by Sam Saunders
So, it’s finally here. All good things must come to an end, and that’s unfortunately the case for both Saunders’ Corner and my wider student media career, as barring a major disaster, I’ll be graduating in July. It’s a melancholy yet rewarding feeling, as I can look back on a vast body of work that I’ve produced whilst writing and editing Gair Rhydd, although I am of course sad to say goodbye to a great group of people and, ultimately, something which has been incredibly rewarding. Being involved in student media has also diversified my university experience and even though it has been difficult to juggle at times this year, I really would do exactly the same if I had the year to do over again. So, in this piece, my final contribution to Gair Rhydd, I want to touch on my personal experience at university; what I’ve learned, certain things I’d advise people to do (or not do) and to finish, I’ll give a few pieces of advice to my 18-year-old self, who started university around three and a half years ago.
I want to first say that, in retrospect, university was definitely the right choice for me after completing my A-Levels back in 2015. Thinking about how daunting it would have been to try and start my career immediately, as well as potentially moving to a new place, makes me sure that going into higher education was a very good decision. Coming to Cardiff has allowed me to further my studies in two subjects I love so much; history and French. I’ve managed to improve my language skills dramatically in the four years I’ve been studying, to the point where using my French skills in a future career is absolutely essentially if I am to feel fulfilled during my working life. It’s also been very enjoyable to continue studying history, one of my favourite topics. University study has allowed me to explore and study different periods of history that otherwise I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to. Debate and discussion of historical issues has also been incredibly rewarding, and as that forms part of seminars, it wasn’t to be missed.
In addition to academic study, university has given me the opportunity to develop my own extra-curricular interests and try different things. I’ve continued karate, which I’ve done from an early age and became involved on the committee for the club, which was an incredibly rewarding role, something that I’ve written about previously in these pages. Through Gair Rhydd and Quench, I’ve been able to indulge my passion for writing, develop an interest in journalism and express my opinion on diverse topics to a very wide audience. It’s also been amazing for meeting people, some of the best nights out I’ve had have been with people from student media, and the Media Awards at the end of the year are always a highlight. I’ve even thought about going into journalism after I finish my studies, and that’s something I never would have said before I came to Cardiff.
As mentioned last week, coming to university in Cardiff has also allowed me to mature and find my way in the world as I lived away from home for the first time. Holding down my first job, as well as learning how to manage laundry, shopping and cooking for myself as well as potentially living on my own, would have been incredibly overwhelming and I’m not sure how I would’ve coped. The pressure of first year not counting let me learn how to do all those things for myself semi-successfully. I’ve also made so many friends and learned so much about how to interact and get along with people since I’ve been in Cardiff, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. Living away from home in an unknown city was also an invaluable experience, as it made me have to get out and explore a new place and feel comfortable living away from home. This was very beneficial in my third year at university, which I spent in France. All of the feelings that students have in first year: new place, unfamiliar surroundings and a lack of connections were amplified much more when I was in France, as I still had all those problems but in a foreign country, whose systems seemed more difficult to understand than at home, and in a foreign language that I hadn’t yet become proficient in. However, my experience as a fresher stood me in good stead during that year, as I knew that to feel welcome and at home in my new environment I would have to throw myself into the city; go on socials, explore random areas and do as much as I could, as well as trying to meet as many new people as possible.
This is where university has really benefited me, as I think it has definitely made me a more outgoing, confident and friendly person, in addition to being more likely to go out and try something that I’d never done before. That’s one of the things I would say to my younger self before he joined university; is to be more outgoing and try more things. Sure, we went to the real ale society a few times in first year, but I feel now that I should have used the give it a go SU service to try out as many different societies and activities as I could, as I could have found something I’d have loved for life. Also, I think I should have stuck more to the mantra of only do something if you’ll enjoy it. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to university work, as I know very few people who enjoy writing a 2000-word essay. But what I mean is that you should only keep doing things if you enjoy them, as my university life feels so short in retrospect that I wish I had thought more about how I spent my time. For example, I sometimes didn’t enjoy going out, or wished that I had gone out more instead of going home early. But it’s the little things. Overall, I do have some regrets, and I wish that I had trusted those close to me more at difficult times at university, but I hope that I will learn from these for the future.
Thanks for reading once again guys, I’ve really enjoyed my time as your advice columnist, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading what I’ve had to say this year. Finally, thank you so much for reading my articles throughout the year, I love you all and I wish you all the best successes in your futures.