A constant theme that seems to be reoccurring in all my posts is that university has turned out to be the total opposite to what I expected. I envisioned, quite naïvely and stupidly, that, like many graduates reminisce, a wonderful, smooth sailing journey of endless joy and fun. As one suspects, this could not be further from the truth.
While the clear majority of my uni experience I have greatly enjoyed, there have equally been instances where I have felt completely rock bottom. This blog will just provide a brief overview of some of my experiences and methods I use to stay positive. While everyone’s circumstances are different, one’s testimony can still go a long way. The underlying issues of most people’s experiences are identical, and tackling such difficulties will help immensely. Uni is hard, everyone feels the same, but it is not a bottomless pit. You can crawl out.
Friends, loneliness and the urge to conform
Insanely I once again assumed that finding friends would be easy. I would find people synonymous to myself, most of whom would be in my flat, and that’s where the uni adventure would begin. I did not expect for one second to experience loneliness or isolation. I was wrong. Very wrong.
If you feel like, either in freshers or even in semester two, that you haven’t found a close friend/s, don’t worry. Remember the friendships at home took years to develop, in some instances, even decades; it’s difficult to recreate such relationships in such a small amount of time. Don’t feel down, over university this will change. It may take months, it may take years, but it will improve.
Furthermore, luck plays an important role. Like some of my friends, they have great flat mates and therefore are quick to develop said friendships. Simultaneously, you may not get on well with all your flat mates and thus you already feel as you have already reached the first hurdle. This is exacerbated further when everyone you know seems to have it easy and are having the time of their lives. Remember, social media lies, they might be finding it difficult too.
In my own flat, while all four are decent people individually, my interests could not be any more different from three of them. While this was difficult and it sucked, it did force me to get out there and find friends, even if it did take me in some instances until week six. If you do feel particularly down, just get out there. Universities have thousands upon thousands of students and there will always be friends for you.
If your confidence is rock bottom, however, this does make it exponentially harder. I know how you feel. But just get out there and this will help you to grow your confidence. You can do it, and just tell yourself that you bloody well can. If you have a friend, go with them. Do things together. This will help you to find more people while improving your own friendship with them.
You will have moments of feeling lonely, and believing that in order to make friends you must conform. Don’t. Be yourself, go out there and do stuff you want to do. From being yourself you will make friends. If you don’t like clubbing, don’t go. If you love something else, do it!
Reflecting on my university experience so far I now look back with extreme gratefulness, even if the first semester was bloody difficult. I have a great set of friends, and different friendship groups. I could not be happier with the friends I now have.
Academically university provides quite the shock and it’s not easy as people make out. The first essay or assignment will fill you with a great sense of overwhelmingness, and probably make you feel like the scum of the earth. And yes, your first mark will probably be your worst. But the whole point of first year is to set you up for the next two, both socially and academically. Read criticisms and marks, act on them, take advantage of contact time. Work hard, but I cannot emphasise the importance of relaxation also. Enjoy yourself, go out there, make friends, as well as concentrating on your studies.
As far as reading and essays are concerned, I can only really talk for the humanities, but I suppose the underlying advice is synonymous for all subjects. With time you will become more efficient with work, and your results in most cases will improve. If they don’t, that doesn’t matter. Continue to take advantage of advice and criticisms and act on it.
On the note of efficiency, you will improve and be able to produce work and readings much more quickly. In year 13 it took me around three weeks to write a 2,000 word essay, now it only takes me around 4 days. Just remember thinking time is important, so anything less than four days is probably disadvantageous. For essays I will always aim to start a week and a half to a week before. But nonetheless your work efficiency will improve, especially with reading. My ratio has improved four-fold per hour for taking notes. Just remember, argument, not always detail.
I cannot stress enough how much I hated exams. In honesty, half my problem was that I stressed out mainly because my revision over Christmas was not sufficient for a variety of circumstantial reasons, and the fact it was Christmas. But nonetheless, I’ve learnt my lesson to work harder over that holiday in the future. Many regrets.
What made this exam season particularly more difficult than any other was that prior to the exam I had no practice or mock, I didn’t really know how to revise, or even what to revise. This made me isolate myself, made me feel lonely, and to be honest my homesickness peaked.
But that’s the whole point of year one: to learn what is required and the methods needed to excel through university. In those aims, it succeeded. Treat year one as a learning experience to prepare yourself for the successive years. If you mess up, move on, learn from it. There’s a reason first year doesn’t usually count.
The living side of university is something that is totally unexpected. Well, especially for me. My Mum and Dad are great, and it wasn’t until university where I uncovered how much they did for me. (Insert ‘Aww’). Cooking, cleaning, washing, and everything else after a couple of weeks just became a bit tiresome. I’m also a bit negligent when it comes to such tasks!
A messy, disgusting, totally unhygienic kitchen started to really piss me off, despite my thorough weekly clean. I stopped cleaning it in semester two, and my goodness it got bad. Other flatmates from neighbouring flats heaved as they entered it. The stealing of food items also started to aggravate me, the abandonment of crumbs in butter and jam that seemed to have an unfamiliar journey left me utterly disgusted.
Just remember it’s year one, it won’t last for ever (thank goodness). If the food situation is particularly bad, try and find other solutions. I now do everything in my room. The sink in our kitchen you only have to touch the residue water to pick up some disease thanks to the food blocking the plug. I bought a washing up bowl and drying up mat to conduct washing up in my en-suite bathroom or kitchen. I also successfully bribed my parents for a fridge, which will be returned after year one, to prevent my food from being stolen. There are always answers to problems, speak to others and tackle them. It will be difficult and completely frustrating, but you can do it.
Other Expected/Unexpected Circumstances
Whether it’d be big or small, every problem is important. Don’t dismiss your own in the expectation that someone else’s issues take precedent. They don’t. How you feel is equally as important. Problems may include grieving, a sense of overwhelmingness, relationship issues, work problems, or any other difficulty. In such times it’s important to reflect what you do have and what you have achieved. Look to the future, concentrate on the present and move on from the past.
Sometimes the hardest and most painful decisions are the most beneficial. I believe everything happens for a reason, and is all part of some greater plan. Just stay strong, talk to others, and hopefully you can move on. University has great support structures on all levels and use them, they’re free, and extremely helpful!
This blog mainly serves as an introduction to many issues, most of all I will expand upon in later posts. Despite the trip ups and down parts, I absolutely love university. I have the best sets of friends; I am in love with the course. There have been some totally hilarious moments, and moments I will never forget, such as flat members writing essays drunk, or the weekly meet ups with friends to name but a few.
Despite taking me till early March, I have finally settled into university. In fact, despite my wholeheartedness love of home, I was gutted to return for the Easter holidays. I thrive on the hustle and bustle of university, the close, intense deadlines, and the socialisation with friends. Even though I found it hard at first, I would not change my experience for the world. Annoyingly things take time. You will feel low, but look at the positives with the knowledge that everything will improve. Get out there and have fun.
Thanks for the read, stay positive,