Uni is hard man, like really hard.
Naïve freshers will come in thinking it’s all party party partaayyyy.
When in fact, it’s really not.
I would like to share some of the difficulties I experienced in my first year, with hope that you gain an insight into some of the things that happen to many university students and prepare you for what’s ahead.
Workload: The workload here is quite immense, as you might expect. To achieve a first, you have to put in many hours of work – you get out what you put in basically. In my first year, I did the absolute bare minimum to get past; I read one book for the entire year (MFL student), I often didn’t do the seminar work, and I skipped a fair few contact hours; not because I didn’t want to, but because I was too exhausted to, which leads me onto…
Fatigue: This is what impeded me to put in the hours of my studies. I found myself constantly tired, day after day, regardless of whether I had gone out the previous night or not. I took an afternoon nap, every day, without fail. Even sometimes a pre-going out nap. In contact hours, I often strained to keep my eyes open, and lived as a zombie during first term due to the busyness of university life. I later found out that I am medically conditioned to be fatigued more than others. Nevertheless, this is common for all students.
Homesickness and loneliness: Originally, going to university, I was so dazzled and excited by my future life of independence and freedom that I didn’t think that I would be homesick. But you will feel it, at least once. I hadn’t realised how homesick I really felt until I finally saw my family at Christmas and instantly burst into a flood of tears. Although you have friends at uni that become like your second family, there are still points when you feel terribly lonely; enclosed in your dormitory with no human contact and a feeling of emptiness. Other times, this void is filled by socials and friends, and you feel yourself surrounded by life and happiness. This extreme contrast is trying; however, I know from insight that it is felt by everyone.
Illnesses: Fresher’s flu will most likely occur to everyone. I had a horrible weeklong flu that seemed to weaken my very soul. These are the times where you miss your mum the most. Trekking to the hospital all by yourself on a rainy day, having told no one of your issues, is one of the gloomiest experiences to go through. This is when I really needed my friends and my family the most.
Sexual harassment: Unfortunately for many girls at university, this will occur. Some guys seem to think that, just because we are at a club wearing minimal clothing, they have the right to harass us and take advantage of us. The objectification women feel, whether it be the male gaze, physical pressure, or communication via persistence and persuasion, is sickening. I realise now that women have to be a lot stronger and a lot more careful about their bodies; especially under the influence of alcohol.
This all said, university is still an amazing experience and the good times truly do surpass the bad times. I just wanted to share my experiences as this is what many students do experience. University can be hard, and often you don’t realise the impact that it has on you and feel alone in what you are going through. You are not alone. I advise that, if you are experiencing difficulties, speak to your friends, call your mum, go back home for a period of time if needs be. Self-care is also vital at university. You often get so caught up in what you need to be doing and what you will be doing later or tomorrow that you forget to look after yourself. So, go to the gym, take a walk, listen to some music, watch a film… whatever it may be to set yourself back on track mentally for the next challenge. Take life day by day and try your best to live in the moment. But most importantly, be strong. Because you will be knocked, and you will be swayed. It is important to learn from these experiences and turn them into knowledge, into wisdom for the next stage of your life. I certainly feel stronger after everything that has happened and will keep getting stronger. Again, and again. It doesn’t matter that you fall apart, it’s the way you put yourself back together.