zine

I’m tired of fighting.

I’m a 20-year-old woman in her final semester of university, and in my spare time I write and edit for this website that I started almost a year ago. I haven’t posted much recently for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been working on a dissertation among a few other deadlines at university, and secondly, I’m exhausted.

My friends all like to wind me up for being a feminist. They like to tell me about stupid things people have said who claim to be feminist but aren’t (if you hate men, you’re not a feminist, so if you would kindly stop dragging the rest of us down, I’d be grateful). I have colleagues too, everyone enjoys telling me about stupid things ‘feminists’ have done, or how they enjoy taking them down online. Obviously, for them, it’s very funny, but for me, it’s wearing. I always clarify what feminism is and why I believe in it, but it doesn’t stop it. 

“Power to the Girls”

When I see girls, particularly younger girls and teens wearing t-shirts that say anything feminist, I smile. I’m so glad that the work of previous generations won’t end, and I’m hopeful that the future will be better. But I’m also not an idiot. I know full well that some minds won’t be changed. I know that Trump isn’t going to come out tomorrow and say ‘Gee those feminists are on to something’, nor are the Daily Mail going to cover female politicians saying ‘aren’t these women smart and powerful’ instead of talking about their legs (don’t get me started).

I know we aren’t equal. We don’t think equal. And I can’t help but agree with Emma Watson in thinking that we won’t be equal. I don’t see equality in my lifetime. I’d love to, but if it took a woman getting crushed by a horse to get us the bloody vote, I dare not ask what it would take to get where we want to be. 

I’m a feminist. I don’t really care about my personal equal pay because I’m paid the same as my male colleagues, but I care about the statistics suggesting black women lose out on almost 40% of white men’s wages1234. It’s not about me, but I still care about it. I raise an issue with men’s pressure to be manly and unemotional as it leads to dangerous numbers of suicides and mental health issues. I struggle with the international treatment of women such as FGM, truancy because of periods, rape, child marriage, and so on. It’s not something I will experience in this country, so should I just turn a blind eye? No, because I’m not an arsehole. This is deathly important and we’re all just making out like it’s not our problem.

The skirt in question…

I face issues in this country that anger me on a daily basis. It was the hottest weekend of the year so far recently so naturally, I wore a skirt, but with trainers and a long sleeve top. That didn’t matter though, legs were visible, so three different men in cars slowed to shout things or whistle. You can bet that made me feel horrible. I wanted to put my jeans back on and suffer in the heat because I felt so uncomfortable that 3 different cars of men felt perfectly comfortable to make comments on my appearance and sexualise me. It’s absolutely disgusting. It is not a compliment to make someone feel unsafe. I don’t need to excuse myself, that is not a compliment.  

I’m really sick of being called girly for liking pink, watching a lot of Julia Roberts films, and shopping excessively. These things make me happy (plus I walk double my normal steps a day when I shop so at least I’m exercising), but it’s stupid because I’m a girl and girls are stupid. I’m just so fed up. I could honestly just curse for hours and throw things because I’m so damn sick of all of it.

Why should I get stressed out because I care about something that is inherently right? It is moral, and just. It is not that we are asking a lot, we are asking for life as it should be. I should not be less than a man, nor treated less than, because I am not less than a man. I am equal. I am equal to a man. 

The necklace I now wear on a daily basis

I’m so tired of doing this. Sometimes I don’t want to do it anymore. Sometimes I think, like right now, that I don’t want to be a feminist anymore because it’s so much hard work and no one cares in the slightest what I think. I feel as though I’m wasting my time, and annoying my friends. It’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to fight in the first place, let alone be questioned for doing the right thing. I know I’ll post this and someone will either question a point I have made, or people will continue to joke about being a woman or a feminist and how I am lesser.

As someone who struggles to keep her head up a great deal of the time, I don’t really need the extra negative emotion that comes with pushing the way I do. I’m constantly down, or humiliated, or angered, or panicked, or uncomfortable and I could cry just thinking about how bad I am made to feel. I just want it to stop.

I’m doing the right thing. So either join me or leave me alone because I can’t leave this fight. I made a commitment, I started a platform to help, and I can’t quit. It’s so exhausting and even if I don’t want to do it anymore, I have to. If you have no support to offer, I’d kindly ask you to leave off, and save everyone the unnecessary negative emotion; there’s enough going around as it is. 

The Guardian: ‘Gender wage gap costs minority women more than $1m in some states
2 National Women’s Law Centre: ‘The Lifetime Wage Gap by State for Black Women
Bustle: ‘8 Startling Statistics That Show How The Pay Gap Affects Women Of Color Differently
4 American Association of University Women: ‘The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap

Words and images by Briony Brake

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Stop Picking on Feminists

I will fight you. Of course I won’t fight you. I only yell at people over feminism if they’ve just felt entitled enough to grope me on a night out. Aside from that you’re pretty safe. I don’t fight with people over feminism firstly because I know there’s no point. I don’t believe in changing people to suit your needs, I believe in finding and loving the people who do share your thinking and beliefs. Some people won’t have their minds changed. Instead of yelling at them, try having an intellectual conversation; try understanding why they think the way they do. The second reason I don’t argue about feminism (at least not seriously) is because I know about the pedestal.

Image from Buzzfeed

In a great book called Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay talks very early on about celebrities, authors and women of note who claim to be a feminist, just moments before they are attacked for doing things wrong, or at least not right, and get pushed off again. I won’t lie, I know people who say they are or aren’t feminists because of things that simply aren’t true, but there is absolutely no-one with the right to say ‘no, you’re not a feminist like I am, so I’m not interested’.

So this pedestal affects us too. I’m not famous, but I still tell people I am a feminist (in case founding a feminist blog wasn’t clear enough). A lot of people I know have met that ‘coming out’ with complete, unshielded disgust in the past. Most of the time that happens, it’s because people have a funny, old-fashioned ‘feminists are hard-core dykes and man-haters’ vibe, which is obviously just complete shit. I mean, grow up.

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Image from Tumblr/goldenpoc

When I tell people I’m a feminist, I am ready and happy to discuss why I identify as such, or what it means to me. When I say I am a feminist, I’m not exclusively saying I believe in women’s rights. When I say I’m a feminist, I’m not saying I fight for everyone’s rights because I don’t, because I’m a white woman and have no right to butt in and start claiming I know what it’s like to be something else. I’m pretty sure I’ve got this right, but feel free to stop me. When I say I am a feminist, I mean that I don’t like people being discriminated against simply and purely because of the gender they identify as.

The fact that the leading cause of death for men my age is suicide has become something I’m deeply interested in, and want to change. The reason it exists is because we live in a society that perpetuates the idea – the myth – that men should not be emotional, should not talk. In reality, men should talk or cry if they want, it should have nothing to do with their gender. This goes right along with women’s positions at work, and in power, and their disadvantages, because throughout history (think suffragettes, then think a few thousand years before that) women were painted as insufficiently educated to make decisions, be in control, and even sometimes just too darn frail to lift a box (or run for president with pneumonia, am I right?).

Image from Bustle

Image from Bustle

I get a lot of friends making jokes because they like to tease, and to be honest I’m used to it, and it’s fine. Generally, if someone tells me they think women belong in the kitchen, I know they are not in earnest.

I know not to shout and yell because people want that. They want the crazy, irrational woman shouting about how hard her life is, how hard she has it. Yet stop being a dick for a minute, and consider that I’m not fighting for me. Sure I don’t want to get paid less because I’m a woman, but I’d like to think I could protect myself. There’s always a bit of an ‘it’s not happening to me so it’s not real’ thing going around with issues like feminism. This is actually where feminism is most important.

Feminism is about making sure people don’t lose out because of their gender, and as much as in the US and UK it can be quite balanced in men’s and women’s issues – abroad, there’s a few extremes for each case.

Image from Davina Diaries

Image from Davina Diaries

You may have just seen that Polish government tried to ban abortions. What the hell Poland? Just force women back in the early 20th century and make them have their babies and do the housework. Sure, sounds cool. You might not know however of a study highlighting how many Egyptian women had experienced sexual assault and harassment (a ridiculous 99.3%)*. Oh, or what about the 10 year old divorcee from Yemen**. You probably didn’t think you were lucky your parents didn’t marry you off aged ten, but circumstances being what they are, you are. There was also the other young girl from Yemen who died on her wedding night to a man five times her age, when intercourse caused uterine rupture***. Not to mention the fact that the number of Palestinian women dying as part of so-called ‘honour killings’, often by family members, is not going down, oh no, it’s going up. It doubled between 2013 and 2014****.

Feminism isn’t just a bit of fun; it isn’t just white privileged women getting together with wine to talk about how oppressed they feel in their BMWs and London houses. It’s actually a necessity. You may not see the point. Like it or not, though, this is the only chance we have to help these deaths, child marriages, mutilation, and assault. I mean, does that not sound serious to you?

Back in the UK, men are actually killing themselves instead of living to see another day in which they have to pretend to be something they are not. Abroad, children as young as 10, who haven’t even been through puberty or started their periods yet, are being raped and married off, and it’s all just ok? I’m sorry I can’t agree.

Gender is a social construct, not a death sentence.

Graphic from Bigger Issues

So this has all gotten kind of far away from picking on me because I’m silly enough to voice my opinions out loud, but it needed to be said.

The next stage is why you should stop bullying people who actually care about you, and are trying to improve your life. Mostly, feminists get angry around the themes of pay, health, and education. Much like most people in the world tend to care about their pay, health and education. I mean, is it really such a crime to think I shouldn’t have to pay £4 not to bleed through my £7.99 jeans? (I’m talking about pads and tampons here in case that wasn’t clear…). We shouldn’t have to be setting up charities for homeless women to have access to sanitary products for something they can’t even help. How ridiculous is it? A homeless woman bleeds for a few days a month, and if she can’t afford pads or tampons then she has to bleed through pants and trousers that she may only have a few pairs of. Pretty poor show really.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable either to want to be paid the same as anyone, male or female, doing the same job as me. Men don’t get paid less because they have a penis, so why should women get paid less because they have a vagina. Sure this is less of an issue now in the UK but it still stands in some places (also ridiculous).

I also don’t think I should have to say any of this. It should just be fine that some people are born one way, and some another. Big whoop. I don’t want to be sat here defending myself for not wanting to be disadvantaged; for wanting basic human rights. I don’t want people to make jokes about how I should be in the kitchen, or how I must be a lesbian, or ugly, or lonely and deformed, or something else. It’s not even original humour for goodness sake.

I just want to be able to wake up and not hear about the stories that I’ve been telling you. I want to be able to wake up to news that, actually there is no news about Trump and Hilary because for once, Trump didn’t say something outrageously disgusting and degrading towards women, and that somehow people are finally moving past the fact that a woman (shock horror) is running for president. If someone that awful is allowed to run for president and get this close, with people thinking he is still a better option than a woman, there’s a problem.

Quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Image from For Harriet

Quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie/Image from For Harriet

Gender is an issue. Don’t lie, don’t brush it under the carpet with all the women trying to voice their opinions on Twitter like men can. Don’t brush aside domestic abuse for both men and women, genital mutilation, pay gaps, glass ceilings. Don’t just forget about it. It matters. It matters for everyone. Joking around and picking on men and women trying to focus it and fix it, is real mature. For real, stop picking on people you know nothing about.

So stop picking on me because I tell the truth about what I believe in, and bully me for fairer things (short arms and snort laugh included), or at least use original humour.

 

Words by Briony Brake

Statistics:

*  Egyptian Sexual Assault
** Yemen Child Divorcee
*** Yemen Child Died on Wedding Night
**** Honour Killings of Palestinian Women

 

Michiyo Yasuda: Seen But Not Heard

I remember the day I watched Spirited Away for the first time. I was 7 years old and my sister brought home the DVD because her friend had let her borrow it. It was the most outrageous, exciting, and heart wrenching film I had ever seen. I’ve probably watched it around 20 times by now. The story is one of those timeless, beautiful things that I will show my kids, and hopefully, even their kids. And it would never have been as magical as it is without Michiyo Yasuda.

Michiyo was the mastermind behind the vibrant colours and seamless design of some of Hayao Miyazaki’s most loved works. And after hearing the news of her passing last week, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to one of the most prominent women in animation history, in true Anthem style.

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Michiyo was born in Tokyo, 1939. Growing up then, women had sensible roles such as bank workers, and rarely held positions of power. However, her parents actively strayed away from traditional Asian child rearing practises, and encouraged Michiyo to pursue her love of the arts.

She began her career in animation straight out of secondary school with Toei Doga, nursing an active aversion to the ‘boring’ paths other women were pursuing. Toei Doga, a company not often heard of in the UK, were behind some major animations such as Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. Not only that, but a handful of other renowned animators including Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (Studio Ghibli founders), and even Leiji Matsumoto (the artist behind many of Daft Punk’s iconic music videos) also spent their early days there.

Michiyo began her career like most in the media field; at the bottom. Doing the laborious, time-consuming jobs with little recognition (shout-out to my media pals), but it soon paid off. In 1968, Michiyo Yasuda, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata worked all together for the first time on the Little Norse Prince (1968) for Toei Doga. Although the film was not particularly popular after its release, Film4 heralded it a ‘key film in the history of anime’. And that it was. This was to be the beginning of the two most important business relationships for Michiyo, making striking and unique visual media to enchant the world.

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Michiyo was a part of Studio Ghibli from the very beginning. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) was written by Miyazaki, and is often credited as the foundation of Studio Ghibli due to its incredible success in Japan. Michiyo by this point had sharpened her skills, and dedicated her attention to the incredible colour palettes of the films she worked on.

In an interview with the LA Times, Michiyo stated ‘Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on-screen’. Despite this passion for colour and the clear importance it plays in Studio Ghibli’s work, Michiyo was rarely recognised as a major contributor in the company’s work. Many did not know her name and yet millions were touched by her enchanting work. From the painfully sad Grave of the Fireflies (1988) to completely confusing and adorable My Neighbour Totoro (1988). And let’s not forget the dazzling and exciting (and my personal fave) Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Michiyo’s legacy lives on. Her colours subtly brought Studio Ghibli’s stories to life, without screaming to be acknowledged.

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Although retiring after Ponyo (2008), she could not resist returning to work on The Wind Rises (2013) as a final contribution to Hayao Miyazaki’s work before his own retirement. Her work will forever pay a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature, and the wonder that can be seen in the most mundane of things.

She is an extraordinary example of a woman who worked her way up from the bottom, and even more so in such a male-orientated field. And she will forever inspire me to see the loveliness of things we so often take for granted.

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Words by Jessica Yang

Images courtesy of Studio Ghibli

 

Sex Work: The Red Light District, Amsterdam

They’re either in your favourite painting, explored in your wildest fantasy, or paying the bills. That’s right, I’m going to be talking about sex workers.

Declaration:

  • I do not have personal experience with sex work, so I am writing this article from my perspective to attempt an introduction, and to unravel the taboo of sex work.
  • I believe that sex work should be legalised everywhere, and be included in sex education.
  • If you dislike sex work, that is your opinion. Do not purchase a session with a sex worker or attempt to harm a sex worker in any way. Double standards and violence are lame.
schiele

Artist: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) who, like many other artists, hired sex workers as models.

I’ve recently returned from a beautiful weekend trip to Amsterdam, and when questioned about my experience, my top three responses have been:

  1. No one would speak Dutch to me.
  2. Their apple pies are amazing.
  3. The legalisation of sex work is a really good idea.

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is a big business and tourist attraction, if you ever travel to Amsterdam, I strongly recommended you visit the Museum of Prostitution: Red Light Secrets. The Red Light Secrets presents visitors with an educational, historic, witty, and immersive experience inside an inactive Brothel. Prostitution in the Netherlands was legalised in 2000 and is viewed as a normal profession; there are rules and regulations which need to be followed, the workers pay income tax, and €150 rent when using the brothels.

ten-commandments

‘The Ten Commandments of Prostitution’ from the Red Light Secrets museum, Amsterdam.

These commandments of prostitution act as rules and regulations of the profession, as well as shattering the taboos of sex work. Although sex work in the UK is legalised, brothels, pimps, and soliciting is illegal, meaning sex work is a vulnerable profession with little legal support.                                                                                                  

When doing some research on sex work in the UK I found the following statistic:

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If brothels were legalised in the UK, the income tax and rent sex workers have to pay would clearly boost our economy. Most importantly, sex workers would be safe in their profession, thus their clients would enjoy themselves further still. Everybody wins!

Now before I leave you, I must add that when I was walking around the Red Light District around 11pm one night, I witnessed a tourist breaking commandment number 1. The two workers responded to his actions by shaming him, and shouting “You fucking piece of shit!”, and I agree.

respect.jpg

Red Light District, Amsterdam.

Peace, love, and Cacti,
Courtney McMahon

 

 

Forms of Sex work:  http://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000096

Red Light District, Amsterdam: http://www.amsterdam.info/prostitution/

Museum of Prostitution: Red Light Secrets http://www.redlightsecrets.com

Support Anthem’s activism and deck out your wardrobe using discount code COURTNEY10 on Feminist Apparel’s site: www.feministapparel.com

Statistic source: www.import.io/post/how-much-does-prostitution-contribute-to-the-uk-economy

All other images/photographs courtesy of Courtney McMahon

 

Angry

I’m writing this piece because I’m angry. I’m so angry and tired and sad, and I don’t know what to do about it.

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I’m angry that my university decided to raise their fees, because a rule changed, so they could. Because they love to paint themselves as a liberal arts university, and boast the artists who come from the environment they create, but don’t love those artists enough to allow their next generation to flourish. Because the government want to perpetuate an elitist university output.

I’m angry that women in Poland had to protest so hard to maintain control over their own fucking bodies. That women in places like Ireland have to travel to other countries on their own, for a procedure. That in this day and this age, we still have to shout, not even ask, for control. Other people have more right and dominion over what they do not own, than we do.

I’m angry that women are still being determined by their appearance. That the Girlguiding association ran a survey and found that a third of girls between 7 and 10 had been made to think by people that their appearance was the most important thing about them. Because they’re made to feel that whatever goes on in their head just doesn’t matter.

I’m angry that clothes for young children are so gendered that we present women as princesses or socialites, and dress them solely in pink, whilst boys clothes are covered in slogans that encourage them to be troublemakers and messy.

I’m angry that Kim Kardashian was attacked, and because she’s a woman who makes money from her appearance, people reacted with scorn, and cynicism. Whatever you might think about Kim Kardashian as a pop culture figure, she is a human being, and to blame her is abhorrent.

I’m angry that Brock Turner was in jail for half of his six-month sentence, and that the media portrayed him as the victim, whose swimming career was ruined.

I’m angry that Theresa May wants to chuck out foreign doctors, but only once we’ve found English replacements. I’m angry that these people who have made homes and careers, and worked hard as doctors and nurses and in the NHS, to look after everyone without discrimination, are being made to feel unwanted by the Tory government.

I’m angry that Donald Trump can do whatever he likes and people will still vote for him. And I’m angry that because Hilary Clinton is a woman, he can continue to do whatever he likes, and will still seem like a better choice to people who have a problem with that.

I’m angry that police in America can shoot and kill black people, and get away with it.

I’m angry that I still get men mansplaining. I’m angry that when they ask a question, they ask the other men, not me.

I’m angry that I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how we can keep fighting, and shouting, and making a mess, before it stops making a difference. How long can you keep protesting before it’s not a protest anymore? It’s important to talk about these things, but I’ve had enough of blog posts, they don’t make a difference. I want to shout and scream and rage, and make people understand that it’s not okay. But I don’t know how.

I don’t know what we can do. And that makes me the angriest of all.

 

 

Words by Sian Brett.
Images courtesy of Eva Crossan Jory, The Independent, The Daily Beast and The Guardian.

 

Maintaining Friendships (How To Lose a Friend in Ten Steps)

The thing about friendships is that you don’t plan for a future in the way that you do with a romantic relationship; there is no natural path to follow, or a map with which you can navigate the success or lack thereof. It’s blindly attaching yourself to someone because at one point in time you shared something. Whether it’s school, a job or an interest, you make a connection with someone, often it is superficial yet other times it is not, and that person becomes someone you can’t imagine not being in your life.

Part of growing up is that you lose friends. Maybe it’s the girl you used to walk home with, or the person from work who you’d always catch up on all the gossip with, but sometimes they’re more important, they’re the people you grew up with, the people who helped you navigate your torturous teenage years, the ones who calmed you down after blowouts with your parents, and sometimes those friends disappear from your life and you’re not really sure why.

Moving away from home and going to university mean that people change, circumstances change, and opportunities change. Rather than being in the same place at the same time, friendships start to require upkeep; you need to plan visits to make sure that you keep in touch. Although our generation has it easy with the invention of social media (meaning keeping contact with people is at our finger tips), there is still the dreaded moment of sending a message after not speaking to one another for a while. What do you say? Do you say anything? That’s how most friendships die, not because of massive fall outs but because no-one is prepared to put themselves out there for fear of rejection.

There are many people in my life who I wish I could ask how their day was, or what they’ve been up to, but I don’t due to the fear that they want nothing to do with me, or that we don’t talk anymore not because of a series of inaction but rather because their life is better without me in it. I should hazard a guess that this is rarely the case, and on every occasion where I have reached out to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, they seem as happy to have reignited a lost friendship as I am. Sure there will be people out there who are lost to you, but you’ll never know if you never try. This means reaching out to someone you haven’t spoke to in a while and hoping that they want to grab a cup of coffee, and then it’s hoping that you still have things in common with each other and that you’re not sat in uncomfortable silence until someone calls it quits. It’s not always easy. People have different schedules and will want to do different things, so it’s about compromise. It’s deciding that despite your differences it’s worth being in each others lives.

Getting over a lost friendship can be more difficult on the occasions where someone has unforeseeably cut you out of their life. You’ll wonder why, or what you did that could make someone not want to spend time with you anymore. The most important thing in this circumstance is to put yourself first, and that does not mean desperately trying to understand why, or what you could have done differently, or trying to change their mind. You have to accept that they have made a decision and attempt to move past it in your own way. Let go of any hostility you hold towards that person.

There will be times when you have to cut people out of your life, because their friendship is toxic. Part of being younger is believing you have to be friends with everyone but this is not the case. If someone only brings negative energy with them, or the best side of you isn’t brought out when you’re around them, then say goodbye. You’ll realise it’s better to have a handful of great friends who you trust, than a load of people you keep around because it’s what’s expected of you.

At the end of the day you’ll experience a lot of things growing older, and although it’s rough at the time, letting go of people and resentments can be liberating, and so can throwing caution to the wind and getting back in contact with someone only to rediscover a friendship you thought was lost.

Hello First Year

Welcome to university, and sincere congratulations on getting here. Yes a lot of people are at university, but that doesn’t mean you getting here is any less of an accomplishment. No doubt your family and friends and maybe even teachers are proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself too. The joyful feelings of getting in are fleeting, so absorb them and revel in them until the reality hits. The reality first that you need to go to IKEA stat before everyone else goes and you spend 5 hours in a queue, but also that you have no idea how to go to university. What do you wear? Should you bake something? Is that weird? Should your parents stay the first night? When can you go home? Do you need an NUS card? Saucepans? How much underwear do you take? All of it?

University is weird. It is three years (occasionally four or more), and it is not necessarily going to be the best three years of your life. That is a popular saying I know, but it doesn’t make any sense. It is your life, and every year is better or worse or about the same as the last one. How the hell are you supposed to know which years are the best? Every year is happy and sad in equal parts. Why is it the best anyway? Because your parents aren’t there to get mad if you come home late? Personally I’ve yet to have a year where I’ve thought ‘this is the best so far’. Point being, don’t push your expectations so high up that you’ll never reach them. It’s only uni. It is three years of writing essays and doing exams, making new friends and learning to live without adults. It’s like school except you won’t get reminded to eat when you get home from classes.

University, contrary to what some schools believe, is not for everyone. So it’s not the end of the world if you don’t like it. However, you cannot leave before you’ve tried one whole term. My heads of sixth form were very clear; “don’t leave before Christmas”. They are so right, you have no idea. If you don’t like it, stay until Christmas. At Christmas you can go home, catch up with all your friends, spend time with family, and probably go back to working a till somewhere. After Christmas you can go back and try again, you can think straight, you can work out your game plan, and chances are, the second semester will be much easier. If you do want to leave university, unfortunately you will still owe them money, and if you got a grant you’d have to pay that back – but don’t worry they scrapped that. Now you will just owe them even more. Yet it is still an option. Do not think of university as a trap. There are options. I know many people who have done year one again, who have re-applied to the same university for a different course and people who have switched uni after one year. There’s loads of things you can do. You can even take time out.

General advice from me would start with ‘go to your lectures’. I skipped so many in first year when I realised it wasn’t like school and they had no idea who I was so they didn’t know if I was there or not. The lectures can be shit, to be perfectly honest, but they are there to help you. In second year you can at least make sure you go to the lectures that will be relevant to your essay topics; notice what and who the staff are talking about, and what texts they reference. You’ll get way higher marks if your writing is relevant, particularly to what they were actually teaching. Secondly, although I would advise against it in first year, is extensions. Up-to-a-week extensions are available if you are struggling. If mental health, family or illness is getting you down and you’ve not done as much work, then you can apply to your lecturers for a week extra. I’ve used them before when I’ve needed them, and I would recommend them if you are really struggling. It’s only a couple of days but it can make all the difference. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for using them.

You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel bad. People fail modules all the time, most people I know in third year had extensions, most people struggle. It’s university. It is hard, otherwise they wouldn’t have wanted your best grades to get here. If they wanted As at A-level, it’s because they want to know you can cope. University is a step up, but it’s so achievable. Honestly, just sit down and do your work. I’m not saying you need a really strict routine in which you never do anything but read, write, and go to classes. I’m saying, if a reading is important, or they’ll test you on it then read it. It’s quite simple. If you have an essay deadline in a week then go get your books out and start planning. Once you realise you can do it, it becomes a lot easier to start work in other years. As you get higher up, the word count will probably increase from the hundreds to thousands until you’re telling yourself you can write a 10,000 word dissertation. Which you can. The important thing to remember at uni is that you can do it. Never tell yourself you can’t. You got here on your own, you did the work and you made your way into a university that wanted you. You can do the rest too. You can do it, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you don’t feel like that.

As for freshers, girls and boys I’m going to start by saying don’t buy any bloody club wristbands. Honestly it’s £30+ that you will need in a few weeks. I went out twice in freshers, but spent plenty of nights in playing cards, learning about my housemates, talking, watching films and drinking on the kitchen floor. You really don’t need to buy a wristband for anything, and if you do go out every night that’s great – you can always buy tickets on the door. Don’t let anything pressure you into the idea that you’re supposed to be doing something else at university. Do what you want.

Be yourself. It might take a while for that to happen, I’m still learning in my third year, but you will not make friends trying to be someone you’re not. If you like something, someone else will like it too, I guarantee. You’ll never know if you don’t ask, or if you don’t tell people. Don’t hide what you believe in. Christian? Feminist? Conservative? Great, there is literally a society for all of them. There’s societies that drink, play sport, play games, dance, sing, run, read and whatever you’re interested. True, you don’t know anyone there, but that’s because you haven’t been yet. Go, meet people, and try things because the harsh reality is that it will only get harder once you leave university.

University is hard, but the world outside is much the same. You made the choice to come here, so embrace it. You could meet the love of your life, the friend you’ll keep forever. You could find your passion, your calling in life, or you might not. You might get the placement of your dreams and hate it. You might realise you never really liked your course and that you regret your choice of degree. Whatever way it turns, you’ll only know if you try. Listen to the bounds of advice people give you about uni because it will help you whilst you’re there, and it will probably be just as valuable after too. The world is your oyster, do with it what you will.

My final advice is merely to try, because even if you fail, you learn something new every time, and if you succeed, you’ve opened up another door for yourself. Be proud of yourself, look after yourself, and don’t forget that university, like life, is what you make it. Good luck fresher.