After graduating from uni of course there’s nothing I’d rather do than go back and start the three years again of waking up at around 10am every day and sitting in a lecture for two hours before going back home to get ready to go out for the night. Uni was genuinely the best and worst time of my life: I had the best three years and looking back it’s definitely a fun lifestyle to have in comparison to full time adult life. But, there’s a few things that I wish I knew before I left my home town and moved miles down the country to begin an independent life on my own.
I always knew I was going to go uni, I didn’t even consider anything else. I wanted to be an English teacher so I knew I had to go (that quickly went out the window when I started working in secondary schools and realised how horrible it was). So I never even really thought about it, was never scared about anything and just went for it. The only thing I was worried about was getting a nice place to live (and i did my halls were unreal and way too nice for students).
I went to The University of Huddersfield and studied English Language and Literature to be a teacher, I loved my course and everyone was lovely who I met. The uni was really good and I liked where I lived, believe it or not Huddersfield is actually a decent place to live and I had a good time. I met life long friends and had the best nights/days of my life to date while I was a student. But it wasn’t all smooth-sailing and isn’t care-free for a lot of people.
Student mental health is a massive issue, BBC Three did a documentary on student suicides and it really makes you aware of how many students struggle with mental health. The support at my uni was really good, they had free counselling and a student welfare department that you knew were there in case you needed support and help. But, you definitely are tested through uni with problems of loneliness, unhealthy lifestyle habits and pressure. Although it’s an exciting time and you’re moving to a new place, a lot of people struggle with the changes and so many students drop out and move back home because it’s not what they expect.
I remember the day I move to uni being so low and lost, once my mam dropped me off in this place I’d never even been to before I just didn’t know what to do with myself and it just didn’t feel right. All I wanted to do was go back home to Cumbria and he with my family and friends, I genuinely didn’t see me staying there for the year never mind three. I just felt so lonely and homesick from the second I moved in, it took so long to shake this feeling and the entire first year I was coming home every weekend just to see my friends and family because I missed them too much. I just didn’t feel like I belonged and didn’t like the fact I was away from home. I remember that feeling of sadness so well and it’s a shock to me that I rarely even go home now and I’m so settled in Leeds that I consider it home.
I’m sure every student feels this way. It’s a massive change and you definitely feel homesick at some point, but I felt that I was lonelier than everyone else and it affected me more but I know now that won’t have been true. Every student around me seemed to be having the best time but I know they would all be feeling the same, we were all a bit lost and all on our own. It just takes some getting used to.
Obviously, some just throw in the towel and leave and say it isn’t for them. Each to their own, but it definitely just takes time. I was so low and lost and so certain that I wasn’t going to last at uni, but now I’ve graduated and setting up a life here in Leeds for myself on my own and I know this is what I want to do. You grow away from your hometown and experiencing another area makes you realise how different life can be. I’m more suited to city lifestyle and couldn’t even imagine going back home now for longer than a few days, so I’ve definitely glad I stayed at uni.
So loneliness is huge when you’re at uni. You’ve left all your friends and family and you’re on your own to meet people. I’m a really shy person and it takes me ages to build bonds with others and I am so selective about who I call my friends. It took my ages to make friends at uni, like I had people I got on with and spent time with but I only call people my ‘friends’ who I can rely on and can tell anything to. I met loads of people in uni but I only made a few friends, that’s all I need though. I like a smaller circle of real people compared to loads of friends you can’t even go to with a problem.
The main thing you can do to prepare and combat this is to just understand that you don’t need loads of people around you to be loved. You need to understand that you’re not going to get on with everyone and it might take time to build friendships that you value, but it will happen. If I can make friends than anyone can cause 18 year old Nikita was way too shy and quiet compared to now. I was so anxious and just couldn’t socialise properly, I hated small talk and would rather avoid speaking to people than just aimlessly talk to people. I’m still kind of like that but I’m definitely more open to friendships now because I know it takes time to create genuine bonds, but it does happen. I have friends for life that I met in first year at uni, everyone just naturally meets compatible people who you then move into a house with in second year and it goes from there.
What I’m basically trying to say is, it will happen for you. If you’re worried about socialising and making friends at uni, don’t stress it. You’ll find at least someone who you get on with and who you can relate to and that’s all you really need. Just remember it takes time and you will naturally find your feet. Don’t try to be something you’re not and spend time with people you genuinely like and relate to, or you’re not going to enjoy your time. Forget about what anyone thinks and do what you want to do, be genuine to yourself and don’t stress too much. You’ve always got yourself anyway and I believe it’s important to enjoy your own company before you spend time with others, you need to be content when you’re alone so you’re not in constant need of others.
Another problem definitely has to be unhealthy lifestyles in uni. I know so many people who just take it as a chance to party constantly and have fully lost their head and haven’t made it to the end. If you’re going out there with the mindset that you’re gonna party non stop and put your work on a back seat, you’re probably gonna not last. Student lifestyle is so easily adapted to just constantly drinking, doing drugs and going out. You just can’t do that for three years straight, you need to find a balance.
I was good with finding a balance. In fact, whilst at uni I was probably in the best shape fitness wise than I’ve ever been. The first year of uni I dropped nearly two stone by joining a gym and eating healthier meals after piling on loads of fat over a long summer before uni. I don’t know how I managed it but I was so strict with dieting and fitness that I managed to keep in good shape throughout uni, whereas a lot of people can just eat shit and not work out much and drink way too much, ending up putting loads of weight on.
I still don’t know how I managed to stay in better shape through uni than I did after graduation, you’d expect it to be the other way round. I just think it’s so important to look after yourself at uni. I know too many students who just don’t look after themselves: rooms a mess, eating shit food constantly, drinking too much alcohol, putting on weight. It’s inevitably gonna make you very unhappy and I think I healthy lifestyle through uni keeps you level headed enough to do well.
If you’re partying all the time you’re not gonna show up to lectures, you don’t show up to lectures you’ll end up being kicked out and back to square one. It’s just about being healthy in both body and mind and looking after yourself. At the end of the day, uni can be very stressful and you need to take time away from partying to just chill and keep healthy.
Another problem: pressure. Some students put themselves under way too much pressure to succeed without taking into consideration their own happiness. I watched a documentary on students at Oxford University on the stories of two young people taking their own lives from stress and pressure to succeed, working endless hours to just try and do well and it all got too much. Don’t let it consume your life!
I spent way too long pushing myself towards a career I didn’t even want because I thought it would look good to others. It was only recently I decided to change my route and do something I actually enjoy: writing. I chose my degree thinking it would be a creditable course, not picking a certain subject because it didn’t seem as ‘smart’. Don’t do that. Do whatever you find interesting and if you’re passionate enough, you’ll get a good career out of it.
I did an entire English degree to be a teacher and it took me until the end of final year for me to realise I didn’t want to do that. I hated my placement in a school and it put way too much stress on me. I did the interview and got a place on a teaching course and just dreaded the day it started. I did all this because it was my original plan and I found I was forcing myself to do it. Although it let people down, I dropped out last minute and decided to put my happiness first. I’m glad I did, I’m now in a job that I love and I haven’t looked back once.
Put yourself first, put in the graft and get something out of it. Uni is about growing and becoming the person you’re supposed to be before entering the adult world. And honestly, it’s the best years of your life and you will not get them back. Live in the moment and appreciate them while you’re there. Take every single opportunity you get. Travel and see the world. Do everything you can while you’re in uni cause once you’ve graduated to the real world you’ll find you just don’t have the time. Now I’m working and paying rent to my own apartment and paying back debt from my uni lifestyle, I can’t really just up and travel. But when you’re in uni you can. Rack up debt, live in the moment do so much and then deal with it later. I promise you the memories will be worth it.
Beauty by Disaster x