University, a life goal that many strive to complete right? A way of passage into that money-making job where you’ll fulfil those lifelong dreams of yours and be able to afford all the nice things in life, correct?
However, I’m not quite sure it actually is because from what I can remember from it was drinking, sex, debt, annoying flatmates, mouldy kitchens, many fire alarms going off over burnt toast and the many people dropping out of the course in the first year! Doesn’t scream best years of my life completely…screams soap drama where you end up with less baggage after you finish than what you started with!
Don’t get me wrong, University was fun, a lot of fun in fact! I learned a lot about myself as a person during my 3 years and feel like I changed as a human being for the better but what did I have to go through in order to get it?
I’m 27 years old, autistic and married…it’s been a few years since I graduated and I just work a standard part-time job at the moment with the dream of becoming an author. Just for the record, I got a 2:1 degree and worked hard to obtain it, I was even awarded the Overall Achievement award in my department which hangs proudly in my hallway to this day.
First thing, I don’t want people to assume that because I have Autism, that it’s because of it that I didn’t enjoy university! What I have had very little to do with it! University was a huge experience of my life, one I enjoyed but if I had the choice, I would go back and change my mind!
Just to note that this isn’t a blog trying to convince you to not go to University, just don’t go diving in head first without really thinking about it…Is it what you really want? It’s a huge decision in your life…one that could change it for the better or the worst.
Or if you have already been to University and have all those fond memories of it, I included because I have memories I’ll never forget as well but ask yourself this…was University everything that you had thought it would be? Have a think about it for a moment because as I look back on my 3 years, I start to think that my time hadn’t been anywhere near what I hoped it would have been and it made me feel a little bit sad.
Now, my first question is for anyone who has been to University, what did you get out of University apart from a lot of debt, a piece of paper saying ‘well done’ and a picture of you in wearing a square hat? For me, all of these things were true but don’t get me wrong, I did all of the stereotypical things expected of a uni student! Clubbing, making friends, joining societies, wasting my student finance, so why am I writing a blog a few years later saying that University is actually quite overrated?!
Maybe your time was well spent and you have no regrets, perhaps you got that job you were aiming for and have settled your debt already and maybe, just maybe you still keep in contact with all of you friends that you made during your time there…if so then congratulations, you lived a fantastic life as a uni student and you have my deepest praise.
As a child, I remember hearing from all corners that going to University was the dream, the way towards a successful life, you’ll make it in this world if you get a degree! If you didn’t, you’d just end up in some meaningless line of work and earn a minimum wage and never be happy!
The halls of residence were full of first years and some 2nd years students and all were there to experience that first year where you only need 40% to pass it, simple right? It’s no wonder that so many spend that time relaxing and going out to clubs for cheap booze, so many offers for students, it was unbelievable the number of coupons I would have pilled up on my window sill.
Making friends was pretty tricky for me and yes, my autism comes into play a little bit here because I am someone who can’t just dive right in and try to befriend everyone around me, my flatmates were friendly enough and I did plenty of things with them but for everyone else, I felt like I wasn’t that interesting to them and felt quite lonely a lot of the time.
Sometimes, it felt like I was the only person not enjoying themselves…seeing Facebook pictures of people having a good time, it stung a little bit and although I had done that myself, it didn’t feel all that genuine…It was like I was just there in the background, not because I was always wanted there. Now, I know that isn’t entirely true because if people didn’t want me there, I wouldn’t be asked to go out in the first place and my flatmates included me a lot which I always appreciated but it still didn’t stop me wanting to quit.
After a month, I remember certain people dropping out of their courses because it just wasn’t for them and that was worrying because so many people reach a point where they can’t carry on anymore! I nearly walked as well but my partner who visited me on weekends convinced me to stay and I’ll be honest here, the first time she went back home, I cried and begged her to stay because…I didn’t want to be alone.
Now I made friends but in the beginning, everyone was so forward and friendly that it somewhat put me off because of my nerves, it takes me time to get used to new people but here, groups are sorted within the first few weeks and it can be hard to get into afterwards so if your not quick with making friends, this might not be for you because a lot of pressure was something that I felt and I only just had about enough to hang on and not go home!
What annoyed me the most was how before I came to my university, was just how much I would love it! I’ll make all kinds of friends and be set for life with a really good job because that’s the only way to get one, right?
It’s true that University offers all kind of opportunities for a person to experience new things and meet new people but what if none of those things happens? Nowhere does it guarantee you that you will make new friends or gain anything out of university, for all you know…you could just be sat in your dorm room all day, alone and depressed because it wasn’t what you thought it would be…I mean you don’t know the type of people you’ll be living within your first year, that’s why most people choose who they live within the 2nd year…that is if you make any friends in the first place!
As the months roll on, I often found my class shortening and only having a couple of them a week, especially in the 2nd and 3rd years as we had big projects to complete and what not but it meant plenty of free time which for me was a lot of time just staying in my room and being alone, so I did my work like we were supposed to be doing but a part of me felt bad for not socialising that much, maybe it was my fault for not trying hard enough, was something I often convinced myself off.
With a lack of many friends, I decided to remain in halls for my 2nd and 3rd years and the amount of times I regretted it was unfathomable as all I got were a group of guys who would get drunk every night and never be quiet and a decent group but two of them got together as a couple and acted as if they ran the place…it was hell, to say the least, and I was glad when I graduated and moved in with my girlfriend…now my wife.
I came to a conclusion that it was a multiple of things that made me feel unhappy about my time at University, whether it was not making as many friends as I did, the lack of opportunities I thought I would have, missing family and friends back home, the bad flatmates in my 2nd and 3rd years or that I didn’t try hard enough to make those lifelong friends.
University is always made to sound amazing, a life-changing experience that you won’t regret and in a way…it’s true, despite my negatives about the whole ordeal, I have many positives as well but the truth is that many people won’t be able to handle it, the fast paced lifestyle you go through, the noise, smell and sound you go through on a daily basis when you have many others living around you…even in your 2nd and 3rd years, you might fall out with people…nothing is guaranteed in this romantasised action of being a student and living in a city or in some cases, another country.
I said earlier that I would stop myself from going to university if I had the chance, yet at the same time…I wouldn’t because I answered a lot of questions about myself by going so I don’t regret that at all…my time was fun, hard work and I went through a lot but fun none the less! I just wish I had considered other options like the open university or an apprenticeship instead or even doing a little bit of travelling with my girlfriend, the university felt like the only option at the time however and because of my autism, I spent most of my life trying to prove everyone wrong, that I was capable of doing what anyone else could if I tried my best…still, to this day I’m unsure if that was a major factor in going to university.
If I had one regret, it would be constantly comparing my time to others because seeing those pictures of people having fun, it made me feel bad about myself and put self-doubt onto me! A picture here or there doesn’t tell the entire story, behind a smile can linger sadness…more people than you realise aren’t having as good of a time at university as you think…the perfect lifestyle portrayed in the media isn’t as it says it is, many people struggle with the lifestyle and drop out once they realise.
Truth is, we have other ways of getting to a decent line of work, the university one is an expensive route that can lead you to it or you can spend all of that money and be left with nothing! Nothing is guaranteed so I’ll say it again…really think about it before you go because you have other options, an apprenticeship…do some travelling…do a course from home! Yet if you want to go to University and go through all of that, by all means, go for it! I won’t discourage you from it if anything I do recommend it but at least put a lot of thought into it! Many don’t and end up dropping out once they discover that they can’t cope or it’s the wrong time!
Funny thing is, in my 1st year of Uni…I entered a writing competition and wrote about my time and how I was really struggling to cope, all of the feelings I went through and it ended up in a book with other short stories so that was cool! If anything, it made me feel better and confident in myself once more, that I wasn’t wasting my time…I mean I got my degree, an award and technically, had a story published…not shabby if you ask me.