Things people don’t tell you about university

There’s been an awful lot of negativity and/or seriousness on this blog recently and, while I want to buck this trend, anything positive that I want to write is going to take far more effort than I can muster at this point in time. So I’m going to talk about some slightly personal things that I think must happen to quite a lot of people in university.

Firstly, and most importantly, everyone tells you to go out and do lots of things but there will be times, perhaps quite a lot of them, when you just don’t want to be around people and just be on your own. This happened to me in the first week of coming to university. It’s scary and exciting and challenging and everything is new for a lot of people. I’d had a bit of an unfortunate year beforehand so moving out overwhelmed me when I got to uni, but all I can say is that, if you find yourself in this situation then I think the most important thing to remember is that this happens to a lot of people. It’s okay to feel like that for a while but, eventually, the storm will pass. I actually found the best way to meet people was, in the first few weeks of my course, I sat next to a new person every lecture, if possible. You only really need a few words exchanged before a lesson to learn whether they have similar interests and, if you were like me and missed going to the “freshers sessions,” of all the societies then they can offer you a way to join the societies you’re interested in as you’ll have someone to go with.

I also find that the stereotypical student lifestyle, at least in England, which is largely comprised of drinking, clubbing, staying up late and doing gateway drugs, isn’t geared towards everyone. I’d actually go out on a limb and say the people who would do this sort of thing every weekend is in the minority. You’ll easily be able to tell the people who do enjoy these things and you can choose yourself whether to get to know them or not. It’s worth saying at this point (though I’m sure it’s advice you’ve heard before) that there are societies for everything imaginable. For example; my university has a lockpicking society, a “quidditch” society and a crocheting society. One thing people might not tell you is that societies are only as good as the people who run them. I think sports societies can struggle with this especially if a captain is also made leader of the society; the power might go to their head and then they start bossing people about and no one enjoys themselves.

On that topic, there will be a lot of big egos, particularly if you go to a highly esteemed university. My mum liked to talk about how I’d have discussions about politics and culture at university (she never went to university but it may have been that way 50 years ago) but there will be a great deal of people who are just ill-informed or misinformed. You shouldn’t mistake people who hold a different opinion to you as people who are unintelligent or anything of that kind but there will be a lot of people who haven’t yet had the opportunity to broaden their horizons as they were too busy being a teenager. It’s fine, but it is frustrating sometimes. It’s also worth mentioning that the people in the debating society aren’t as intelligent as they think they are. That is the nicest way I can put my opinions on the debating society at my uni.

With this discussion of people comes the inevitable talk about housemates. I imagine that you’re going to live in halls in your first year, which seem to have received mixed opinions. There will be people that you don’t get on with. In fact I don’t think there’s a single person I’ve spoken to who gets on well with everyone in their flat. There are varying levels of how much you dislike someone though and if anything is going to ruin university more for you then I can’t think of it. My advice would be to try and establish some kind of mutual understanding between you and them whereby “they don’t fuck with your stuff and you don’t fuck with theirs.” However, this implies that they are sensibly inclined and, since they’re already at university, they’ve got to be somewhat insane already. If they are a dick, or if there are several dicks, who can’t seem to understand that they are the problem then I genuinely can’t think of anything that isn’t drastic that you could or should do. If they are actually making your university life worse, which no one needs; you’re under a lot of stress as it is without some tit knocking on your door for fun at 3 in the morning, then talk to the university and get them to move you. There are thousands of people every year who just don’t turn up for university and there are free rooms everywhere. If you make enough fuss then they will eventually help you. Most universities are quite helpful with this, so I’ve heard, but some can be stubborn (like mine) In the case of the latter you need to make sure they understand how desperately you want to move. Email them at least once a day if this is the case, but I would say that that’s not enough. Email them twice, once in the morning when you check your emails and then once before dinner.

A final pet peeve from me; 75% of what you learn at university, regardless of what course you take, will have no practical application for you. The other 25% has questionable application but, if you squint at it, you might be able to convince yourself that it’s useful. This is something that I really want to hammer home: If you’re not sure about going to university you need to really think about whether you want to go or whether you are just going with the flow. However, I do think that the advice of older people might be better than mine in this instance. You don’t want to listen to people who are blindly one way or the other. For example, if you are talking to a professor, they are going to miss out quite a lot of the cons, but they’re just my thoughts. I hope they help someone out there.

This is a kind of post script I guess. Just wanted to say that, while looking for a featured image for this post, I typed students into google images and I got all of the propaganda photos of students looking happy and working together, but then I tried “miserable students,” and it was just students buried under a pile of books, so instead you get a picture of the Sex Pistols. I hope this helps.

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