Starting university can be a difficult transition. There are so many things to be learned, both in class and at home. We may be doing our laundry, cooking, and managing roommate relationships alone for the first time in our lives. The learning curve is steep and often we make it steeper for ourselves.
Knowing your our boundaries at university
In the UK, when we think of going off to university, we think of freshers. Freshers’ week, of course. A lot of the activities and socialisation that we associate with university is centred around the consumption of alcohol. As well as the subsequent character-building scenarios we get ourselves into. To the extent that I personally know people who went to university solely for the social side and drinking culture so thoroughly entrenched in our higher education.
I am by no means against this culture, I am gutted that I did distance learning. My only experience of this is through my brother’s experiences and the few occasions I visited friends at their universities. I think that, within reason, it is an important part of the university experience. It allows otherwise sheltered students to experience different scenarios and different types of people. It gives us the opportunity to find out who we are and what we value in life.
Expectations and dynamics
However, I do feel that the socialisation expectations that many students have to make another, especially important aspect of growing up in university much more difficult. When we leave home to head to university, we are leaving the living dynamic we are used to.
There is often a set hierarchy in family households whereby our parents have the assumed authority. To get on our backs about schoolwork and homework, and to a certain extent in some relationships, keep us aware of the type of people we keep as friends.
At university, living in halls or student housing, a new dynamic exists with a completely flattened hierarchy. You are peers, you are on the same level. This means that things like chores have to be worked out and we can all but hope that everyone will pull their weight and get along with each other.
But let’s be realistic, that seldom happens. So, what are you left with? At best, a messy kitchen with mountains of washing up, at worst, an unbearably tense living situation just waiting to blow up.
Of course, none of this sounds like an ideal environment to live in at the best of times, but even more so when you are trying to adapt to independent studying with a specific end goal that could help shape the trajectory of the rest of your life. This is where being a boss comes into play. An important part of being an adult is setting boundaries and being firm with them. This is unfortunately one of the hardest parts of being an adult too.
The thing is, at university things feel like they happen in a vacuum, the most important thing to us at the time is the friends that we have made and what we feel are our obligations to them.
We might put off the studying that we were planning to do so that we can partake in the night out they have planned, we push it back to the next day but then we feel so awful then that we push it back again and before you know it, you’ve run out of days and have to pull and all night-er to get the work done.
Go to uni with a goal in mind, then have fun!
We’re led to believe that this fine in the first year because we all know the first year doesn’t count towards our classification so we can scrape by. But setting hard and fast boundaries a year in is much harder to do, and when we do get around to trying to set them.
We can feel like we are boring or a party pooper or generally worry that we are going to lose the close friendships we have built. Believe me when I tell you that you won’t, and you won’t lose your friends because sooner or later they will feel the same way as you and then they will be the ones setting boundaries with you instead.
At the end of the day, if you wanted to go to university for any reason other than to enjoy the cheap drinks in Uni bars, you went there with a goal in mind. It is entirely on you to make sure that you reach that goal and any other goal you set yourself in life and that means that at some point you’re going to have to set a boundary, or turn down an invitation, or head a house meeting about cleaning, you might even end up temporarily upsetting a friend or two, but they will get over it.
The big picture is what matters in life and while that can be difficult to remember when we have such great social prospects, we need to be true to ourselves and who we want to be in the future, and where we want to get ourselves in life.
A friend may be mad at us for turning down opportunities to party, they may even give us the silent treatment, but I promise you, that is easier to bear than waking up one day and regretting unchangeable decisions. In university or in life in general, brief discomfort is easier to swallow than a lifetime of regret.