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‘It's ok not to be ok’

Friday 11 September 2015 Student journalists

Student blogger, Rosalind Jana, took a while to adapt to university life.  Here she writes about her experiences and why freshers’ week isn’t always ‘perfect’.

I was so excited to get to university. A kind of I’ve-been-waiting-for-this-for-years excited. Finally, the chance to leave home and live somewhere new! All the academic possibilities – late nights in the libraries, so many books to read and ideas to think about! The friends, oh the potential new friends! The relationships opportunities! I was nervous too – but only as much as seemed natural for this big moment of change. 

What I didn’t expect was to cry lots during freshers’ week, or feel really out of place and unsettled for the first few months. I didn’t expect to ring my parents as I miserably trudged around the park, wondering why I wasn’t having ‘the best time of my life’. I’d assumed that things might be a little bumpy at first, yes, but that the novelty of new place, new people and new course would tide me through. And in some ways it did. I loved my course and the city I could call home. There were opportunities at hand on every side…

The whole social life bit though? That took a lot longer. Two or three friends I’d known beforehand became lifelines – café chats and late night adventures sustaining everything else. Often I felt horribly lonely though. I’d get back into my room in halls after spending the evening in the library and just lie on my bed, wondering if I’d made the right choice with my uni. Gradually though, that changed. I began to find others. Chance encounters led to good friends. By the end of my first year there were plenty – but what I’d assumed would be an instant set of connections was instead a slow burn process. 

There were lots of other unexpected things to negotiate too: a creeping feeling of my own inadequacy (in various ways); deeply missing family mealtimes and my dad’s laughter; anxiety over how I viewed myself and how others viewed me; questioning what I used to define my character and sense of self; frustration at not immediately finding some marvellous new friendship group, as plenty of others seemed to have done. I felt uprooted and at odds with myself.

None of this is written to suggest in any way that university is guaranteed to be difficult when you initially get there. Lots of freshers seem to slot into everything with relative ease – immediately finding people they love, and surroundings that suit them. Various friends of mine had an amazing time from the minute their parents dropped them off. But I don’t think we acknowledge how that’s not the case for everyone – and if things are feeling tough, just how normal that is. I definitely could have done with knowing that plenty of others were feeling nervous or unsure of themselves or somehow just a bit wrong in their surroundings. At first, when everyone is establishing themselves, asserting their status, and working out exactly who they are in this updated context, everything can be a bit bewildering.

If you end up finding things distressing or scary or affecting your ability to function, then it may be time to talk to your tutors and look into the university counseling system or other welfare options they have on offer. But if it’s more of a general sense of ‘what on earth am I doing?’, then all I can stress is that you are not alone. Plenty of other people up and down the country will be having similar misgivings and moments where they just want to curl up into a ball and sob.

Funnily enough, when I mentioned how I’d struggled at first to one of the guys I shared a house with in second year, he was shocked, saying “but you always seemed so together.” Personal anxieties aren’t always visible to the outside. My response to my nervousness was to put on the brightest lipstick and boldest clothes – dressing confidently, even if I didn’t feel it. Over time though, I did begin to feel it. I grew bolder and braver, and became perfectly happy to carve out my own path; doing what felt right for me, rather than what was expected of a ‘student lifestyle.’ 

And now, just as I’m about to begin my third and final year at uni, I love it. I have a wide and varied social group – some of them students, some of them not – and a lovely flat (life considerably improved when I moved out of halls). I feel like this place where I live is now mine – that I know, roughly, what I’m doing and where I’m going. It took time, but it was worth it.  I’m glad I can now recognize it's ok not to be ok at first.  I was doing just fine.

Follow Rosalind on:

Her blog: Clothes Cameras and Coffee

Twitter: @rosalindjana

Instagram: @rosalindjana