“ Your time at University are the best years of your life”
I’m sure we have all heard this sentence or a variation of it at some point or another. Over the last couple of years, I’ve struggled to empathise with this phrase and the false promises it suggests. I don’t know how many times I have heard this sentence myself- followed by a whole list of justifications:
- It’s the most freedom you will EVER have
- DOUBLE SAAS
- You can do whatever you want- be whoever you want
- You can live right beside your friends for the first time ever
- Skint Tuesdays ( Club night for a £1 to those not in the know)
- You can have pizza for breakfast and no one will tell when you have to get up or when you have to go to bed- it’s essentially the new Netherland
( Not an exhaustive list but definitely some of the things that stuck with my oh-so-naïve 18 year old self!)
For the longest time, my life at university was anything but…
With another year of Freshers over and done with and with the semester officially in full swing, I can’t help but be nostalgic about my own first year and maybe even slightly regretful of all the time I wasted in my junior years.
Regret, at the end of the day, doesn’t do anyone any good. However, I do look back on my first few years wishing that the hadn’t been plagued with poor mental health and bad decisions. I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my time to on the fringes of university life, being too scared to throw myself completely and unapologetically into it.
This year, I wasn’t about to make the same mistake. This time around, I spent my Fresher’s fair actively taking part rather than passively walking around, only taking full advantage of the Freebies on offer. I spent my day running manically from stall to stall, running the social media accounts for both the Feminist society and the Magdalen ( Check them out if you haven’t already and no, I won’t apologise for that shameless plug!).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I spent the last 3 years of my life crying in a singular corner of the library…or at least I didn’t do that all the time. I have made some fantastic friends — my own little Dundee family and I have learnt so many things about myself. It’s a cliché to say it’s been like a rollercoaster (blame my over-caffeinated brain for that one) but I’m lacking a more appropriate term.
It’s not cool to say- so keep it between us- but I loved school. I loved being involved in everything. I tried as many clubs as I could , I danced ( horrendously) throughout my school years, played violin and piano ( extremely, extremely badly) and participated in every opportunity to talk or write that I could from Debating to Pupil Council to Choir and to inevitably Head Girl. You couldn’t fault my confidence but as soon as I came to university, that version of myself vanished as quickly as the double SAAS did from my bank account. I was flung to the opposite end of the spectrum where I was involved in no societies at all , my biggest hobby was watching Netflix and my greatest past-time was sitting on a train to visit my boyfriend. Dundee wasn’t my home, simply a place where I had a single bed and a shared recycling bin. It always felt like a temporary place or a pit-stop before I moved on to something else. As much as I loved the city, the culture and the people, I never felt like I was really part of it.
I felt like I was doing it wrong. I had a relatively tight knit ( another word for small ) group of friends that I really clicked with. I was struggling with balancing a long distance relationship and my own extremely high academic expectations. Not to mention that I was battling my own mental health and attempting to support others as well. I was always told how liberating university was supposed to be. Well, I can tell you the last thing I felt was free.
I wish I could say that simply being involved in societies will solve all your everyday student problems. I would love to tell you that you won’t ever feel lonely or sad and that will never experience exam stress or sickness on the day of an important exam. University is hard and it’s meant to be. You are meant to be challenged or you aren’t doing it right. It certainly will not always feel like “the best years of your life”. Sometimes it might even include some of your darkest moments- I know it has for me.
So, I have a proposition: can we stop telling freshers how amazing university is all the time? Now, now, I’m not saying that we should level the playing field by revealing how terrible it can be- we don’t want to scare them- and I’m not sure how beneficial that is. Instead, I think we should change the narrative: University is what you make it. Just tell them that it’s just like life. If you invest time, effort and energy then you will get results. If you go to clubs and societies and get involved, you will find a family. If you do all this and embrace a place, you will find a home.