Dear Agony Ant: I feel like I’m not getting the most out of my university experience

A bored student is worried they are wasting their uni days, and a lonely international student struggles to find a community.

Agony Ant
2nd March 2021
Image: Ella Williams

Welcome back to The Courier's ant-ier version of Agony Aunt, where no problem is too small! Today we have a submission from Bored101 who feels like they are missing out the big “uni experience” everyone talks about, and from a lonely international student struggling to find a like-minded community.

Dear Agony Ant,

I am in final year and I feel like I am missing out on the big 'uni experience' everyone talks about. I know that I should be involved in societies, and I am in a few, but is there anything else I can do virtually to make the most of my last few months.

– Bored101

Dear Bored 101,

Sadly, this is a common feeling right now. Covid-19 has taken things from us all, and a normal university year is one of them. You are not alone. However, from one final year student to another, I’m going to let you in on a secret: the ‘uni experience’ is a lie. There is no one universal university experience, and for most people there is usually a lot more studying and struggling with deadlines and a lot fewer montages of friend-making and nights out than is advertised. Nevertheless, here’s some places for you to look for virtual shenanigans.

If you’re looking for one-off events or activities, check out Give it a Go. They always have various tasters, at the moment there’s beginner’s Zoom ZumbaCocktail and Mocktail Making, a Pet Social, a Quiz Night and more coming up. It’s also worth browsing the NUSU events list. Some notable mentions from there are Hedgehog First Aid and the TEDxNewcastleUniversity Conference. If you’re a crafty type, the Blank Canvas Society might be for you. They offer all kinds of artsy events (the next one is recyclable arts and crafts), you can pick up their craft box from the SU, and then get stuck in with other society members over zoom. If you want to have a virtual games nights with friends, have a look at Backyard, which lets you play with video and voice chat on the same platform. There’s also Go Volunteer, which has one-off volunteering events, as well as community projects (they have a gardening project and a knitting project, so it’s not all typical volunteering!).

I’d like to leave you with a few questions to ask yourself. Firstly, let’s acknowledge that this is an objectively and extraordinarily rubbish year to be having your last hurrah as a university student. What would it feel like to acknowledge that for yourself? How would it feel to release the pressure of living up to the idealised version of what university “should be”? Lastly, what do you truly want out of your university experience? University is not a one-size-fits-all place, and not every ‘big experience’ is something everyone enjoys. What do you enjoy? I think that’s a good place to start looking. 

Onwards out of boredom!

Agony Ant

Dear Agony Ant,

I have lived at the University for a few months now and I am enjoying myself as much as I can. However I wish there was a way for me to get into contact with more South Asians. I am kind of unsure on how to find South Asian friends or even just South Asian communities/international students and was wondering if you had any advice. 

– Indiangirl240102

Dear Indiangirl240102

There are plenty of us South Asians dotted about the university, so let me tell you about some of the places where you can find us!

Firstly, as you probably already know, there are dozens of fantastic societies at the University, many of which are South Asian and International related. There’s Hindu and Sikh, South Asian, Tamil and Malayali, Bollywood dance, Islamic and International Society and all of them run frequent socials where you can meet some like minded people. For example: Hindu and Sikh society recently held a Valentines drinks social, Tamil and Malayali Society gave out anonymous roses and Bollywood dance always have dance workshops running. I know this online era is a little weird and a bit uncomfortable but it’s the best way for what we have right now to meet some amazing people - everyone is very keen to also meet people like you too so be brave!

Recently a BAME Union section of the SU has been set up and there is an Instagram page and a Facebook group available which is working on forming a community to uplift and elevate BAME people - so this could be a great fit for you too!

Also don’t forget there are NUSU International Officers whose job it is to make sure you’re feeling at home here! They’re a friendly pair so don’t hesitate to DM them on their Instagram or drop them an email!

Homesickness can be absolutely crippling and one of the most difficult things to contend with while you’re at university but there are a handful of little things that you can do to combat it, like calling your home family and friends, finding some nostalgic recipes or joining in with the activities run by societies or the SU.

If you need any more specific advice - like where to shop, or who to contact then do reach out to the Inclusive Buddies team who won’t hesitate to give you the support and advice you need.

Best of luck!
Agony Ant

The Agony Ant is in collaboration with NUSU’s Inclusive buddies, a bunch of students from a diverse range of backgrounds. You can read more about them here

Want to share your woes with Agony Ant in exchange for some brilli-ant advice? Send in your problems here.

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