The most important lesson that I have learnt during my first six months as an undergraduate, is the importance of failing regularly.
Before University, the idea of starting from nothing terrified me; especially the idea of being “incapable”. Therefore, I simply continued with what already knew: I never tried anything that could result in failure.
Sport was one area that I never dreamt of venturing into. At school, P.E. was incredibly elitist: you were either on the A team, or a waste of everyone’s time. Leaving school, I was certain that University would be exactly the same, if not worse.
However, during Fresher’s Week I stumbled upon Resident’s Life weekly sport sessions that were free and designed especially for beginners! There is a huge range: I could try everything from Quidditch to Ultimate Frisbee. I decided to take the plunge. Zumba did not feel like too big a risk, as I had tried it a few times before. Upon arrival, everyone was friendly, welcoming, and not the least bothered about my level of fitness. The focus was on participation and enjoyment, rather than hierarchy and elitism. I went home from my first session grinning from ear to ear. I knew that I was hooked. I then went on to try yoga, fitness class, bouldering, spinning and beginner’s mountain biking.
My next preconception to disappear was the idea that talented sportspeople always look down on beginners. Everywhere I looked at University the more advanced were enthusiastically helping the less able. Talented mountain bikers regularly took time out to run the beginners’ rides; patiently going through the most basic steps.
Several times whilst stuck on a climb in the Matrix bouldering wall, I approached another climber, and they would happily advise me, shoot up my climb to demonstrate, then go back to their gravity-defying overhangs.
Instead of sport being something that I shied away from, thanks to Residence Life, I am now climbing and mountain biking weekly, with the occasional fitness class on the side. There is no pressure to commit every week: I go when I want to.
The “This Girl Can” campaign at University really impressed me. I am glad that the Uni recognises the importance of encouraging girls into sport. I have found that no longer limiting myself to other’s judgements is incredibly liberating, but that sport is also incredibly social, fun, and hugely satisfying. I am suddenly only competing against myself, so if the wall that I climb is still in the “complete beginner’s” section, that no longer matters. I can still be proud of myself for mastering it; each session I grow gradually stronger and faster.
My confidence in sport has grown to confidence in other areas. This semester I took an International Politics Module for the sheer interest, and I decided to join the Spanish Play. Not having a clue what anyone is saying in either subjects is no longer concerning. I am learning rapidly, growing in confidence, and whatever the results are, gaining the freedom to fail has been my greatest University achievement so far.