To tell the truth, the 1.5 years spent at the university so far have been amazing: I met wonderful people, I fell in love, and I’m studying something I genuinely enjoy (for the most part). But it’s also the most difficult time of my life. As a person who is constantly worried about something, university is really stressful. Sometimes when I’m stressed about the workload and grades, I catch myself thinking that I can’t wait to finally graduate, even though I want to have fun. Moreover, as an international student, I almost constantly miss something about home. I’ve never regretted the decision to move here, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. And I’m saying that from a perspective of a privileged person who can count on family’s support and doesn’t struggle financially. With 30% of students having just enough money to get by, romanticising the university experience seems inappropriate.
I don’t want to demonise university by any means - as I said, I really enjoy my time here, and anyway, according to a study from 2015, almost two-thirds of adults actually do rate it as the best time of their lives so far. Rather than complaining about the university then, I want to point out that this overgeneralisation can be harmful to those struggling. I wish there was more discussion and more representation in the media of students who don’t always have a fun time, so no one feels alone in their experience. I remember that amongst many books romanticising the university experience, I was struck by the descriptions of Connell’s initial problems at the university in Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Reading about a perspective similar to mine made me feel seen.
University can be a wonderful time, but it doesn’t have to. And it’s not students’ fault if they’re struggling. I keep seeing posts and articles about how to make the most of your university experience, but the sad truth is that you can’t control everything even if you really try.