Your say / University of Bristol

‘University will most likely fall short compared to the perfect story that you have in your head. That’s okay’

By afua owusu ansah, Wednesday Oct 2, 2019

They say the first year of university is the best year of your entire life. Experiences you had only imagined turning into a full-fledged reality.

Endless fun at cheap clubs; exciting lectures with like minded people; late nights of dancing, laughter and fun with a huge heap new friends for life and finally feeling whole. This idea that leaving the nest would give you a chance to finally soar is one that a large majority of us first year undergraduates held dear. But it’s not the case.

I’d only been at university for a short time when I had these feelings creep up on me – don’t get me wrong, I had some really enjoyable moments and met some really great people. However, the presumptions that I had created in my mind of what my first year of university would be like hadn’t matched my wildest university dreams.

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Afua questioned whether she was living the ‘proper” university life. Photo by Alastair Brookes, Entirety Labs

At first I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Due to social media I had a looking glass into everyone else’s perfect first year experience and this added some weight onto my sadness. I must’ve been doing something wrong as all of my other friends at university were meeting the expectations I had for myself.

Was I really doing this whole ‘fresher lifestyle’ correctly? This led to even more questions of: “Should I be going out more? Should I be making more of an effort with every single person I meet? Should I sit next to a new person in every single lecture and seminar?’

These questions were swirling around in my mind and soon grew into insecurities I had about myself. I began to feel my mental health decay without a clue of what to do.

As upset and confused as I was, I didn’t want this to crush me. I didn’t want to give up the hope that I could achieve my fantasy of a perfect first year experience. This led me to do a lot of deep thinking, researching and talking to older friends on how to combat my self deprivation.

All of this led me to the conclusion that there is no perfect first year experience. Yes, I should make an effort as I’m in a new place but I don’t have to try and impress everyone I meet. There is no guide on how to act, or what to say. The perfect answer that I’d been looking for doesn’t exist and never will.

Afua studies at the University of Bristol

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the expectation of what university is like will most likely fall short compared to the perfect story that you have in your head: and that is okay. We shouldn’t let our mental health deteriorate because we aren’t living the life our minds have created.

The harder we hold onto these expectations, the more likely they are not going to please us. So go out there and let your story unfold naturally. Ignore what everyone else around you is doing with their first year and try to understand what makes you happy, the rest will follow suit. If we have no expectations, then nothing can go wrong.

At first I thought that university was completely demolishing my idea of who I am; but it turns out this little dose of loneliness is helping me understand who I am better.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Afua Owusu-Ansah

Afua Owusu-Ansah is a second year Sociology student at the University of Bristol

Read more: ‘How universities can support student mental health and wellbeing’

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