My Uni Reality


Alice Maher

22 September 2019 4 comments

This is a post I wrote back in February when I was overcoming a horrid spell of feeling very low. I wanted to share this intimate post on here because, it’s the reality of a university experience for some. It was my reality and it may be yours. Having made it to the other side, I can assure you it does get better. Don’t Give Up.

Every single person I spoke to before I went to uni told me it would be ‘the best thing I would ever do’. ‘The happiest time of my life from the get go.’ ‘The funniest times ever’. If that’s the case, why in 2018 did University student suicide rates rise by 56%? 

That’s a pretty horrific, harsh, in your face figure. Don’t mistake me, i’m not going to paint a big gloom over university. I don’t regret coming to study at Durham. During my four months here I’ve found true friendships and found the challenge of my degree exciting and fulfilling. Yet, I cannot escape the fact that from that first moment of stepping out of the car in October 2018 I’ve felt more alone than I ever have before.

The University Experience- Reality.

I think it’s time we started talking openly about the ‘University Experience’. I was never pre-warned about the immense loneliness, the constant feeling that I’m out of my depth and the sheer amount of work I would have to attempt to dig my way out of each week. Maybe I was naive. If I’d looked hard enough I would have found all the warning signs. That being said, I could really have done with someone to sit me down and tell me the damn honest truth. I very much doubt that my experience will be the case for everyone; I’ve seen friends absolutely flourish at Uni. Sadly, I’ve also seen friends, people around me and myself in part fall pretty badly. I’m going to go out on a leg and say that we aren’t and will not be the only ones; thus, this blog post has been birthed into the universe. Let’s give some context to the situation…

The Context.

I came to Durham at 18 straight from two years of complete hilarity at Sixth Form. Two years spent with the best friends I could ever have wished for. I’d just started a relationship with an absolute DREAM of a human being. For the first time in my life I was being whisked out on dates and being smothered in attention. I was still relishing in the sheer astonishment I’d actually managed to get accepted into Durham. After the best summer of my entire life I left Sheffield completely unprepared for what I was about to step into. I mean, I didn’t even pack a toothbrush?!!?

Home Sickness.

Despite only moving 2 hours up from home, I did not expect how hard it would be for my mum to leave me behind. That moment when she shut the door and left me with a bunch of strangers in a weird smelling flat was HORRIFIC. Having divorced parents, I was used to being away from one or the other for periods of time. I’ve been to Leeds Fest so sleeping in weird smelling environments wasn’t that much of a new thing. I felt I’d be able to handle this uni business. Jesus how wrong I was. I did not give my cosy nest of a double bed the appreciation it deserved till I was 133 miles away. 

Lost Friendships

Furthermore, all my best friends became existent only through the screen of my phone. It really bloody hurt to flick through their Instagram stories and see the brunch dates, chills at their boyfriend’s house, nights out, drinks in our favourite bars and to no longer be a part of that life. The security of those friendships disappeared seemingly overnight. I found that the amount of people replying to my texts grew less and less, till suddenly I could only count them on one hand.

The Effect.

Missing home and the sudden anxieties that came crashing back into my life made the sudden plunge back into work very difficult. Parts of my life were crumbling down without anything I could do to stop them. To escape that I immersed myself into my work. Immersed myself so deeply that I completely neglected the social side of university. I’d done this to such a harmful degree that by the time I took my first visit back to Sheffield, the thought of meeting friends made me become physically sick. I felt silly, angry at myself and embarrassed that the confidence I had not so long ago was suddenly completely gone. 

By the end of the year, I was exhausted. Weary of work. Worn out of pretending I was having the best time. Bloody tired of falling out of my shitty little bed every night and of university altogether. Exhausted of the pressure I was placing on myself to get out of what I deemed a silly little mindset.

Only when I returned home for Christmas, the comfort I was so longing to get in order to start afresh was nowhere to be found. Those once strong friendship groups had cracked, talking about university to family was forced, my boyfriend was back home in Cumbria and I was left feeling just as alone at home than I was at University.

A Catch 22.

I wasn’t happy at University. I wasn’t happy at home. So where the hell could I be happy?

I contemplated doing a Donna and jetting myself off to some Greek Island but thought the boyfriend might not be best pleased with that plan. Also doubted that fleeing to Greece would stop these thoughts circulating in my head. Instead I armed myself with a self-reflective goals diary, a spanking brand new set of pastel highlighters, a whole lot of Christmas chocolates [what else do you need] OH my toothbrush and set off back to Durham.

Attempting to Change

I returned back to university with an agenda of what I wanted to achieve from it. More coffee dates. Nights in spent cooking with the flat. Games nights. Better nights sleep. Top quality results and more than anything I just wanted much more laughter. I chucked myself right into the first week, kicking things off with a 9am [lovely]. Keeping myself busy, I cooked for my friends, I went for a coffee and a gossip, I read two books, I had extensive library sessions but by Saturday I’d burnt out. That weekend I locked myself away in my room and didn’t see another human being for 48 hours.

My flat-mates and friends were out seeing the people they were dating, off on social activities or were spending time sorting their own work out. I realised over this weekend that I’d completely failed to make a life here. Those feelings of isolation and loneliness came flooding back stronger than ever. So strong that I ended up spending second week back home at my boyfriend’s house trying to desperately piece myself back together. Not a fab start. 

Where Do I Go Now?

I had to question whether staying on at uni was the right option for me. Of course it was. I worked so hard to study at Durham and the educational opportunities I’ve been gifted with so far are more than I could have ever dreamt of. No way do I want to cut my time there short. I am determined to walk out of this city in 2 years’ time with a degree in my hands. However, quite clearly, I cannot carry on living this way. These jumbled thoughts inside my head need to GO. Take them apart, find a resolution and [fingers crossed] little by little this whole ‘adult’ thing will become easier.

The Conclusion.

Tired of fruitless worries- I want to focus on me. Put my energy into worthwhile outlets. I want to vent about how shite things are, I want to share photos that took HOURS to pose for and edit perfectly, I want to have videos that I can look back on when I’m old. I want to spend 2019 and every year after being happy and so should you. 

  • Education
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  • Well being

4 thoughts on “My Uni Reality

  1. Emily Carter

    Thank you for being so open and sharing your experiences Alice! I’m sure they’ll really help some people xx

    1. Alice Maher

      Thank you for such a kind reply Emily! xx

  2. This was so relatable, I had a very similar experience to yours during my first year and I wouldn’t wish how awful I felt on anyone. No one tells you about the loneliness and the isolation and I think had I known about it I honestly would have thought twice about uni all together. I really admire your determination to keep going – that’s often the toughest challenge of them all. I considered dropping out so many times and I consider staying there for the full three years as one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But the feeling of pride when you cross the stage at graduation is amazing and makes it all worth it! Thank you for sharing such an honest post and wishing you all the best with the rest of your degree 🙂 xx

    1. Alice Maher

      Oh Amy, this is such a lovely response and exactly why I felt it was so important to publish this post! It’s comforting to hear that other people had a strikingly similar experience, it makes me feel much less alone!! Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, it’s made my day! So happy you were able to push through and get that degree, wonder woman!! xx

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