It’s coming up to that time of year again when students are eager to embark on their university journeys for the first time or continuing on their hard work for another year. It’s a time of excitement, adventure, and endless possibilities. For most, but not for all.
This is not your usual play hard, work harder pre-university pep talk. This is a raw if slightly uncomfortable take on university life. I will preface by saying that, whether you are studying on campus or online, I truly hope that you have the best time. I hope you make new friends, forge new relationships, gain all the knowledge your brain can hold, learn who you are and what you stand for, and that you become a wonderful, rounded human being.
But let’s be realistic, not everyone will. Some of you will be unsure that university is what you really want to do or if you will enjoy it and thrive in that environment. Some of you will be dreading returning to university life, to your living arrangements or your workload. Just know, that those feelings are entirely valid, and I urge you to find someone to talk to, although I know that that is easier said than done.
We still seem to have the attitude in this country that university is the be-all and end-all. That when we go to university and get a degree that the world will suddenly be our oyster and we can do whatever we want in life. That simply isn’t true. For some specific jobs sure, a degree is essential to breaking into such industries. For the most part, you can do just as well in life without a degree as with one.
All of this is to say, a piece of paper with your name and classification on it is never more important than your mental and physical health. It is surprisingly common for people’s mental health to decline at university, particularly in the first and last years. However, because it is common, it doesn’t mean that it should be accepted, ignored, or tolerated.
If you already struggle with your mental health, talk to your faculty before things get bad, have an open dialogue with your student’s union or lecturers and professors. If you don’t struggle with your mental health but are passionate about the subject, join or start a group where people are safe to discuss struggles they may be having, a weekly coffee or walk can do wonders.
I suppose my final points are: be kind to people, you don’t know what they might be dealing with, what they have had to leave behind, or what they have escaped from. It costs nothing to be kind. Most of all though, know that there is no shame in taking a break, or even dropping out entirely if that is what is best for your mental health.
It doesn’t mean you are a failure; it doesn’t mean that you have no future; it means that you are prioritising your health and wellbeing; it means that you will not become another statistic; it means that you have your entire life ahead of you.
Take care out there.