University not living up to expectations

Source: Sharon McCutcheon (via Unsplash)

By Katie Waits

Chances are before you arrived at university, somebody told you that your university years would be the ‘best years of your life’. Family members, friends, even teachers may have fondly recalled memories of their time at university. Anecdotes of nights out, university friendships, the freedom – they can all paint a picture of an ideal university experience. While these stories may be fun to listen to, it can create high expectations of what university ‘should’ be like. You may expect to make friends quickly, that you’ll be free to do what you want, that your course will be perfect. There’s nothing wrong with having these high expectations. Everyone has a certain expectation of what university will be like. However, the pressure to have the time of your life at university can sometimes get too much.

Not all students have a fantastic time at university for a wide range of reasons. Homesickness, a stressful course, difficulty making friends, feeling left out – these can each make or break your time as a student.

You’re going to be at university for the next 3 years, at least, you have plenty of time to settle in and find your feet in the university environment. There’s no rush at all! Everyone’s experiences are different and unique.

Comparing your experiences to someone else’s is not a healthy thing to do. Personally, I found it very difficult to settle into university life in first year. I thought I’d get top grades and that I’d be able to get through loads and loads of readings. I also expected that I’d feel at home in my accommodation. When none of these happened I felt disappointed, like I was letting everyone down. It took until the end of the first year/the beginning of second year to feel more comfortable at university. It can take a while, and there is nothing wrong with that.

To improve your own university experience, you could join a society. Societies are a brilliant way to make friends with like-minded people. They can also be a very good excuse to get out of the house if you’re feeling overwhelmed with studying. Alternatively, immersing yourself in work can also be a good way to get to grips with university. Not only will it help you keep on top of everything, you may learn something new and interesting, thus provoking more of an appreciation for your course.

It is very important to find a balance between university, your social life and home. If you’re paying more attention to going out and neglecting your work, or if you’re not visiting home often, things can get very stressful. To avoid this, make sure that your work is done before you socialise, but don’t overwork yourself. Write a list of what you need to do and prioritise important readings and assignments. If you’re homesick, set a weekend aside to go back home or visit friends if you can. Finally, talk to the people around you if you’re stressed or not enjoying university. You will likely feel much better being open about your worries. There’s lots of support around campus if you’re feeling under pressure and it is okay to seek help if your time at university is getting tough.

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