ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ it was an ecstasy moment that was freeing and perfect. There, pretentious moment over. Second year also progressed my photography further, I started taking pictures of a young woman conveying feelings of being watched, like a peeping tom, and that’s who I was. When these images were exhibited at my second year show, they were hung in a cupboard with the doors slightly ajar, so that the viewer then became the peeping tom. Looking back, it was probably around this time that I started to fully understand the course that I was on and how Fine Art worked and that I could probably do anything I wanted, as long as I journal it religiously.
The amount of TV shows I’ve watched in my three years here at university is appalling or inspiring, whichever way you want to look it. Netflix is my home. Following is a brief list of all the show I’ve watched and re-watched whilst I’ve been procrastinating my degree:
Gossip Girl x 3
Vampire Diaries x 4
Grey’s Anatomy x 3
90210 x 2
American Horror Story x 2
Buffy the vampire slayer x 3
Charmed x 2
One Tree Hill x 2
Dr. Who x 2
Dexter x 2
Teen Wolf x 2
Friday Night lights
The walking dead
Fear the walking dead
Game of Thrones
Its always sunny in Philadelphia
Orange is the new black x 2
Grace and Frankie
Jane the Virgin
Once upon a Time
How I met your mother
Sons of Anarchy
Community x 2
Parks and Rec
That 70’s Show
Pretty Little Liars
How to get away with murder
True Blood x 3
Sex and the City
Glee x 2
Malcom in the Middle
The Mindy Project
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
American Crime Story
There is probably a lot more but I’ve watched a lot of TV and I’ve probably melted my brain by watching such awful teen dramas. If I put as much attention and ambition into watching and re-watching television shows into my degree, I wouldn’t have to worry about my oncoming results day.
Hello third year! Picture this, newly paranoid and in a crappy world of anxiety about feelings, weight and living arrangements. I started producing photo essays, taking photos of myself and writing very publicly about how I felt on my ever so wonderful blog. This really helped in terms of feeling more comfortable about myself, controlling my fears and working on a creative outlet. After excessively writing about my really interesting life, (not so much), I figured out I could take selfies and call it fine art, yay me. This just so happened to start a 50-day photo journal, in which I took a photo of myself every day for about 2 months. The project worked really well, it helped me become more comfortable with what I was doing, and I was getting great feedback from my friends and course-mates. One of the things that seemed to work out really well was, well you guessed it, TAKING PHOTOS OF MYSELF IN THE BATH.
The bath photo is probably what I’ll be known for for the rest of my life. ‘Hey aren’t you that weird girl who took pictures of herself in a bath of milk?’ *sighs* ‘Yeah that’s me’
Creating these portraits wasn’t easy, I know it may seem like I just got in and took a couple of snaps, but I would literally spend hours in that blasted bath taking photos over and over again, with lights blaring down, the bath getting cold, the paint or milk sticking to me and I would smell bad. Oh so bad. Off milk does not smell good but when you bathe in it, in your clothes it stinks. I had surrounded myself with amazing people at university, I was finally doing well and producing work that meant something to me and my life felt balanced and happy.
December 31st 2015, New Years Eve, big party? NO. NEVER. OF COURSE NOT. Reading the last 3 books of my 50 book challenge. In 2015 I had set myself a challenge of reading 50 books, I balanced It pretty well, except for the last couple of books. I’ve always loved books, Harry Potter brought me into a world of binge reading, crying over books and re reading like my life depended on it. I’d finish the seventh book and restart from Philosopher’s Stone immediately. Why wasn’t I out partying away the night and celebrating the new year? Well, as I was home in Wolverhampton I wasn’t with my University friends. When you leave home for uni, all your friends do as well, you make new friends, talk less and realise that you don’t have a lot in common anymore. It hurts more than anything and can make you feel incredibly alone and like you don’t matter at all. But, it happens and its kind of normal.
2016, 2016, 2016. What happened in 2016? I turned 21, which was brilliant, I got to go to the Kitty Café in Nottingham which was probably the cutest moment of my life, so far. Coming to terms that this is the last semester I’d attend university was scary as hell, and even as I’m writing this, a graduate, I’m terrified of life outside of education. Finalising all my work for this term has been tremendously hard. ‘Antithesis’ has been the most amount of work I’ve ever put into taking these images, and to be frank I’m glad that I wont have to get back into that bath and take any more photos, because man I hate it in there now.
University is probably the biggest and scariest part of my life so far, I can’t imagine having to do it all over again and if I could, I’d probably change some parts of what I’d done. If I look back now, I can probably see myself in the same situation I was in those first few weeks of University, being trapped and scared in my halls room. Living alone for a year has been very lonely and difficult. Its been hard and I haven’t felt my worth sometimes. Other times its been amazing, and I kind of love being alone most of the time. Although university was the scariest part of my life so far, I’m about to embark on an even more fearful part. Uncertainty is probably one of the most distressing emotions I could feel, and as I look into the future I feel hope, joy and happiness.