BY JAMES KNIGHT
I have a confession to make. UWE wasn’t my first choice, my second choice, or really any choice on my UCAS form. I got in through Clearing. I didn’t exactly get through by the standard clearing route. I failed a Foundation Year at a different institution due to ongoing mental health issues and I crashed pretty badly afterwards, but in the heat of the moment tried to hide my failure from those who cared about me most. I told my family just a few weeks before clearing closed and I was suddenly pretty stuck. This was, to tell the truth, one of the hardest periods of my life. I felt I had failed my family, my friends from my old University, my old tutors, those who had believed in me, but most importantly, I felt I had failed myself. That night I ended up calling Samaritans and I was helped through an incredibly difficult time by a woman on the other end of the phone who took the time to help me (I cannot overstate the incredible work of Samaritans, and I urge you to please call them if you feel you need to talk to somebody).
UWE was one of the last options. I saw a degree in a field of interest for me and I submitted an application and personal statement. Within days, I was accepted on to an undergraduate degree course and would be moving to Bristol. I found myself in a position where I had no friends, no familiarity and the ideal university life I had spent a year building for myself crumbling under me.
A few months went by and I got through, working hard and trying to make friends where I could. It was then I discovered the societies offered by The Students’ Union. I leapt out of my comfort zone and went to a meeting of the Debating Society, where, despite a rather large anxiety-based influence, I joined in with some spirited discussion.
Fast forwarding to modern day, I’m about to start serving my second year as Vice-President of UWE Debating Society, will be taking the reigns of the UWE Liberal Democrats, have attended the National Union of Students National Conference and am currently on the train back from a national Young Liberals conference! I have had the fortune to make so many close friends throughout my time at UWE. I love my course and have been able to dive in headfirst at a pace which suited, but still pushed me.
I would argue what I believed to be the worst period of my life actually ensured I reached a stage at which I’m truly happy, content and moving forward. I promise you, clearing doesn’t suck, even if it feels like it does. Pretty honestly, clearing is what you make of it. You can either embrace new opportunities and challenges or you can lament what wasn’t meant to be. Just know that you’re not the first to have been there and you’re certainly not the last – Wellbeing Services, Samaritans and other fantastic organisations such as Mind and Off the Record are more than happy to help you through if you need it (or even just want to chat to somebody). I hope that regardless of whether UWE was your first choice, insurance option or a last-minute clearing option, you truly enjoy your time here. Make your University experience what you want it to be – you get to shape what happens. Live every moment as it comes and just remember to enjoy it!