My University Experience

Hey guys,

So this post will be about my time at university. I really struggled with uni, however  I know a lot of people who have loved every minute of it, so if you feel as though you could be offended by anything on this topic, I wouldn’t read this post. This is my experience, it’s nothing to do with the friends I made – I did make some lovely friends. This is not a reflection of my friendships.

I was really excited to start uni. I’d been living in the states, so I was honestly looking forward to being in the UK where I was legal and able to finally go out! I love meeting new people so I was looking forward to that too – just the freedom! I couldn’t wait. All throughout my first 2 years, the social side of uni was amazing, but the academic side was always my biggest downfall. Since day one I felt as though I was so out of place. Everyone was so keen to get to know the lecturers and answer questions in the lectures and seminars, and I just wasn’t interested! I only got to know one of my lecturers, and that was because I had a full blown anxiety attack outside of a seminar class and he literally had to drive me home (a 45 minute drive – embarrassing isn’t even the word). First year was a breeze and looking back now I did the bare minimum – enough to pass. I just wanted to go out and enjoy myself! and I only ever seemed to be enjoying myself when I had a drink in my hand. So don’t get me wrong, I did have some AMAZING times, but they only ever seemed to be when I was on a night out or getting ready for one.

I got anxious whenever I had to go into uni, the horrible feeling in your stomach – every single time. I think people just thought I was lazy when I missed lectures but it was honestly because the feeling it gave me thinking about going in was so crippling I just couldn’t convince myself to go. I don’t know why that is yet. Maybe I’ve never felt as though I deserved to be there, like I’m not smart enough or worthy enough. I had a few comments by some people about our high school education, and they could not believe I had been privately educated and did really well – It was a huge surprise to them, but they commented in a really rude way that has stuck in my mind since they said it. It was as though they were saying there is no way you went to private school and there’s no way you got good results… One part of me thought, well we are at the same uni and we both had the same requirements so if you deserve to be here so do I, but the other part of me thought gosh maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m not ‘Durham Material’. I’ve always been life of the party and I love having a good time, but when it came to the academic side I was a recluse, I didn’t feel confident in my intelligence, and by the comments I got – no one else was either.

It was really lonely sometimes. Like I said before, most of my friends were so keen to get involved in the academic side, and the sports. I joined netball, which had training sessions every Tuesday and this was hard. I’d go from being so confident on a night out, to just unsure and self conscious. Anxious that people didn’t like me and were judging me and talking about me. There were so many confident people, I guess I felt inferior. I just couldn’t find my place!

At my uni during my freshers week we had Wreps and Freps looking after us during events in and out of uni, the Freps partied with us and it seemed like such a fun job to have. I tried my absolute best to get as involved as I can in first year, so I decided to apply for the Free job for the new freshers. Everyone I spoke to about it said I was pretty much guaranteed it, but I didn’t get it. I tried even harder second year to get involved with my college in every aspect, and I was told I was guaranteed it again, but I STILL didn’t get it. I just didn’t understand. At that point I just thought what is even the point? I had tried to hard and it didn’t pay off – in my social life and at uni – my work never seemed to get the top marks no matter if I spent every waking hour in the library and was confident in the assignment.

If you’d read my anxiety blog post, you’ll know that I had a really rubbish relationship for the first 2 years of uni, which really did not help at all – I should’ve known better really! I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted in my academics, I didn’t get the Frep position for the second time, my relationship had completely gone to sh!t and I just did not know what to do with myself. All I knew of uni was my relationship, so it was hard to see how I’d cope with not having that in my final year. I went to summer dreading going back. Luckily in the summer I met H, which turned my life around for the summer.. until reality hit us and it was time for me to be back at uni. By the Christmas holidays I was dead set I wasn’t going back. I thought about all the crap I had been through, the heartbreak, the let downs, the tears, yeah I only had 4 months left at uni, but WHY would I put myself through 4 more months of absolute misery when I’d already had over 2 years of it? It didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to be home with H, creating a life for us together – not sitting on my own in my uni bedroom not being able to get out of bed. Those last few months were torture. I stopped going out, I’d stopped going to netball training and stopped competing in the games all together, I didn’t socialize. I didn’t want to be there, and the whole time I was there I was depressed and anxious. Keeping up with friendships was too much stress for me, and I couldn’t handle it. Just having one conversation felt as though I had the whole world on my plate. It was horrible. I even missed lots of family events because I couldn’t bring myself to go, knowing I’d have to actually hold a conversation.

It got to a point where once I got within 5 minutes of university my heart would start racing, I’d feel teary and panicky – there was once my bus was super late, and I was going to be SO late to a seminar. I messaged my mum because I had gotten myself into such a mess about it, thinking what if I go in and he embarrasses me in front of everyone, what if he’s cross with me. She just said to knock, explain the situation and apologise for being late. I got to uni, got outside the room – at this point I was 35 minutes late, over half way of the whole seminar. I stood outside the room and I instantly began to panic. My breathing was fast, heart rate up, shaking, crying hysterically and I couldn’t speak. I ran to the uni student services to see if they could help me, but there were students in there – I didn’t want to wait too long as I wanted to go back to the seminar room and explain that I didn’t just not show up. I went back to the seminar room as time was running out, and as soon as he asked me what was wrong I burst into tears and couldn’t speak. He offered to drive me home, and I explained all my anxiety issues. He did his best to help me, he really made the last few months a bit more bearable – he excused me from an exam because I had missed SO much content, which did take the pressure off!

I haven’t stopped feeling anxious about uni until literally yesterday 20th June at 2pm. Which is the day I got the results of my degree. I have NO idea how but I managed to get an upper second class degree, which is just so bizarre to me. Feels like they’ve made a mistake but I won’t be saying anything!!. I finally feel like I’m free to be me and to get on with my life, it’s over and done with and I could not be any happier. I’m not sure if I’m glad I did it, I mean it’s great that I have a degree, and I didn’t quit (I rarely quit anything, it’s my biggest downfall sometimes!). But being at university made me into the person I used to be. It dragged me back and I was at square one. I won’t look at university as the best 3 years of my life, it’ll be 3 years of life lessons and tests of my strength! which I’m sure I’ll grow to appreciate, but for now I’m happy its over and I get to enjoy my life! Honestly I’m really anxious that I’ll go back to feeling crap again, especially when I have no reason to. It REALLY scares me. I just want to do things that make me happy, and I’m hoping this will be enough to keep my recovery moving forward rather than backward.

Like I said, uni is not for everyone. It really affected my mental and physical health, and to me nothing is worth that. In hindsight if someone had come to me and said that they knew 100% how my mind and body would react to the stress, I wouldn’t have even thought about going. Uni can be the best years of your life, unfortunately for me it wasn’t – but fortunately for me I’ve gotten through it with a good degree! If it’s taught me anything, it’s that I CAN overcome challenges, and I have strong willpower.

I wanted to write this because you hear a LOT about how amazing uni is and how it’s the best times of your life, and I felt a lot of pressure because of this. Pressure to have a good time, to make life long friends, to mature and have more responsibility. I don’t regret going, not at all – but I would have loved to have had someone been honest with me about their experience instead of painting a rosy picture.

YOU can do whatever you set your mind to. It will be hard, and you’ll want to quit, but let your feelings when you’ve finished be your motivation. The feeling of the weight lifting off your shoulders. Nothing is unattainable if you set your mind to it!

lots of love

Caitlan x

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