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Transferring uni from Bristol to Exeter was the best decision I’ve ever made

It’s okay to admit when something isn’t right for you


All students have been there: the anticipation, nervousness and stress that all lead up to hopefully being accepted into your dream University after months of work. The promise of new friends, new experiences in a new place all whilst doing minimal work seems like a dream too good to miss, and for many students it is.

However, this isn’t true for everyone. It's like a taboo to even speak about not having the time of your life at university. There is so much pressure on students to have the best years of their life at university that there's even shame in admitting that this isn't the case.

When I first arrived in Bristol ready for what I was sure would be three years of non-stop enjoyment I would never have imagined that in less than four months this would leave me the unhappiest I had been in years.

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The classic moving into halls Facebook post, probably the happiest I looked all year

I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone because at university it seems like everyone around you is having the best time possible, and it wasn’t until I finally told my best friend from home how I was feeling that I realised maybe my situation wasn’t as uncommon as I thought. I felt like I was wrong for feeling the way I did, because everyone's meant to enjoy university.

A combination of missing friendships I’d established at school, a lack of proper working structure and feeling like I had no one to talk to left me feeling deflated and unmotivated. I knew that if I stayed on at Bristol, I would be wasting university altogether.

It’s no secret that Bristol’s student satisfaction is far from impressive. My halls featured a boarding school like structure of wardens and senior residents monitoring the behaviour of students, which is ironic considering many students are attracted to uni because of the new found freedom it offers.

Although Bristol is a prestigious uni, it seems to operate on an out-dated principle that cares only about the academic success of their students, rather than their overall wellbeing, which is reflected in the intensely criticised mental health services on offer.

Obviously the unhappier you are, the more your academic performance is going to suffer so at Bristol it is easy to get stuck in a downwards spiral of feeling like a constant failure.

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I liked my course and I knew I wanted to continue studying, but the thought of leaving Bristol and starting from first year somewhere else and the potential for it to go exactly the same way just in a different city was a risk I couldn’t take.

At this point, I had no idea universities accepted students straight into second year and then when I looked into this, it seemed the people who had successfully done so were few and far between. But I couldn’t continue the way I was feeling.

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9ams aren't so bad when this is your view

The process was hard. When I visited Exeter I was reassured by one of the admissions team that, although it is rare, provided the two universities overlap enough in their course content in first year, you can join into second year. You just need to have high enough grades – in my case a 2:1.

Having this goal gave me the motivation that I needed to not just finish first year, but to achieve higher grades than I would ever have imagined I would get considering how unhappy and unmotivated I was in previous months.

A year ago, the prospect of spending a further two years in Bristol was something that I couldn’t possibly fathom. If I hadn’t had the bravery to admit how I felt at university despite feeling like I was completely alone in this then I’m certain I would have dropped out altogether by now.

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Me and Dani, probably wine drunk and reflecting on how good our decision to change unis was.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting when something isn’t right for you. The more I speak to people about how I felt the more common I realise it is. I just wish that the prospect of not enjoying university wasn’t such a taboo subject, because if this was the case then maybe there would be more support available for students who were left feeling as disappointed and alone as I did.

The journey to changing universities felt like a lonely one, but when I arrived at Exeter I realised how right the decision had been. Within a week I felt more comfortable than I ever had at Bristol. Maybe this was the fact I was no longer living in halls, something I had been desperate to move out of, or maybe it was the campus structure of the university provided such a great sense of community, but something just felt right.

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What really proved to me how good my decision had been was in my first week at Exeter when met my now best friend Dani who, in possibly the weirdest of coincidences, had also transferred to Exeter into second year from Cardiff. If nothing else, this proves to me how if you are unhappy at university, you certainly aren’t the only person who feels that way.

I would never have believed you if you had told me at the beginning of my fresher’s week that my first year would go the way it did. All the fun and excitement I was imagining turned into the most unexpected and difficult year of my life.

There were definitely times I felt like giving up, but I couldn’t be happier or more proud of myself for admitting how I felt and doing something about it. Now that I have come out the other side, I know that Exeter has given me something I could never have imagined when I was at Bristol: genuine happiness.