Friday, July 8, 2022

2nd Year of University: High Highs and Low Lows

Hi my loves,

I'm back! Today I received confirmation of all of my grades for the second year of my degree meaning I'm officially halfway through my degree which is mildly terrifying. So I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by writing about my second year university experiences.


How did I find my studies?


Judging by the fact I've only made four blog entries since my 1st year experience post, you can probably tell second year was a little more intense! I really enjoyed the modules, as we had more freedom in what we wanted to study, but I also struggled staying on top of it more this year. This was mostly down to my mental health, which I'll talk about next, but I often found myself doing work last minute with lots of extensions, and not committing myself to all modules equally. Naturally, this resulted in some really inconsistent grades that were either really high or really low. For example I got a 72, 74 and 76 in three of my seven modules, and a 55 and 59 in two other modules. Although I'm supper happy with the modules I did well in, I think I would have preferred to get more consistent grades, even if it meant lowering the average a bit.

In 1st year I finished (I think) with a 71% average, which is a 1st. This year my average dropped to a 68%, which is a 2:1. I know a high 2:1 is still a really good grade that I should be happy with, but I still feel a bit disappointed for not finishing with a 1st this year, as I feel like I could have pushed myself to do more. I was so proud of getting a 1st last year that I may have accidentally set my expectations too high. Regardless of the grades, I still really enjoyed my studies (when I actually managed to sit down and do them), and I just want to give it my all next year to avoid feeling like I didn't work hard enough.





How was my mental health?


Honestly, my mental health really struggled this year. My psychiatrist and I think I was largely riding a hypomanic wave in 1st year as a result of not having the right medication. As I was still on antidepressants along with my antipsychotics during most of 1st year, it was possible I was experiencing some antidepressant-associated hypomania. My hypomania was definitely destructive in many ways last year, some of which I'm still recovering from, but it annoyingly did focus a lot of my energy onto my studies.

When I came off these meds in place of a more suitable mood stabiliser I fell into a pretty big depressive episode. Often I experience my depressive episodes much more physically before I recognise them mentally, so I was largely dealing with exhaustion, hypersomnia, and a complete lack of interest in anything. Once I recognised how I was feeling I was able to pull myself together a bit, but I think I spent most of second year either in a mild or occasionally severe depressive episode (I spoke about how I was struggling with low moods in November in this post). There was however one exception of a pretty intense hypomanic kick, but this was (rather uselessly) in between semesters and had little impact on my studies/uni life as I was at home most of December. Thankfully my lamotrigine dose has tripled since I started it, and I feel it's really started to stabilise my mood now, which is far more promising for the future. Dealing with poor mental health while at university is definitely something I'd like to write about in the future.

I'm fortunate to have had the chance to speak consistently with a psychiatrist and the CMHT for the majority of the year. I've since been discharged from the Edinburgh services as I won't be in Scotland for the next 8-10 months, but hopefully I don't have any trouble getting back on the system when I return. I'm somewhat anxious about spending so long in Germany fending for myself with only my medication, but hopefully everything will be okay!


What was my social life like?


With covid restrictions easing up throughout the year, there were so many more opportunities to socialise. I got to attend university balls, go to bars, go on dates, and most importantly: I got to see the rocky horror picture show in February, which I'm still absolutely raving about! Despite nightclubs opening up again, I surprisingly haven't been on a proper night out this year. After the couple nights out I had right at the end of first year, I think realised I don't like going to nightclubs all too much. I much prefer casual drinks at a bar or simply having a night in with friends, which often consists of making dinner and playing Mario Kart.

My social circle has thankfully remained tight-knit with a few really close friends that I made in first year. I also recently got into a relationship which was very unexpected lol. Come August it's going to really suck leaving everyone behind as I head home home and then leave for Germany in October.



Did I do any additional experiences/opportunities?


Yes! I'm happy to say that my society is still alive and well, and I've recently stepped down as president to work as co-president along with a great new committee. It's hard work getting a society off the ground but if it's something you are interested in I 100% recommend giving it a go.

I mentioned that I was starting a research project with the university in my 1st year uni experience post, and thankfully it went really well! I received a high first for this project (79%), which I was absolutely over the moon about. It was a really nice way to keep busy over the summer and was a really valuable experience for securing an internship (which I'll speak about in the next segment).

I also spoke about hopefully starting a new role (covid permitting) with the Edinburgh Courts as a victim support volunteer, and this finally happened in September. It's been such an incredible opportunity and has really consolidated my ambitions to work in the legal field. Volunteering is a great opportunity to hone in on your personal and professional skills, and was another experience that helped secure my internship.

Although I wasn't always able to commit to these experiences as well as I'd like thanks to shoddy mental health, I still think I did a pretty good job at putting myself out there and give things a go.


What are my plans for next year?


As it's the third year of my degree I'll be heading out to Germany for my year abroad. My chosen destination is Nuremberg as I've secured a research internship at a human rights centre there. I'm incredibly excited for this opportunity and can't wait to start in October. Maybe this is an incredibly sad thing to say, but I'm also really excited to be starting my dissertation proposal at the end of the year. The idea of doing a dissertation has always been the quintessential part of a degree for me, and I can't wait to start gathering ideas about what I want to write about. I'm hoping my research internship will lend into this massively.

It's going to be just Crumble and me heading to that part of Germany, so I'm not entirely sure what my social life will be like. Making friends or not,  I'm still looking forward to getting to live by myself and getting lost in a new city.



Overall this year was 50/50. Things weren't as good on the academic side, but I really enjoyed all other parts to it - onwards and upwards for third year!

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