Not Enjoying Uni? It Can Get Better.By "Joseph41" in HSC
14th of September 2018
So, for context, I started uni with very little idea of what I wanted to get out of it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I’d been so focused on just getting through Year 12 that, in all honesty, uni had always seemed like a bit of a mythical concept – always on the horizon, but never really that close.
When it became a reality, I just wasn’t prepared.
Yeah, the greater independence was nice. It was great having more flexibility over my life, and choice in what I studied. But I struggled with the lack of structure, the different social dynamics, and the altered academic expectations. By close to the end of my first year, I was considering taking time off, and deferring indefinitely to do “something else”. What that something else was, I wasn’t exactly sure – but I certainly didn’t want to continue with uni at the time.
But I didn’t do that in the end. I stuck at it, gradually became more used to the university lifestyle, and ended up absolutely loving my time at uni. So much, in fact, that I pursued an Honours year, and would love to return to the university atmosphere at some point in the future. If you’re feeling similar things to what I was near the end of my first year, I feel you. I feel you strongly. But whilst dropping out might seem like the easiest option, it might not be the best one for you. Here are some thoughts on the whole “adjusting to uni” thing.
Sometimes, it just takes time.
Realistically, uni is very different to school, and that’s okay. You shouldn’t be expected to find your feet straight away. You shouldn’t feel like a failure if you take some time to adjust, as I did. It’s very understandable that, after more than a decade of going to school, starting out at uni is a bit of a change.
It’s not just the physical environment or classes, either, but the social side of things. At school, you probably know most people – at least by sight. At uni, you can basically be entirely anonymous should you so wish. And after climbing the high school ladder to finally be at the top of the school in Year 12, you’re all of a sudden back a the bottom again.
At least, this is how I felt – and I was a bit disillusioned. But as I progressed through my degree, I started to realise a few things.
Firstly, people don’t really care. I felt judged as a first-year, and felt as though I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where I was meant to study, I didn’t know where I was meant to eat. This really lasted until the start of my second year, when I realised that nobody really knows – no matter where they are in their degree. There is no right answer, and you should just do whatever makes you most comfortable.
Secondly, the more familiar you become with your surroundings, the more comfortable you’ll become. In particularly my first semester, I was anxious even about the bus commute to uni, making sure I didn’t miss my stop. But the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. You’ll soon be much more comfortable with uni lifestyle.
And thirdly, the longer you stay somewhere, the more you come to appreciate it – at least, this was the case for me. It was true of primary school, of high school and, eventually, of university.
What you’re studying matters.
My first year was largely spent studying introductory units to areas I’d never really studied that much before. As a result, concepts were broad; I was basically just dipping my toes in a whole bunch of different subjects.
This was great in some ways. But in others, it meant I felt as though I wasn’t really learning much of significance. The longer my degree went, the more specific my units became, and the more I enjoyed learning about areas in which I was genuinely interested.
Now, this may not be the case for you. You may have realised that the degree you’re studying just doesn’t sit right – and that’s cool, too. Transferring is a very real option, and it may surprise you how common it actually is. You can read more about transferring uni degrees here.
Hopefully, though, you’ll be able to narrow down what it is you’re most interested in, and focus on that the further you progress in your degree. This really helped me when it came to motivation and, indeed, general happiness when studying at uni.
Try to get more involved.
There are heaps of opportunities out there. Clubs are plentiful and varied. The great thing with uni is that, in all likelihood, there’ll be other people studying there who have similar interests and passions to you. It’s simply a matter of finding those people. And you’re probably not going to do that by rocking up for the occasional class, sitting by yourself, and then going home (don’t worry, though – I, too, find this appealing).
The longer my degree went, the more I felt compelled to just, y’know, do more things. I started joining some clubs and doing some volunteering work, and that was really beneficial for me. Some of my closer friends from uni came from those volunteering pursuits, as I found other people with similar goals and interests.
Doing this means that uni is less a chore, and more a hobby. Of course, you’ll still have the academic demands that come with uni, but you’ll also be intertwined with the university community, and that’s a wonderful thing.
You should talk to people.
If you feel as though you’re struggling or don’t really know where to go with your degree (or life), talk.
Talk to your friends, to your family, to your colleagues. If your university has a support team or student services, speak to them. That’s what they’re there for.
I stumbled through uni and managed to get back on track as I progressed through, but honestly, I think it would have been a whole lot easier had I not tried to internalise all of my doubts and fears. If you don’t feel as though you have anybody with whom to throw around ideas, make a thread in our university discussion boards. There are many, many current, past and future university students there willing to hear you out and pitch their two cents.