Monday, 28 May 2012

Talk About It

What an interesting couple of days!

A small group of us got together for our last official day of uni and it was perfect beer garden weather. There was a fantastic party atmosphere and we all agreed that we were glad we planned it. Later that night, I hope she doesn’t mind me publishing this, but my friend fell ill with chest pains and ended up going to hospital. It was nothing physically serious, but most likely a panic attack, brought on by the anxiety so many of us, myself included, feel when such an important chapter of our lives draws to a close.

University is a stressful, challenging time and a monumental change from school and sixth form and with the state of the economy and so few graduate jobs and rising tuition, there has never been a more difficult to enter or graduate further education. After chatting openly with friends and a quick Google, student depression and anxiety are far from uncommon, so why does no one talk about it?

I went to uni without thinking about it. I grew up hearing that if you did well in your GCSE’s, you went to college to study A Levels, if you did well in those, then you went to uni and got a great job afterwards. You also hear about the generic student lifestyle, that it’s a constant party, a good laugh and once in a lifetime experience. So kids move off to uni, fresh from school and eager for independence, however lacking the mental capacity or general know how to go it alone. One day you’re at home, the next you’re left alone in your new flat/student house, forcing yourself to interact and become instant best friends with your new house mates. Then of course for the students not lucky enough to be receiving money from their parents or having their rent paid, there is the sudden financial strain too.  Suddenly, maybe the work load is a shock. I quickly learnt that where I could wing it and do brilliantly in college, I actually had to put a lot more effort and research in at uni. Or perhaps the money runs out, or they regret their choice of university, or just find it hard to adapt to their new lifestyle and miss their old one. Perhaps they panic about what they will do after university. I experienced a few of these in my first year, some even in my second and third, and from what I understand, they are not uncommon experiences.

The thing is, no one wants to admit there is a problem. Whether its fear of failure, or just wanting to seem grown up and independent, or just not wanting to admit that it’s not all you thought it would be, people don’t talk about it. It’s so easy to compare lives with old friends on Facebook or Twitter, look at their fun night out pictures or statuses tagging their housemates and bragging about work experience and wonder ‘what am I doing wrong?’ No one wants to feel like ‘the one that couldn’t do uni properly’ or ‘the one that went to a crap uni.’

This is all without mentioning the workload and physical strain that can result in. I’d often find myself jumping out of bed in the middle of the night, thinking it was time to get up, or remembering something I just had to write down. I was tired all the time, caught every cold going and generally looked terrible.

Yet no one seems to want to admit to any of this. Bottling all of this up, it’s no wonder that students suffer from anxiety or depression, loneliness, homesickness and other disorders or emotions associated with them. It’s so much easier said than done to just get your head down, or ‘man up and get on with it.’It's not that easy. These emotions need to be recognised in students, and students need to start speaking up. Speak to your parents, speak to your friends. Even speak to your lecturers or a uni counsellor. Basically, this entry is to students, graduates and prospective students everywhere. It’s okay to not be okay, or to feel overwhelmed. It’s also okay to talk about it. I guarantee that regardless of how many happy Facebook statuses and ‘mad night on the lash’ photos you see, you’re not alone. Keep at it, and eventually you too will find yourself in the beer garden at the end of third year with a few of the wonderful people you’ve met, marvelling at just how far you’ve come, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. 

End of an era :) 

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