I really did not anticipate sitting in my bedroom crying every night during my first week at university. I never thought that the supposed “best week of my life” would actually be so overwhelming and mentally challenging. From a young age, I had always been ambitious and independent. My mum, with whom I’ve lived with for the majority of my life, had never been strict or untrusting of me. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t amazed by all this newfound freedom when I came to university. It wasn’t really new at all, was just different.
At sixth form, when I started the applications for university, all I wanted was for the “best time of my life” to begin. I couldn’t wait to start my new life up in Leeds – where I had chosen to study. After a long 2 years of A-levels and then a gap year traveling, moving away for university just seemed like something that would never happen. Even upon receiving welcome emails in August about freshers it still just felt like this wasn’t really happening to me.
There is a massive stigma that going to university is the most amazing time of your life. It’s marketed as an enriching journey that helps you discover who you are, but in reality, it’s not always that amazing. UCAS and schools often miss out the bit that your mental health may suffer massively whilst you embark on this journey. For someone who is very confident and enjoys socializing, it was still a very overwhelming experience. I would find myself crying in my room with no desire to go out and meet new people because of how anxious I felt.
Since being at university, I have felt this constant pressure to always be doing something. I’m always going out or chilling with people or sitting in the kitchen with my flat mates. Being alone in my room has never really seemed acceptable. I’m always afraid that I seem anti-social or that perhaps I am missing out. When at university, many consider the party side to be a major part of life, but when you’re feeling low and anxious, there is nothing worse than going out all night.
I’m only six weeks in so far. University is so much more than just completing a degree or handing in your assignments on time. It demands so much from you as a student, as a new adult, and as a person. The self-growth you will do in that time is probably a lot more valuable than the degree that you will leave with. Many people say that going to university is pointless or that it won’t guarantee you a job. At the end of the day, maybe they are right. But I can honestly say that the social situations you have to deal with and being independent in the way that you can only rely on yourself is really worth so much more.
I am a young person with first hand experiences of moving away from home for the first time for university. I just want to raise awareness of the fact that it is hard. The ups and downs of university can’t be portrayed as the best years of your life. For some people, this really is an amazing experience. You are given a huge amount of freedom to reinvent yourself and to excel in all the things you love. But as for me and many others, sometimes mental demons make these goals very hard to reach. Procrastination always finds a way to throw you off your course as well.
So to anyone struggling, feeling lonely or just a bit lost at university, don’t worry. You are not alone and there are people that will always care about you. Be aware of the support available to you and use it! Don’t suffer alone, speak out and let’s end this stigma.
Written by Anna Doherty