Recently, I’ve been feeling more and more as though my degree is coming to an end. One of the main things that I think when I look back on my 3 years at University is ‘it’s not what it was cracked up to be’.
For some reason, there are just a few things people don’t talk about. And I want to. Some people might be able to say that it met their expectations and more. But over the last few years, where University hadn’t quite met these expectations, I wondered if it was me that was the problem. And that’s what I want to prevent- because it’s not you.
University has almost become the norm for those finishing A Levels and putting off ‘adulting’ for a little bit longer. In fact UCAS announced that in England alone last year, 235,400 people at just 18 years old (aka not including people doing gap years!) chose to go to University. That is the highest number to date.
Before you’ve even started University, you think you know how it works. Lots and lots of drinking, whirlwind romances, friends left right and centre, minimal responsibility, caffeine non-stop, late nighters at the library and you come out the other side with a degree. And these three years will be ‘the best three years of your life’.
That’s what they tell you. And that’s what you expect. But half way through Uni, with these expectations in mind, you might question am I ‘doing uni’ right? Because there is an (very messed up) assumption that there is a ‘correct’ way of doing uni. But there isn’t. I assure you, you’re doing it right. It’s not you. It’s because of those expectations that you’re wondering why life isn’t exactly matching up to the typical university depiction.
University can be a lonely place.
Being surrounded by so many people, on a buzzing campus, with every opportunity to have the social life of your dreams- you wouldn’t expect this. To an extent, it’s true. Physically, you’re technically always surrounded. But there is something very different from living at home, living at University. This, I have come to the conclusion, is because you feel almost 100% comfortable in your family’s presence. During my first year, I was really homesick. I missed my family, my routine, my friends and even simple things like my bed. The simple pleasure of being able to see my sister every day. Instead, you spend a lot of time on your own. This isn’t entirely bad though. I am far more independent now and I am very comfortable in my own company. In fact, at times, I like it.
Sometimes there isn’t anything to do. Whether it’s because you’re a friggin boss and have done all of your work, or whether you simply need a break. Sometimes you get bored. And you binge watch Netflix and watch YouTube until you can’t stand it anymore. Yes, this probably sounds like bliss. But after you’ve completed your one hour seminar of the day, with no other plans, it can be pretty miserable. Not to mention, anti-climactic compared to your expectations. To counter this, I mastered the art of being over friendly. I had, and still have, no shame in asking people out for coffee at the most random moments. I found that I didn’t really click with my First Year Flat, so pushing myself out of my comfort zone was a must. Another thing I learnt was to factor these coffees into my weekly budget. There is nothing worse that knowing everyone else is out having a coffee together and you can’t because of £££.
Clubbing and Drinking Is Not Compulsory.
Drinking is often characterised as a big part of University culture- it is not. Do not ever feel pressured, and if you do, question whether these people are those you should be investing your time in. Some people don’t drink at all, some drink a lot.
It’s Never Too Late To Make New Friends.
I found moving to University quite overwhelming and, as I have discussed, found my first year hard. So joining societies etc was not top of my list. Instead I made friends on my course and got settled into university as best as I could. But every year I’ve made new friends and my little bubble of friends grows. Making new friends just helps when the going gets tough, or when you find that your immediate circle of friends have gone home for the weekend. Even in my 3rd year I’m still making friends.
Having Freedom Doesn’t Mean Moving Away From Home.
As a home bird, I did take into consideration how far away from home I was willing to go. And for me, it was 3 hours. So I got out my map and drew a circle around Home. I then looked at all the Universities in that circle. As I lived in Southampton, I felt like going to Southampton University just wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to move away from home, but not too far. What the internet and social media neglect to tell you is that freedom doesn’t mean moving away. University is all encompassing. You have your own life in your own little bubble at University. I don’t regret going to Warwick, but I often wonder whether I would have enjoyed Southampton just as much. The train fairs surely would have been cheaper!
It’s just so important to do what’s best for you. I often wonder whether living so close to home would have helped me in my first year, had I felt the same way in Southampton. But then, this is all hindsight. It’s just something worth contemplating when you look at University, because even if you’re 10 minutes down the road from home- you still have that independence.
You Will Be Both Rich And Poor In The Same Month.
A student loan. A blessing. And a curse. Just make sure you budget, because that money that comes in somehow manages to disappear real quick! Top tip- don’t get over excited on ASOS the day the loan comes in, future (poverty stricken fashionista) will not thank you.
Missing Home is OK.
While University is definitely a new chapter in your life and a step towards adulthood, you don’t have to abandon your family. I am a total home bird. This became clear, quite quickly, when I moved out into University halls. It’s just an adjustment though. Yes, I missed them (especially in the first few weeks), but it soon becomes your ‘normal’. When you see family or friends from home, you make plans and you look forward to it. It really frustrates me that this isn’t discussed more. If you’re already feeling homesick, there is nothing worse than feeling alone too. So speak to someone about it, chances are they have felt the same way.
Your understanding of hygiene is completely different to others.
Yup, sad but true. I have a ridiculously strong sense of smell. A weakness for a student. I can smell damp from a mile off. I’m not going to tell porkies, I often have a few mugs in my room that I can’t be bothered to clean- but I always eventually clean them. Some people, not so much. You will witness Tupperware come alive. Probably from a pasta dish, put on the side and never claimed. Sharing a bathroom? Yeah people are gross. Your Mum will recoil with horror when she sees it. Heads up.
If it doesn’t have mould, a broken hoover and overflowing bins- it’s not a student home.
Moving into a house in your second/third year after a year in halls may seem like a dream. Reality: absolutely not. Moving into non-University accommodation can come with dodgy landlords and poor insulation. Student housing has a reputation for a reason. My advice (as someone who can get quite funny about yuck in my living space): buy cleaning products. Oh and keep your room tidy and clean, then if you live with students with a lower expectations of hygiene than you- you always have your room to escape to.
You will change.
I am not the same person I was when I started University. I am far more confident, far more worldly wise (even if I do have a heap tonne of lessons still to be learnt!) and I’ve made mistakes and learnt from them. A prime example being that a red sock in the washing turns everything pink. I also learnt how to live with a variety of people.
Just embrace every aspect of it. You only go to University once, and there is a reason people call it the best years of their life.