There must be something in the air, or it could be the water in Bath. Maybe it’s being a finalist and the regular periods of nostalgia and reflection that I am overcome with. I find myself often thinking about my time in Bath; the person I was when I arrived, a blissfully naïve fresher with an unwavering conviction in her beliefs and who I am now, about to leave in six months a person, transformed.
I think this train of thought started over the summer, I had the pleasure of spending my break in Bath (side note: would highly recommend). In the throes of organising Freshers’ Week, I ended up agreeing to a wine night with two wonderful ladies. With an agreement to dress up for it (fancy, by Bath standards) and an advanced booking, it made for an event we looked forward to in great anticipation. As we climbed up the steps to the top floor, fairy lights lit the way to our table overlooking the city of Bath. The clouds appeared to be resting just above the rooftops and the remaining glow of the setting sun provided us with the warmth of a rare beautiful British summer evening.
In the beginnings of our friendship, having only just met them a couple of weeks before, our conversation moved from work to intensely personal stories, our struggles, triumphs, and hopes for our final year. Despite being from different parts of the globe, with different family arrangements, values and life experiences there remained a common thread that wove the evening together: the difficulties of being a young woman with a growing awareness of the challenges present in the world we were entering.
The exchange of experiences was almost similar to that of a female consciousness group. It was met with concern, agreement, occasional exclamations of an excited ‘me too!’ or a sombre nod. It was a night that lasted only a couple of hours, but I distinctly remember walking home with the feeling of solidarity and a renewed sense of purpose.
Maybe it is the nature of the world that we are living in, the women’s march, the #metoo movement and that damn unbreakable glass ceiling. Perhaps it is closer to home, my investigation for Bath Time and the #neverok campaign on campus which has made me more acutely aware and increasingly disheartened by what it means to be a woman in this world. It got me thinking of the unique contribution my female friends have had on my university experience, specifically altering the image I hold of myself as a woman, my perception, abilities, and goals. Yes, on the surface level, physically, becoming more body confident, ‘growing into your ears’ so to speak. But more, the similarity of experience that we, as women share, and the pool of strength that we can tap into when we are together. Sharing of problems and seeking advice from friends is something that we all undoubtedly do, however, over the course of my university experience I realise that I have often found myself sharing with women that I may not be that comfortable with, and yet, it remains just as potent and cathartic. I realise there is far more we have in common with our struggles than differences.
I am in a continual state of awe of the many incredible ladies that I have had the privilege of meeting over my time here. They possess an unrelenting curiosity and passion for the niche area of interest they have carved out for themselves. It is supported with ambition and fierce confidence in their abilities to actively contribute to the wider world that we live in. I find solace in the endless conversations that I have had with so many women about their experiences, where I have been left stunned. There are unbelievable levels of strength, vision, and maturity displayed by them on a daily basis.
As I move on to graduate at the end of this year, I realise that I will have similar experiences with many more women in the future, most probably drinking wine, knowing me. But I doubt they will ever be as profound. I guess that is why they call your university years the best years of your life. So, to all of the women at the University of Bath, both past and present that I have had the pleasure of knowing, thank you. Our interactions have been nourishing for the soul. You have provided me with help and support when I have needed it the most, altered the perception of myself for the better, and carved a pool of strength in me that I never knew I had.