Can a Bad University Experience Produce a New You?

bad university experience

The University Dream may not work out quite as planned, but sometimes a bad experience gives you perspective. Give yourself a chance to turn it around.

The metaphorical ‘they’ always used to tell me that university would be the best years of my life. They said I’d make life-long friends and life-long memories. They were wrong. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing, because I managed to learn so much more from my bad university experience this way.

In all three years of university, I ran the course of petty dramas, bullying, fair-weather friends and heart-breaks right through to panic, anxiety attacks and depression (caused by the aforementioned plus a long and convoluted back-story). My university years started to feature an enforced theme of ‘me against the world’, because whenever things became increasingly tough I seemed to become increasingly isolated.

After one of the worst nights during my darkest point, my friends either rejected my phone calls or texts because they were busy, just about to sleep, or most infuriatingly, felt I was being ‘attention-seeking’. I booked myself into counselling (hey, if no one was going to help me, then I’d have to help myself, right?). I gave up on my friends and called my heavily pregnant cousin, who drove the hour-and-a-half journey to take me to dinner.

I don’t know what it was about the people I met. In my wide-eyed idealism I thought I would meet intelligent and kind people who I could share many amazing experiences with and be brought together with that mutual feeling of after-teens-before-adulthood liminality. After all, my schoolmates from back home had found that. Hell, even the people I had met at university had found that, just not with me!

There had to be something wrong with me then, right? Surely this meant that I was doing it wrong? I was being a human wrong, because it seemed like I was the only one who was not getting this whole University Thing right.

Of course, that isn’t true. There’s no such thing as a University Thing. Some people may get the ‘whole experience’, the best friends and memories, while others don’t. Some people go without even wanting to make friends, focusing solely on their education. And some people forego the whole university experience altogether, preferring to start a family or go straight into work or whatever it is they want to do. And it’s all fine! There’s no one way to live your life, which is why I can’t look back at my three years and regret it.

Sure, I wish I didn’t have to suffer through all the crap, but now that it has happened the best I can do is learn from it, because I am so much stronger than I was when I first started. I’m no longer ashamed to ask for help because I feel like my problems aren’t important enough, or that I’m being silly and childish. Experience is relative – you will never know completely how another person feels and vice-versa – which is why you should never be ashamed of your weaknesses or shame others for theirs. I found that there were people I could rely on. There is always someone: a parent, a cousin, a friend, a stranger or even a pet. Someone who definitely cares about you, who doesn’t think you’re an attention-seeker or a nuisance, and just wants you to be happy.

And at the end of it university is, after all, for the education. How often will you be in a place where you are surrounded by the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake? And thinking back, I did make memories. The setting sun over the university campus as I walked home after a particularly satisfying seminar. The creative writing workshop where we finally stopped being polite around each other and got round to dishing out real criticism. A lecturer getting a little bit too excited over the ball scene in Pride and Prejudice. Receiving a hug from my favourite lecturer when I graduated. I’m a massive nerd, and proud of it, so my most precious memories will be those associated with my lectures and seminars. And I feel pretty good about that.

SoI came out of my three years with a pretty stellar degree, and moved back home to do a Masters at a different university. I was ready to be in a completely new environment with completely new people, anddetermined to do myself proud and to not become jaded and misanthropic; and to above all count my blessings and be there for people when they needed me to be.

In the end I found the moral to my own story. Time for the sequel!

Finding it hard to cope? Organisations like Young Minds and Samaritans can help.