When it comes to answering the question ‘how are you?’ I find myself adhering to the ancient Chinese art of war; to appear strong when you are weak. When I have found myself feeling low, feeling alone and unsuccessful I have done my best to not let others see that. When it comes to protecting ourselves a glossy social media profile is just the surface. Why do we feel embarrassed about not having a great time?
I personally found first year quite tough. The initial fake socialising; the pressure to go on endless nights out that I didn’t enjoy and then loneliness because I didn’t bond with my flatmates, because I didn’t enjoy going out. I also happen to take an arts course which are notoriously anti-social. These quite normal feelings were compounded by the fact that I felt bad about feeling lonely. There is so much pressure and expectation to find your ‘friends for life’, that this year would be ‘the best year of your life’. I felt that I had failed. That I was the only university student on the planet to not enjoy their first year. I saw the highlights reel of my school friends supposedly having a much better time than me and that made me feel even more isolated. I didn’t want to admit to them that I hadn’t succeeded.
Having reached third year, I have found I am by no means alone in this experience. Many people thrive off those first few months of university. Others take time to find their feet. This should be considered normal and openly spoken of. I found ways of acclimatising and slowly building a base in my new city. I took up a sport I hadn’t played since I was thirteen, a club for which I am now on the committee and have gained great friends from. I have the greatest flatmate I could ask for. The clubbing for clubbing’s sake has ceased and our evenings are often spent in the charming pub we live above, or watching melodramatic drug-dealing gang shows on Netflix. It’s such a shame that for the first two years’ people stood outside tutorial classes pretending their phones were more interesting than the people standing next to them. It took me till third year to finally start talking to people on my English course, a conversation from which is the reason I’m writing this article.
University can be a daunting and lonely experience. It can also be fantastic once you have found your feet. It should be considered acceptable for things to not fall immediately into place and to know that you are certainly not the first and will not be the last to feel a little lost.