The university experience is so important to personal growth

Liam Heitman-Rice with Anisha Jackson. Picture: LIAM HEITMAN-RICE

Liam Heitman-Rice with Anisha Jackson. Picture: LIAM HEITMAN-RICE - Credit: Archant

I recently submitted my last assignment of the semester. It was about the emerging influence of print media in the 18th century.

I know, thrilling. But at least it relates to what I'm doing now - writing an article in this newspaper.

The overlap between what I have been exploring in class - the history of journalism - and what I am working towards, the future of journalism, has lead me to think about the importance of the university experience.

It is during this time that we are guided by our interests, where our focus is sharpened by our tutors, where we are moulded by our reading.

At university, one can see and touch a legacy of academia and it is we who inherit the innovations of our forbearers.

By learning from the masters of our chosen fields, university students are enabled to use the threads of history to unite their small patches of achievement into that which later becomes the tapestry of our life and work.

Curious to see how others reflect on their university experiences, I asked two of my close friends what they had so far gained from all of this.

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Tom Forte, 20, a third-year film student currently studying a year abroad at University of California, Irvine, said: 'I've learned so much more about myself in the past two-and-a-half years than in the previous seven years of secondary school and sixth form.'

Citing the benefits of the diverse student body within a university campus, Tom believes his 'personal development has stemmed mostly from interacting with people from a wide range of cities and countries, as opposed to just academics.

'These people are friends who have changed the way I perceive others and how I wish to be perceived. University has also given me the opportunity to study abroad in America and further develop my ability to interact with other people in different cultures.'

This new experience of being far from home for such an extended period has also afforded Tom a renewed sense of independence, 'learning to be happy on my own as well as with others.'

Having both grown up in small Devon towns, Tom and I appreciate the expansive sphere of opinions and interests found at university.

After a decade of familiar faces, it is invigorating to leave home and establish new connections with those who share your interests and nourish your creativity.

I have met a lot of people at university who have very quickly become strong friends, because our shared passions forward a connection with uninhibited immediacy.

One such friendship has been with Anisha Jackson, 20, a fellow second-year creative writing student at UEA.

What she loves about university is that: 'The friends you make are the kind that will likely see you at your best and at your worst, and love you for it all regardless. It's daunting.'

Yet she reassures me: 'There's no shortage of opportunity, nor passion.'

While being at university can feel like an existence within one contained universe, Anisha never loses sight of home.

'At university you realise just how much your family mean to you, even more so than before,' she said.

'Your hometown changes when you visit it. It becomes some sort of childhood keepsake box.'

The life of a student occupies two realms - that of childhood and the memories built there and that of the university universe.

Of the latter, Anisha said: 'Catching up with university friends when you're all back from a well-deserved break inspires unforgettable bonding.'

Indeed that has been the most valuable aspect of my time at university - the bonds of friendship that are established, the connections forged with little time and deep emotions.

Every facet of university life is magnified to an intense level — the stress, the fatigue, the diminished bank account, the hangovers - as well as the laughs, the love, the joy, the everlasting photographs and the words scribbled on lined paper, folded between the sheets of a pocket journal.

The university is a palace of memories.