It’s okay if you’re not having ‘the time of your life’ at Uni
by Kat Pirnak Photo from Pexels
I should preface my experience by saying that I am currently a finalist at university, which means that my reflections are made in reference to a time that had not yet been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to go to university. I looked forward to studying the subject I was passionate about. I looked forward to the fresh start a new city could offer. I looked forward to meeting people who I haven’t known since the age of twelve. In essence, what I looked forward to was having “the time of my life”. In retrospect, it’s strange how much weight that funny little phrase carried. It had been thrown around so much leading up to my first year at university that, in some weird way, I had naively come to believe that the impressive 19th century building depicted on the prospectus would be the answer to all my teen troubles.
Don’t get me wrong, university is an incredibly liberating experience. Honestly, it’s comparable to a rebirth: the first Renaissance of your short-lived life, if you will. I say that for two reasons. The first is that you are likely to be surrounded by individuals who genuinely enjoy learning and will happily engage in discussion that will challenge your understanding of the world both inside and outside of the classroom. The second is that, once left to your own devices, you start to learn more about the person that you are outside of your role as a child or a sibling. As a result, you may start to question the norms you grew up with. You may even start to realise the existence of boundaries you never knew existed. All of this inevitably happens whilst you are also trying to figure out how to work a washing machine or cook something other than pasta.
Naturally, growing so much in such a short amount of time can prove to be somewhat mentally taxing. And yet, nobody warns you that your first year at university might not actually turn out to be the time of your life at all. It feels almost illegal not to be enjoying yourself whilst you’re technically carefree and at the pinnacle of your youth. To top it off, everyone that is on Instagram looks like they are having a blast. This leads me to my next point: sometimes it almost seems as though people are far more concerned with appearing to have the time of their lives than actually having it. If you’re not careful then the fear of missing out might just pressure you into constantly chasing that candidly staged photo, or 24-hour story that will validate your social life. But the thing is, if it’s not something you enjoy then what exactly is it that you’re “missing out” on? The way I see it, spending time doing things you’d rather not do in places you’d rather not be, reduces your chances of meeting people that relate to you better. The bottom line is: don’t let social media dictate what you feel you should or should not be enjoying.
But there are also many other common issues that students can be faced with aside from FOMO. Maybe you realise that the course you’re doing is just not right for you. Maybe you have trouble finding people that you “click” with. Maybe you feel that the act of constantly socialising is incredibly overwhelming. Or maybe you just miss being home. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re not enjoying every single second at your new university. Even if you’ve spent your whole life dreaming about this wonderful place, it’s normal to need a period of adjustment. And when it comes to choices to do with your degree: you’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to change your mind. And then change it again. You don’t have to get it right the first time round.
I should finish by saying that I do not intend to dissuade anyone from looking forward to becoming a university student. I would change nothing if I had to do this part of my life all over again. I’ve learnt to think more for myself. I’ve rediscovered old passions. I’ve learnt to decline invitations to social events that I don’t find appealing. Most importantly, I’ve learnt how quickly fruits can go off. But, in all seriousness, to the students out there who might be struggling, to those of you who might be feeling disappointed, I want you to know that you’re not alone. It’s okay if you’re not having the time of your life; it only means that the best is yet to come.