Transition

A new academic year, a brand new blog. Yes, I’m Bridget Jones today, hiya.

I wanted to cover a topic that I’ve seen discussed quite a bit lately: university life. On vlogs and blogs, from friends and strangers, there has been talk of freshers and work and the pressure to fit in with the university way of life. And, god, is there pressure to fit in. Not to conform necessarily, but to be a person that other people can accept. It’s so not my forte.

I’m a little bit a lot weird. Evidence my point? Okay. I talk excessively about my obsession with fictional White House staffers. I like my socks to have animal patterns. I imagine cars to have faces. When lecturers include pictures of politicians from the first half of the 20th century in their powerpoint presentations, I often mutter to the person next to me, “He can get it”.

To the people reading this, all weird in your own ways I would hope, don’t alter your quirks. They are yours and when you lose those little things, strange as it may sound, it is everything. Let me explain.

I’m currently in the first term of my first year as an English student at Bournemouth University, though I wouldn’t call myself a fresher. In May of this year, I was taking my second year exams for Event Management. Over the course of those two years, I became increasingly depressed, with a side order of insomnia. I was desperately unhappy for so many reasons, the biggest of which was loneliness.

I was good at my course. I worked hard. I finished the second year with a high 2:1. However, the overwhelming number of group work assignments meant that I was often left carrying the load of four people. Added to that, the general profile of my fellow students was so at odds with my own personality that I struggled to find friends, and my sobriety made me a social pariah. I was acting like a distorted version of myself, because I felt that I couldn’t be me. Nevertheless, I coped relatively well in the first year. I kept my head down, I got the grades and no one questioned it. I couldn’t accept the idea of quitting or failing. A conversation I’d had with my father on A-Level results day was always at the front of my mind. He’d told me I was the first person in his family to go to university, and he was so proud. My desire to justify that pride tortured me.

At the beginning of my second year, concerns that I had previously been able to keep at bay became overwhelming. I was so deeply depressed that I didn’t want to leave the house. To make matters worse, I wasn’t sleeping at night. Right up until Christmas, the rest of the world was still relatively oblivious. People I was working in groups with probably thought I was just very highly strung, but other than that no one knew anything. I would go to my lectures and seminars, reluctantly, do what I had to and rush home to cry in my bedroom every single day. I felt pathetic. In January or February time, my façade began to fracture when I burst into tears in my mum’s office.

I don’t cry in front of people. It’s not a thing I do. This was the first time my mum had seen me get upset in years, and she didn’t seem to know what to do with me. Afterwards, I brushed it under the carpet.

Nothing happened again until May. Between my first and last exam, I fell apart. During another sleepless night, I had a light bulb moment. This is going to sound like a bizarre thing to make life-changing decisions over, but it was this quote from Bradley Whitford’s commencement speech:

 “Fall in love with the process and the results will follow. You’ve got to want to do whatever you want to do more than you want to be whatever you want to be. Want to write more than you want to be a writer, want to heal more than you want to be a doctor, want to teach more than you want to be a teacher, want to serve more than you want to be a politician. Life is too challenging for external rewards to sustain us. The joy in the journey.”

For some reason, it took me until then to actually identify how deeply unhappy the course was making me and how lonely I was. The pressures of two years of work, two years of finances and the screaming thought of, “What the hell do I do if I’m not doing this?!” made it hard to accept that my degree was wrong for me. I knew in my heart I wanted to be studying English; the process of writing was what I loved. In fact, recreationally I was writing more than ever during this time. It was my escape for so many months.

The conversations with my parents were incredibly emotional, as was that whole period of my life. With the support of my best friend, I pursued the application to transfer courses within the university. I completely believe that everything that it meant to me translated onto the page of my personal statement, and that’s what did it.

Now, here I am. I’m an English student. I really like the people on my course. The fact that I’m weird doesn’t seem to bother people so much here. I mean, I still live in the real world so I can’t be as Lorelai Gilmore as I’d like (pop culture references that people don’t get just result in awkward moments), but I’m happy.

Ultimately, what I’m saying is: changing courses isn’t easy, but it isn’t quitting. If you are unhappy, address it. Until you do, it won’t go away. In my experience, denial just breeds further unhappiness. And you deserve to be happy. Your journey at university should be an enjoyable one.

Open up and be a little cray; it’ll lighten the load.

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2 Comments

  1. ordinaryvictoria

     /  November 3, 2012

    I relate to this so much Jess. My family were so proud of me for going to University, but two months in, I hated the place. I hated the people. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the course, I just felt like I couldn’t do it, but the thought of disappointing everyone, it absolutely killed me. I wasn’t sleeping either, I was so unhappy that I would just sit in my room most of the time, eating packets of Oreos and binging on Netflix. Obviously there were other reasons for going to Uni, but none of them were for me. Leaving Uni was the best decision I ever made, I went back to college and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’m so happy you were able to change courses and be a lot lot happier too (:

    Reply
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