YOUTH MATTERS Amy Clarke...Be patient and these may still be your best years yet...

University is a destination that promises some of ‘the best years of your life’, one which many of us have braved or have yet to face.

Students arrive humming with excitement more eagerly than a puppy on a promised walk, in streams of cars packed to the sunroof with boxes, duvets and keepsakes from home.

I was the same, giving my parents a cursory goodbye in September last year, desperate to begin.

At this point I imagined my future would unfold beautifully and simply.

However, life doesn’t work this way. After all the fond reminiscences I had heard I became focused on getting there, rather than what would follow, thinking that would take care of itself.

It was naïve but I believed making friends and settling in would come easily, and feel a little less like a repeat of my earliest school days (I was lonely and excruciatingly shy).

For some of my peers the opening weeks were phenomenal and their allocated flatmates have become best friends. This is not what happened to me.

As you can see from my earlier description, parties and I have never been comfortable in the same room. Freshers’ Week with a bunch of strangers was if not hell, at least awkward.

I made other social attempts, in lessons and out: halfhearted conversations in the hallway with vague promises of meeting again.

I have never had so many contacts on my phone, the majority of whom I rarely spoke to again.

Shortly following this nervous start, panic spreads about accommodation for the following year – like a team-building exercise, everyone partners up almost overnight with people they barely know, signing contracts and effectively binding themselves together for another year.

There were arguments, and some plans had to be relaid when others dropped out or revealed they have never (and would never) cleaned a bathroom.

Despite this unpromising start, I do have a happy ending. I now cannot wait to begin my second year, move in with my two closest university friends, and truly begin to enjoy my time there.

To those about to depart I give this advice: it is frightening and yes, it can be lonely away from the safety of family and the known, but everyone really does feel the same way.

Keep confident, relax and don’t panic: rushing decisions gains you nothing. Wait, and eventually you will find that these really can become your best days yet.