I Don't Fit Into The Student Stereotype And I'm Learning To Accept That
I’m a month away from finishing my second year of university and I’m only now really accepting the fact that I don’t fit in at university. Students are renowned for drinking and partying a lot, for late nights and late mornings and for generally living in the moment. This stereotype certainly isn’t true for most students and the conviction that students are lazy and don’t work hard is far from the truth, from my experience. However I have found that the drinking and partying part of student life is very much a reality and this, along with some other parts of living the student lifestyle, is just not for me.
As I wrote about in my blog post about being sober at Christmas, I’ve been taking some time off drinking due to health reasons. Most of my second year of university was in fact spent sober! My health has prevented me from enjoying drinking throughout my entire time at university though, although before going to university I drank alcohol regularly and was very much into partying. My 16 year old self would have been in their element at university, but my current 20-year old self, not so much.
It’s not only that I’m over getting drunk and going out which means that I don’t fit the student stereotype though. I think it’s also because I’ve become such an introverted person and university often feels like the land of the extroverts. You’re constantly encouraged to socialise and join societies and spend as little time on your own as possible, which, for me, is completely exhausting and detrimental to my mental health. However, spending time on my own can also be damaging to my mental health, as being alone at university can often be isolating and confusing when everyone else is spending most of their time with other people. I’ve convinced myself many times that I have no friends because I spend more time on my own than others when this isn’t at all the case, largely because I feel as though by spending so much time on my own doing mundane things (that I actually very much enjoy), I’m not living up to the expectation of university being the best and most social years of your life.
It’s all well and good to tell yourself that it’s okay to do university in your own way without living up to these expectations but it really is difficult to live your life in the way that you want when your whole existence revolves around your university, spending my time alone in a student house in a highly populated student area and the rest of my time on campus with other students. I’m constantly faced with examples of the ‘perfect student’ who is doing university in all the ‘right’ ways and feeling like I need to live like them in order to get the most out of the experience.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do this. Going out and drinking a lot, joining societies and spending all my time in the library despite the fact that I work better at home. When that failed, I’ve spent a lot of time considering whether I should give up and drop out. The prospect of dropping out is still an appealing one to me in all honesty. But when I’m thinking rationally I have to admit that I really do enjoy my course and that it would be silly to give up on it 2 years in with only a year left. So instead, for my final year of university, I really am changing the way I live and I couldn’t be happier about it.
(Just for some context, I study at the University of Manchester and live in Fallowfield, the aforementioned student area. My family home is around 30 minutes outside of Liverpool.)
My best friend from home, who studies in Liverpool and I, are moving in to a 2 bedroom flat together in the centre of Liverpool, a five minute walk from the train station that gets me to Manchester in 40 minutes. It’s not a student flat or in an area that is particularly highly populated by students and my friend and I are genuinely excited about the thought of a squeaky clean flat (we’re Mrs Hinch obsessed), which is a relief after living in mouldy and messy student accommodation for 2 years; the part of being a student that involves neglecting basic hygiene is especially not for me.
Admitting that I’m moving out of Manchester and away from the student lifestyle still feels like giving up in many ways and I still feel embarrassed explaining to people that it’s purely because I do not fit in to my current environment. But I’m trying to remember that there’s over 2 million students currently studying in the UK and it’s completely ridiculous to expect every single one of us to want to live in the same way for 3 of the most formative years of our lives.
I’m really excited about my third year at university, something I couldn’t have said about my second year 12 months ago. I think I’ve set myself up to live the type of life I want to be living and although I’m not expecting everything to be perfect, a very important lesson I’ve learnt during my time at university is to never expect anything to go how you think it’s going to, I’m hoping things will be better. If anything, I think the fact that I’m accepting that the ‘student life’ isn’t for me rather than forcing myself to fit into it to the detriment of my mental health will make me feel so much more content and happy.
If anyone has had a similar experiences or fancies a chat about their time at university, please do leave me a comment or send me a message on social media! As I mentioned, this type of experience can be really isolating and it’s always reassuring to speak to someone whose feeling the same way.