Why I’m Struggling With University

It’s hard to admit that you don’t enjoy an establishment that is marketed as a validation of your intelligence, and the only ticket to a good life.

To me, university was always built up to be this amazing experience that would enrich my learning.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not enjoying it. And it really is freeing to admit that.

I looked on it not only as a further fundamental step in my education, but as a whole new life. No wonder it has not met my absurdly high expectations.

I do love my university as a place — it is absolutely gorgeous. The University of Western Australia has beautiful grounds, amazing buildings and little niche spots that you only find by being here. Out of all the universities in WA that I looked at, it was the only one that inspired me. And it still does, to be fair. But not in a way that makes me want to study… It inspires me to write mostly. I have a notebook that I carry around and scribble in like a raving lunatic, and that’s lovely, but it certainly doesn’t lead to passing grades.

I have been thinking about why I’m not enjoying university, and I think it comes down to a lot of things.

Firstly, it is described to us when we are younger as an essential step in reaching our full potential in life. We are made to feel that we need to go to university and study something just to prove our worthiness or our own intelligence. For me, that led to me jumping head first into a course that I don’t particularly enjoy.

I wanted to become a teacher, but once my ATAR came back as higher than anyone expected for me (because for the amount of work I did and for how much care I put into my work, my ATAR should have been half what I got) people around me pressured me to change my mind to something seen as more important by society. Law, for example.

I don’t know if you know me very well, but I would not suit law in the slightest. I also would not suit psychology, which was also suggested to me.

I don’t like the idea that your achievement or the importance of your contribution to the world is directly equivalent to your wage, or how hard your university degree was.

In the end, I settled for a double major in Politics and International Relations/Communications and Media. To be honest, I’m not really enjoying it. I dread class, rather than look forward to it. And as much as people say that you can change courses as much as you like in your first year, $3000 is a lot of money to waste in just one semester.

When I picture myself in the future, I don’t see any particular career standing out to me. I don’t want a life based on a black and white career. I want to travel and be happy and do something I love, not for money but just because I want to. I think that is why I make YouTube videos and blog posts – because in some way I hope that that could end up being my future. Impossible goals, I know.

Another reason I think I’m struggling is because I was one of the many people who grew up thinking that they were special, and oh-so intelligent – because that’s what people told me as a child! To be suddenly thrust into the position of being the teeny tiny fish in a big ocean is petrifying! It’s really set me back a bit, which may sound absolutely ridiculous and privileged but it’s still how I feel.

Thirdly, I never studied or worked much during school and I was lucky that this didn’t affect me at all really. I read through the textbook before an exam and could remember most, and BS the rest…. and I ended up doing pretty well when I graduated. I got an ATAR score of 93.5 which isn’t amazing but it is more than I deserved with the amount of work I put in. (For those not in WA, an ATAR of 93.5 means that I scored in the top 6.5% of the state). Because of this, I never learned my lesson. I never had that ‘oh crap’ moment where you realise that you can’t just skate by in life without putting work in. So, I have no study skills whatsoever.

Linking in with this is the fact that I am the self-appointed queen of procrastination. I can waste a week staring at the walls rather than get down to study… so I’m being left behind at uni (entirely my own fault, I know!).

As well as the study, university has a big aspect of partying. I’m not a homebody, but I definitely don’t enjoy parties. As someone with anxiety, they make me very nervous, especially if the people I’m with are all drunk. I have only been to one party that I genuinely enjoyed. All of the others have made me nervous. At university, parties are on a much bigger scale. A rave I went to with a bunch of friends was so hectic that I had a panic attack (which is very rare for me). And that’s just a crappy feeling that I don’t want to have. I’m lucky that I had one lovely friend who came and looked after me!

Ultimately, it’s hard to fully invest myself into university because deep down I know it’s not really what I want to be doing. I want to be travelling, and enjoying my life, because I don’t want to die only knowing education from within four walls – I want to learn from the real world, and I want to be helping people and making a difference in others’ lives. I don’t feel like I’m doing that where I am.

I don’t know what I will end up doing. I may drop out, or defer, or just suck it up and finish the course. I don’t know.

But I know that what I need to do is do what makes me happy. It’s the time to kind of say to hell with what other people want me to do with my life, because I know that they mean the best, but I’m the only one who can decide for me.

P.S. I am not unhappy or anything – I don’t enjoy university, but I’m still doing fine in life, this is just me venting, rather than me breaking down!

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