Aberdream or Abernightmare

What I’ve learned from my time as an Aberdeen student


Anita Markoff | Tue, 5 Feb 2019


Image Courtesy of Badabee, Wikipedia

As a fourth-year student, I spend a significant amount of time reflecting on the gap between the expectation and reality of life in Aberdeen. Before I moved here, I had fantasies of taking long walks on the beach with my friends and building bonfires on late summer nights. Perhaps I would take up archery or fencing, or something equally eclectic offered by the university’s myriad of societies. I would definitely spend a significant portion of my time inside the beautiful glass walls of the library, which was my favourite work of architecture at the time.
 
There are many things that have surprised me during my time in this city, and like most of us I will leave it behind with a collection of memories ranging from terrible to wonderful.
 
The thing I find most comforting about going to university here is knowing that in a unique way, students at Aberdeen live through a lot of the same experiences.
If you are in first year reading this, here are some things you can expect in the ensuing years of your life.
The library will alternate between being a glass prison and an iconic Instagram location in your imagination. You will spend late caffeine fuelled nights pacing its labyrinthine corridors searching for that one elusive secondary text; you’re in third year, how have you managed to get to third year without checking out a single book from the library? You will also watch the sun set in all its fierce beauty from its windows, and realise that the academic weight hanging around your neck is not so heavy.  
 
The night life is better than you will expect. I have now partied in Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam, and have not experienced a night as good as raving to Rare Thursday in Tunnels with the comforting promise of cheesy chips or a pizza afterwards. 
You will not join as many societies as you think.
Every year starts out luminous with possibilities and starts to shrink around you like a jumper wrung out by the wash too many times.
The winter nights are long and bitterly cold, and the city is extremely grey. Remember to look after yourself, especially if you struggle with mental health. Living in the north makes that difficult.
 
The societies you do join will provide you with people who will be your family away from home, as cliché as that may sound. You will discover passions you never knew you had. Maybe you will reinvent yourself as someone who loves whisky tasting, or start a new radio show. 
 
This city is a village. Every bad Tinder date you have, every flatmate you have an awkward encounter with in halls, or person you have an embittered debate with in a class, can show up in your seminars two years later. Try not to have too many enemies or exes because you will run into them everywhere: outside of Greggs, in the smoking area of Underground, on the 6th floor of the library. 
 
Finally, try to remain undaunted by the university work that can feel overwhelming at times, or your first drunken mistakes in a new city, or the first year friends you drift away from, or relationships that fall apart. These are the first real years when you get to take charge of your own life. You can take it and form it into whatever shape you want. Things will go wrong but they will also unexpectedly go right. There is no feeling as exhilarating as getting your first A on an essay, actually understanding a tutorial discussion for the first time, buying your first houseplant, or having your first spring night in a city that has suddenly come alive with light again. Whether life in this city feels like a daydream or a nightmare will depend on what you make it. 
 

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