University: the best three years of your life. Except, that’s not always the case. I’ve discussed my University experience a lot on here. In fact, I recorded my University experience as I went through it – my blog became an outlet and at times a diary. My first year of University was one of the gloomiest of my life and I felt incredibly isolated, though inadvertently it helped boost my confidence.
The truth is, University has this reputation that creates a huge expectation. I think it’s fair to say that when this stereotypical University experience doesn’t materialise – you feel almost cheated. Or even end up questioning if it’s you that’s the problem (which it’s not by the way!). I mean, yes I experienced the stereotypical drinking games, nights out, gag-worthy kitchen spaces, milk-thief dramas and laundry disasters. But what I didn’t immediately experience was the meeting of best friends on the first day, the constant want to party or the close knit flat that I had anticipated. This reputation, I have come to realise, is oddly made up. I know very few people who experienced any or all of the above (wracking my brain now, I can think of a handful – if that). Warwick University term starts quite a bit later than other Universities so I went into Freshers basing my expectations on the experiences of my friends and, honestly, what I had seen on social media – rooky mistake. Why? Because social media is simply the highlights. From my social media posts during Freshers (which I shall insert below) you would never know I was miserably home sick, constantly feeling uncomfortable (that horrible knot in your tummy you get as a kid at a sleep over feeling) and frankly having one of the worst weeks of my life. But we don’t caption our Instagram pictures ‘Mum, please come back and bring me home’ or ‘I cried myself to sleep last night’. Instead we put on a brave face and post about the good stuff, and if there isn’t any, we improvise!
I have had a lot of time to reflect on my first year of University and one of the biggest questions I would ask myself was ‘what did I do wrong?’. I could have put myself out there more, put in more effort with my flat, forced myself to make it work or join more societies. Back then, I was just unhappy and felt vulnerable – I didn’t want to force relationships, or put myself in social situations I wasn’t comfortable in. There is so much pressure riding on students to make University the best three years of their lives, as though, once you’re out of Uni, that’s it. Life ends. How depressing is that?! Even back then, I was constantly aware that this wasn’t how Uni was meant to be going. I felt that Uni needed to be better.
I found that the people that I was mixing with just weren’t like me. I have always been a firm believer in everyone being different being an entirely positive thing, but I really found that I hadn’t found my people yet. The people like my friends at home, or even people in similar situations to me. When I moved away to University, I had been dealing with grief and my Mum had recently been treated for cancer – so my family unit was strong. My pull to be with them and supporting them was the strongest it had ever been. I remember feeling like I was letting them down by moving away. Plus, I had my boyfriend, who had been my rock through all of it, that I was leaving behind too. I felt like I was leaving behind a lot. I honestly think this made a big difference, I was a lot more grown up than the people I was meeting at University. For many, University is a time in their lives where they grow up and I noticed a huge difference in people by their final year. I already felt like a grown up and I felt really, really boring.
As I said earlier, for me, this experience actually inadvertently made me stronger. During my first Freshers event I had a pretty bad experience. Basically, someone took advantage of me and it had a ripple effect on my entire University experience. After that, I wasn’t interested in going out every night of Freshers and I threw myself into my University work, the gym and I made a blog. I used the gym as a way of socialising – I went with a girl on my course and I really enjoyed it, I did extra reading for my seminars and I went home every weekend. I was lonely, but a few months in I realised I was OK. The fact that being a Fresher hadn’t lived up to my expectations wasn’t because there was something wrong with me, it was entirely down to luck. It’s down to luck who you live with and who you are in seminars with.
Whether your University experience was similar to mine or not – it’s actually totally OK for University not to be the best three years of your life. In fact, it’s a pretty unfair and unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves. But even now, I feel awkward talking about how University wasn’t the time of my life.
I don’t regret the three years I spent at Uni; education aside, I learnt a lot about myself, University boosted my confidence massively, I made friends for life and I learnt a wealth of life lessons.
Though, I do sometimes wonder if I did it wrong – sometimes I find myself wondering if I could have done things differently. If University was, for you, the best three years of your life, I’m genuinely happy for you (and a little bit envious!). But if, like me, Graduation was a mixture of relief and an overwhelming sense of ‘I actually made it’, I hope you know that you’re not alone and you probably didn’t do anything wrong either.