November 28, 2017

Jemma Gwilym

In school, I was a little different; in college I was still a little different. Even now I’m a little bit different. However I couldn’t always handle that.
My final year of college I literally gave up on the idea of making friends. I would arrive for my lessons, sit by myself, eat my lunch in my car and drive home. I would have days where I simply couldn’t handle trying to ‘fit in’. I used to have weekly panic attacks sat outside college in my car, or even during lessons if I was called upon to answer a question I couldn’t. The whole experience was just terrible really. 
So how was I going to handle a 3-year degree?
The first day, we were all split into our seminar groups. These are people doing the same course as you that you’ll spend most of your time with during first year. You could totally reinvent yourself. Everyone was in the same situation, and you could tell. Even though I was extremely shy and hesitant to get involved, people talk to you! The terrible icebreaker activities they do are actually great! You basically spend a day trying to get to know everyone. We then had a few hours free, so we all lingered in the corridor until agreeing to head to Centro, the Student Union at Cyncoed Campus. We chatted about where we were from etc. and set up a WhatsApp group. These people are now my closest friends.

Winter with friends

Love these guys!

At university, your differences aren’t seen as a bad thing. They’re celebrated. I’ve done things with these guys I never saw myself doing; I’ve been on nights out, I’ve presented my own lectures to students, I even flew to Romania last year with the uni. They completely understand the way I work, which makes life ten times easier. If I cancel last minute it’s fine, if I spend the day in isolation in study room two because I’m stressed, that’s fine too!

My Romania trip!

As much as I LOVE all the students in Cardiff Met, I have made some of the most meaningful relationships ever with my lecturers. They’re so invested in you as a person (providing you put in the work and turn up and do everything you’re meant to do). You can turn to them with any issues you have, and first time ever I was actually able to open up about my own mental health journey. I’ve shared laughs with them, opened results with them, I’ve even cried with them. I pray that we stay in contact when I leave because they really are some of the most wonderful people. 
Thanks to those terrible icebreakers and the brilliant staff, somehow, the little girl that was told she couldn’t, did.
I’ve worked like crazy, got great grades and got involved with everything that came my way.
Jemma teaching

I’m close to becoming the teacher I always wanted to be.

The fact I almost didn’t apply because I was scared sounds crazy now. In fact, I’ve just taken a deeper plunge – I’ve been accepted to study my PGCE. I’m one year away from becoming the primary teacher I always dreamed of being, and was always told I would never be.
If you’re thinking of applying for university I hope this has helped – let me know if I can help more! My only piece of advice is to get involved. Sign up for everything you can, and if you hate it just don’t go again! I wish I’d got involved even more looking back. Just say ‘yes’ to opportunities and good things will happen.
I promise you guys, if I can do it anyone can!
Read more about looking after your mental health at uni in Beth’s blog, or check out our other Health and Wellbeing posts.