November is my favourite month, because there’s so many things to celebrate. First there’s Bonfire Night, then there’s Remembrance Sunday – which whilst it’s not for everyone, has always been a really important day for my family – and then there’s both my parents’ birthdays, and then finally, my birthday – all within two weeks!
I hadn’t managed to go to a fireworks display since coming to Warwick, but this year my parents had planned to come and stay with me for the weekend over Bonfire Night, so I ordered tickets to go and see the fireworks at Kenilworth Castle. I’d heard a lot of good things about it so I was really looking forward to seeing it for myself. The tickets cost £10 each but as a one-off event per year which was really well organised and a lot of fun, it was definitely worth it. When I was little, we always used to go and watch the fireworks as a family in a field on my aunt and uncle’s farm, so it brought back a lot of memories to be standing there with both my parents and my brother (who is now conveniently studying at Coventry University and only lives about thirty minutes’ walk away from me). It was also really praiseworthy how good their provision was for those with disabilities – my Dad has to use crutches permanently and we were a little worried about how close we’d be able to park and what state the ground would be in, but we were given a disabled parking space as close as possible and all of the attendants were incredibly helpful so that made it an even more enjoyable evening for us.
Birthday celebrations started early (it was my 21st after all) with a trip to London in reading week to visit the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library (yes, I’m 21 now, but I’m still that little girl reciting all of Hermione’s lines at heart). It still amazes me how easy – and cheap – it is to travel into London from Coventry by train, and is definitely something I need to continue taking advantage of while I can. My actual birthday was unfortunately on a Thursday which began with a 9am meeting followed by a seminar and then – as if things could get much more exciting – a flu jab! So it was a pretty laid-back birthday, but the real celebrations took place on the Saturday when all my friends came round for a party at mine, complete with the tastiest cake I have ever eaten and a cheesy playlist featuring all the best songs from the past 21 years.
I think it’s really important that more people talk about the perception that university is supposed to be the best years of your life, when honestly, it really isn’t that straightforward. University is hard, and there’s a lot of pressure from all sides: academically, socially, and mentally. It does also bring countless amazing opportunities, and it has seen me grow so much as a person from the timid little fresher I was at the beginning of first year, but it’s taken me a while to get to this point. I spent a lot of time in my first and second years wondering why I didn’t feel like I fit in in the same way as other people seemed to so effortlessly do. I couldn’t have celebrated my birthday for those first two years in the way that I did this year – I had small celebrations of course, like a meal out with a few friends – but this was the first year that I could actually form a list of people who I wanted to be there to celebrate with me, and I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay that it took me until third year to do that. It’s okay to take your time at university figuring out who you are, and who your friends are, and it’s okay to not spend every day feeling like you’re having the time of your life. I’m finding third year insanely busy, and really quite hard – but I’m also enjoying it a lot, and finding that balance is what university is all about.