Here is a little piece of advice that has taken me a long time to accept: university may not be the best time of your life, and guess what? It doesn’t have to be.
In the years building up to university, it seems a sort of haven- a place to find yourself, discover new hobbies, interact with different types of people you’ve probably never come across before, find your passion in a subject and take part in schemes that could take you across the globe. In short, university is sold to us in such glorified life-defining terms that the whole idea of it is as intimidating as it is exciting. Immediately, however, this puts a lot of pressure on the whole experience, something which is entirely unhelpful if you get to university and feel like the haven is more of an extended sixth form where you pay £9,000 for 5 contact hours a week and find yourself eating pasta for dinner every night.
The problem I really want to focus on for this post is the culture that exists within university- the stereotypical ‘student’ culture. I’m sure I don’t even have to define what I mean by this for most of you to understand, but largely this resolves around excessive amounts of alcohol. For me, the problem with this is that I am not a fan of excessive alcohol; whilst I can enjoy a trip to the pub with some friends and whilst in the past I’ve enjoyed silly amounts of alcohol at house parties or clubs, nowadays it just isn’t really my thing. As a university drop out (dropping out in my first year at one university and starting again at another a year later) I think part of my dislike of this whole culture is that having done it once before, I wasn’t particularly interested in doing it all over again. I had done the consecutive nights out and the continual hangover and the attempt to impress everyone with how you can handle your drink and now I’m disinterested in it. Fresher’s week, in particular, is something I have a real problem with because every activity (bar maybe one or two) organised by the university is centered on nightlife. In a week designed to help you settle in and make friends, this seems illogical- how can you settle in when you wake up constantly hungover and can’t remember the name of the person you were dancing with the night before? This also breeds a sort of stigma around not going out, immediately if you do not enjoy nightlife then you are the outsider and whether you’ve been to university or not, you will probably know that finding yourself as the outsider can cause a lot of anxiety and loneliness. I find myself a little disgusted that this kind of culture exists because it can mean that people immediately start university feeling isolated or different from their peers and starting your experience of university in such a negative light can damage the way you see it altogether. This culture has also made me personally feel like I was doing something wrong, that something was wrong with me because my interests appeared to be different from other students; clearly it was a problem with me and not the nature of university life that was the issue. I found myself making up excuses for avoiding nights out rather than being honest and admitting I just didn’t enjoy them very much.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable enough with myself to just say that nightlife wasn’t really my thing; I like getting a good night’s sleep, I like not waking up hungover and I wish I realized sooner how completely okay it was to feel like that (meaning it is as completely okay to not enjoy nightlife as it is to be someone who does).