It's time to stop romanticising uni life

University is often claimed to be the best time of your life, but is that always the case?

Maja Mazur
21st February 2022
Image from Unsplash @Windows
I can’t count how many times in my childhood I heard from my family and the media that “university will be the best time of my life.” I’ve always been sceptical about this saying. A constant downhill after a wonderful sugar-coated 3-4 years at a university seemed quite a daunting perspective to me. Nevertheless, I’ve been feeling somewhat pressured to have fun at university, because if I don’t enjoy something which is supposed to be “the best time of my life”, what about the rest of it?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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