It feels like many moons ago since I was a student. In fact, it was about 11 years since I set on my journey to university. Had I have known then what I know now perhaps my experience would have been a little different.
It’s hard work being a student, being miles away from your family, suddenly you are propelled into adult life whilst having to study. You start to question your choices and the self-doubt creeps in. There’s so much to consider at university, so much adult choice before you and having to make sure you’re on the right path at all times.
I would like to think that on the whole, my experience of university was a good one. But there were many days where I felt home sick, I would long to be in my childhood home with the people that raised me and the siblings that always had my back. I was living with six strangers, studying the hardest level of education I had encountered, working an evening job to pay for the university lifestyle.
I remember wanting to drop out on at least three occasions. Naturally living with a bunch of other students that had all been thrown together, there was drama. I hated drama. I was shy, as I have always been, so I never went to the big university parties or events. After settling with my new flatmates, we would all go on nights out and I did the same with my work friends. But anything too big, was too daunting.
Even seminars terrified me. I didn’t mind sitting through the lectures, but the seminars that took place straight after used to turn my stomach into knots. I remember in my final year, counting down how many lectures I had left. I couldn’t wait to finish university.
And now? I’d love to go back and do it again.
I’ve suffered with anxiety for 5 years, so I think, but looking back, I can see now that I have always had elements of it and been a ‘natural worrier’, as my Mum would put it politely.
I see now that during my time at university, I did have anxiety. I felt anxious about parties, seminars and anything that put me out of my comfort zone, any situation that I felt others would judge me.
With anxiety, it’s easier to look back and realise things weren’t as bad as our minds made out, then it is to look forward to the future. The problem is, I was never grasping the here and the now. I wish I had.
I would have seen that no one was forcing me to do anything.
We have to make what we want of it, we have to get the experience we want. Some go to have a great time, some go to knuckle down and get the best possible degree they can. University is a great experience if you try and just take one day at a time and find out what you want to get out of it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and find it all daunting. The trick is to take everything in bite sized chunks. If I knew that back then, it would have helped a great deal. Rather than thinking it was three long years ahead, I could split that into a year, a semester, a week, a day. Set yourself some healthy goals to achieve in that time, especially when it comes to anxiety and getting out of your comfort zone.
Rather than looking at the parties and feeling overwhelmed, why not go on a night out with a smaller number of friends, then work your way up to the party. Instead of worrying about all the seminars, set yourself targets that maybe you will be more confident in speaking out about your opinions little by little.
Most importantly, when you are feeling overwhelmed with everything, just turn to someone and open up. The chances are, they will be understanding and relate to it all too.
Looking back, I would hands down do it all again. I surrounded myself with a positive support system, I made sure I had a healthy ratio of work and play in my life but more important, I tried hard not to stress. One day I knew it would all be over, and one day it was far too quickly. I wish I had taken it just one day at a time.
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