Underage at university: my experience

Sarah Lahiri discusses her experience coming to university under the age of 18, and how she went around some of the obstacles faced.

Sarah Lahiri
7th December 2020
Starting university is a stressful experience for everyone. Especially if you're an international student. Even more so if you’re underage.

I first came to university when I was 17. I personally didn’t think much of it, as I’m used to being on the younger end of things. But, on interacting with other people, I was no stranger to the initial “What, no way!” but yes, yes way. I was 17, and below the legal drinking age.

Coming to the UK, I knew stereotypical "fun" was synonymous with drinking and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that for the first few months. With this in mind, I was worried I would struggle with the social side of things, specifically during Freshers week where most students look forward to nights they cant remember, with people they’d eventually end up being closest to. The FOMO was real, but I had to come to terms with it (or break the law, I chose the former).

I knew stereotypical "fun" was synonymous with drinking

Despite my own anxiety surrounding the whole thing, I realised I was basing my expectations off what others were doing and had to have a shift in perspective or spend the initial months of university cocooned in my room wishing I was doing something else. Although I did do a lot of that (just social anxiety things!), I did actively find other ways to meet people and enjoy myself. The dog café, university events and societies were great ways for me to connect with people that shared my same interests and it was definitely easier to get to know people this way rather than shouting over blaring music, only to awkwardly realise you have nothing in common the day after.

It’s not ideal, but I had to forcefully accept and work my way around it. Letting go of the expectation of the “normal” university experience was key. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “normal” experience. Everyone is navigating these new experiences in their own way and although easier said than done, comparing yourself to anyone is pointless and achieves absolutely nothing but feeling low. It’s tempting to fall down the what could have been rabbit hole, but it is crucial to know that just because things are different, doesn’t mean they have to be difficult.

Letting go of the expectation of the “normal” university experience was key

Looking back on coming to university under these circumstances, being 17 was probably the smallest issue I could’ve encountered. University is an adjustment for everyone in more ways than one, and dealing with changes in education, location and social circles is a lot harder than not going to clubs for a few months. The pressure I put on myself trying to follow the crowd was detrimental and the time I spent being stressed about this was useless in the long run.  I didn’t struggle to meet people because I couldn’t do things that others were. I met my closest friends in the first few weeks as a matter of coincidence and probably wouldn’t have had I been off doing something else. It really is a matter of how much effort you put in and essentially, a right place at the right time mentality.

To anyone in the same position, I promise it isn’t as detrimental to your social progress as much as you’ve convinced yourself it is. You will miss out on things, but the effect that a few events and nights out have in the long run will seem insignificant soon. Try to let go of the pressures you’re putting on yourself and have faith- you will make friends and settle in. Despite what it seems like, nobody knows what they’re doing and everyone is just hoping things work out for them. Spoiler alert, they will.

Featured image- Pixabay @ Free-Photos

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