The disappointing reality of not having the amazing uni experience you expected

A common issue which is buried by social media

You’ve likely spent a significant period of your teenage life thinking about how class university life was going to be. Maybe living with your best friends, in your OWN house doing whatever you want, with no watchful eye of parents, getting shit faced throughout the week, doing a degree you’ve dreamt of for ages, making loads of new mates, and maybe just finally figuring out who you are.

The list of expectations is endless. And then when uni actually comes around sometimes it’s just not what you expected it to be, and you’re left rather underwhelmed. Sounds familiar? You’re definitely not on your own.

Of course, your housemates can be arseholes every now and then. Sometimes being rammed like battery hens in a sweaty Limelight isn’t what you expected. Maybe your course is just a bit shit compared to the sensationalised prospectus which sold it to you in Upper Sixth.

Freshers for me was more disappointing than the final season of GOT. I spent 99% of my time cooped up in Elms watching Gilmore Girls on loop and eating Mac ‘n’ Cheese day in, day out. I expected to have that unforgettable halls experience that everyone else seems to have, but I didn’t and that feels very isolating. Thank God for my boyfriend, who helped me the whole way through. But, not everybody is as lucky as I was and for people who maybe were not in my situation, this could have massive strain on them.

University is rather set in stone, but not everybody has this experience and in reality this isn’t your fault.  Some people may just have more socially active course mates or were lucky enough to be in halls with really outgoing people. Yes, Instagram shows the class craic you’ve had on a night out, but sometimes you go home, take off your makeup and just sit there in tears. You’re not alone.

Me (left) at one of my lowest points, despite what I was posting on social media.

We spoke to some Belfast students about their experiences. Of course, not everybody has bad experiences, but it is important to recognise that for a lot of people, this isn’t the case. All names have been changed to protect the identities of those who spoke to us. 

QUB Law Student Michael said, I really enjoyed when I lived in halls. I then changed course and was all set up to live in a flat with one girl which I thought would be amazing, and it was the opposite, probably the loneliest and most depressing times of my life were spent in that flat”.He added that despite living with course mates this year he still felt lonely, bored and unproductive. “I’ve decided to commute next year, because I know I will be much happier”.

Software Development student Charlotte added, saying “I didn’t really fit in that well. Therefore, I didn’t really make any new friends”.

Eimear, a first year PPE student said how she felt “lucky” because she came to Uni with her best mates, “but one dropped out after semester one and the other never goes to class. It’s unfair how much pressure is put on us to thrive at uni, people shouldn’t be made to feel like they are the problem if they don’t have a ‘normal’ experience”.

She added that coming into class alone can make uni feel like an, “incredibly lonely experience”. Especially hard when it seems that, “most people had already made friends and Queens never really encourages us to make new friendships”.

University can be the time of your life, just as much as it can be a nightmare. It treats everybody differently.

But university can also have a very positive impact on students across campus. Mature student Emma said, “I’ve met friends for life, and we talk to each other every single day. I know I’m lucky and I feel so sad for people that don’t have the positive experience which I have had”. Third year Economics student Cormac added to this that, “my classmates have made me enjoy uni way more than I thought I ever could”.

The takeaway here (and no, not a Winemark bag) is that no one should feel like they’re on their own at uni and it’s okay to voice your frustration. Everyone has low points and it’s hard when student culture is so romanticised and social media just slaps that across you non-stop.

If your experience hasn’t been quite what you wanted it to be, that’s okay and it does not mean that it is your fault. If things are rough right now from University in general or because of coronavirus, bigger things are coming and what is for you will never go by you. You’re not alone and you’re going to be okay.

For help and support:

QUB Counselling: 0808 800 0016 | [email protected]

UUJ Counselling: 028 9536 7000 | [email protected]

Inspire: 0800 028 5510