Written by a current NTU Media Production student
Expectations VS Reality.
Missing Welcome Week and perhaps a further two weeks of actual classes – are so not the best way to start off the university experience.
I was inspired to write this post after reading an article online in the Independent. The post was about the unrealistic and even potentially dangerous expectations we set up for ourselves when we go to university. This really resonated with me and I thought wow, finally somebody has put into words what I’ve felt only in my first few months into uni.
I decided to stay in student halls because that’s just what everyone does and you are supposed to have the time of your life and enjoy settling into your new home and space to call your own, right?
In fact, this sort of made it worse. I started thinking why can’t I just go home at the end of the day instead of back to this flat where I sit alone in my room and live with people who I’ve never met before in my life?
But of course, because it’s what everybody does, you just have to deal with it.
Just as mentioned in the article, I had those exact thoughts. I am nineteen years old, I’ve just moved to university with so many opportunities to go out and party, to make new friends, the world is my oyster and the even the sky is no longer the limit. My mind had built up this expectation that university is a magical place where you make best friends with your flat mates and have slumber parties with pillow fights and just generally have the time of your life.
Why did I get back from lectures and sit alone in my room feeling like I was the only one who was taking too long to make friends?
My expectations were too high; an unattainability of sorts.
I started to think that everyone else was making friends and I wasn’t, and that there must be something wrong with me because everyone I passed in the hallways of university was smiling and laughing while I watched them enviously.
These people moved hours away (some have travelled many miles like myself) from home and are absolutely fine whilst I wonder what else I could be doing to enhance the experience in a quicker fashion.
But as the article suggests, I couldn’t admit I wasn’t having the best time because it’s ‘unnatural’.
My whole family are proud of me, I’m supposed to be having the time of my life, I even have a scholarship, now just stop whinging and crack on, I tell myself.
All these thoughts niggled my brain and I just kept thinking that it’s not healthy to think like that. I have always been an over-thinker, granted, but I truly do believe the unreal expectations of university contributed a lot to these thoughts.
I’m not saying that university is not fun or enjoyable. My first year is going reasonably well and I have made friends – which is one of the most things I am grateful for so far. I enjoy my course so much as well as my lectures, seminars and the one too many societies I unrealistically expected to partake in. I’m just saying – admitting – that the romanticised view of student living is not all it is deemed to be.
This is of course my personal experience and I know some people are the opposite. Certainly not trying to scare anyone who may be going to university, because everyone is different and some people might adore it, but simply telling my story in the hope that it helps someone out there to know they’re not the only one that feels this way. When I was in that position I believed I was the only one.
Maybe join a society or two (or in my case – ten). Some people might think it’s ‘lame’, or stupid, but for me it was a way of coping with my feelings, it made me happy and for the most part, I have relied on most of them to make friends.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what makes you happy. Life’s too short to sit around feeling guilty that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you are. You don’t have to apologise for your emotions and you certainly shouldn’t feel like you aren’t able to share how you feel just because society says that you can’t.
As the article that inspired me to write all this said, the belief that your university experience will be perfect is a ‘dangerous lie’. University is an amazing place where you grow and learn and in many ways have the best years of your life. But it can also be isolating and if you aren’t having as amazing a time as you thought you were, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s totally normal and you shouldn’t be afraid to admit it.
This wasn’t the most coherent blog post or the most structured, but I wanted it to be real. I have essentially just poured out my feelings onto a page but that’s the most natural way for a post like this to be.
I just hope that someone reading can relate to my experiences and hopes this makes them feel less alone.
Just know that university is a fantastic place – you will have a great time, but just make sure that you give yourself a break if you aren’t feeling it 100% of the time.
Have you been to university or are you about to start? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and whether you’ve had a similar – or maybe opposite – experience to me!
Thanks for reading!
For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Personal Pastoral Support at NTU (general worries and anxiety, homesickness, loneliness, a relationship breakup, or a bereavement)
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness