I’d rather drop out of university than have to self-isolate in halls again

I’m a first year, this is the only university experience I know


I’m a fresher at a Russell Group University, studying Film and Media. I’ve only been a fresher for two months, but I’m already considering dropping out. At the beginning of September, I moved into my halls and like millions of other students, I was full of nerves. To begin with it was just the typical fear going to university and living by myself, so the first few days were rough but it got better. This was before the 10pm curfew and tightened restrictions, so I was able to go out and meet a few new people. But my university life within those first few days is incomparable to how it looks now.

For me, the problems really started when my flatmate had coronavirus and we both got tested – I came back negative, her positive. This meant that while we were both self-isolating we couldn’t see each other or speak to each other in person because I didn’t want to risk getting the virus, and my other flatmates are international students who keep to themselves and don’t really leave their rooms. She was my only established friend at uni. This was the start of my low point.

I’m an optimistic person and before I got my results I thought two weeks didn’t seem so bad, I could just watch Netflix and do uni work and I would be fine. But the day I got the news it just hit me and I called my family and cried to them on the phone about what I was about to go through. During those two weeks I felt so isolated and so lonely. I lost my appetite and struggled to eat anything at all, which was really scary.

It was so bad that I made the decision to go back home after my self-isolation period. Going home was most definitely the right decision for me but it didn’t just magically stop all my problems.

I have been home for around four weeks now and I still struggle having some low days. I’m very anxious about the future, especially the fear of going back to university and having the same negative experience I had before. Going home hasn’t stopped these thoughts, even though I’m in a safe environment now I still feel the presence of those darker times so strongly.

This is the first time I’ve ever been to university, this is all I know, which is scary to think about because I have three more years of this. It honestly petrifies me, and makes me feel as though I don’t want to leave home again. It’s even made me consider possibly transferring to a university closer to home or even dropping out – which I don’t want to do, because I do like my course and I am happy with the teaching and what I am learning. That’s how hard it has been. It’s forcing these kinds of decisions. Decisions I don’t want and shouldn’t have to make.

Coming home was a must for me, but I was under the impression that when I came home everything would just be fine, but it isn’t and that’s okay. Going home was like retreating to a safe environment for me, but you can’t run away from your mind. You need to work through your problems, and the place you do that doesn’t really matter. Although being at home alleviated the extra stress, it didn’t cancel out my poor mental health.

At home my mind doesn’t suddenly stop, I don’t suddenly stop thinking about how bad my time at university was, or how bad it might be in the future. I have a really great support system around me, I’m very close with my family and friends. I talk to my mum about everything and I am always open with her. But as much as she helps me, she’s not a professional.

Earlier this week I got in contact with my university’s counselling service and sent off a form, but I just received an email saying the waiting list is four weeks for regular counselling. They’ve offered “book on the day” appointments, although I’m not sure how helpful these will be because I feel I would need prolonged help rather than just a phone call.

But I can safely say that I’m in a worse place now than I would have been had I not gone through that time in halls. Because, at the end of the day, they are not made for sitting in 24/7. Self-isolating in an unknown environment, alone and unsupported it’s a horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I hope everyone benefits from the Christmas break, but we (and the government) shouldn’t assume it’s going to restart students’ mental health ready for January.

None of us are the same as when we arrived. And I think that the decision the government and the universities made to allow students back to university in September was the most selfish and money hungry thing they could have done. My story is not the only one of its kind, and it was totally foreseeable that students would have these problems, but no one seemed to care. Universities knew that most, if not all lessons would be online but still gave students hope that a somewhat normal university experience was possible. It’s not. Money from rent was the top priority in this situation, not the mental health of the student population and not the long term consequences that these mental health problem will have; that is deeply worrying.

The government and universities need to do better. And it is finally time that the government take this seriously. Because once the coronavirus pandemic is over the mental health epidemic, especially among the student population, will be the next big challenge the government has to face.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.

The Tab’s You Matter campaign is putting a focus on student mental health right now. If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s difficulties with getting uni support, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

You matter.

Read more from The Tab’s You Matter campaign:

• ‘I left halls because of mental health and they told me to drop out or keep paying rent’

• University confessions page admins say suicidal posts have doubled

• Going home is not a magic fix for every university student. Stop treating it like one