It's OK to Hate Your First Year At Uni

When I started university just over a year ago, I had so many expectations as to what it would be like. I imagined joining societies and trying out a million new things. I imagined meeting new people and becoming friends with a group of girls who wanted to spend their days trying out new coffee shops as places to study and their evenings in various different cocktail bars. In reality, this created an overriding pressure for me to meet this certain type of person, or group of people, that liked to do everything that I do. And this definitely didn’t happen. My first few weeks of uni were practically the opposite of what I wanted them to be. Despite wanting to meet new people and make these new friends that I’d idealised, for some reason I went into a kind of anti-social mentality and made very little effort to speak to new people in my lectures and didn’t end up joining any societies (aside from my course societies).

One thing I’ve known since before I’d even turned 18 was that my days of wanting to go out and get drunk off my face every weekend (or several times a week) had passed before I could even legally drink. I love a night out every now and then, but I have to be in the right frame of mind otherwise I’m just forcing myself to drink until I can stand spending three hours in a club where you can’t even have a conversation with the person next to you and there’s barely enough space to breathe. The majority of the time there are a thousand places I’d rather be than a club. I overhear people at uni having conversations on a Monday, asking each other what they did at the weekend, and the standard response will be at leastone night out. I’m definitely not trying to say that students shouldn’t go out as much as they want – if that’s what you enjoy, then honestly, I applaud you for being able to go out several times a week and not feel like death for the rest of the week – but there is definitely a sort of pressure on students to feel like they have to enjoy going on nights out to be a real student. For me, and lots of other people, a night out isn’t equivalent to having a good time. It’s ok to enjoy yourself more staying in watching a film with a face mask and a cup of tea, or even going to a bar for a few drinks but being home before midnight.

University work definitely isn’t everyone’s priority during first year, since it doesn’t actually count for anything, but for me, it was still a source of stress and something that contributed to my unhappiness. It didn’t help that I wasn’t happy with the course I was doing, and I felt that the university wasn’t very helpful in this sense. I felt discouraged by the fact that I wasn’t excelling in my work as I had been at sixth form. It was a completely different style of work and the fact that I didn’t understand it meant I simply didn’t enjoy it and didn’t work as hard as I could have. You don’t get the same support as you do at sixth form or college because your tutors or lecturers aren’t directly looking out for your wellbeing, or won’t address you personally if they think you’re struggling. It’s your responsibility to go to them, which can be hard if you feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t understand while everyone else is doing perfectly fine.

My advice for anyone not enjoying first year: don’t feel like you have to enjoy the same things as everyone else, and try to find something that you do enjoy which can be your escape from any stress or unhappiness. For me this was (and still is) going to the gym, but it could be anything from joining a society or some form of exercise to just reading for pleasure. Try to make the most of the freedom you have in first year to do what you enjoy without feeling like you have to give in to the social pressures that come with being a student.