Everyone knows that you don’t go to uni for a degree. Nobody is going to care about your 2:1 in social sciences approximately 24 hours after the moment you collect your diploma, unfortunately. No, you go to uni to “discover yourself,” before you have to learn what words like “Slack” and “end of play” mean. You go to uni to meet your real, proper friends and catch STIs you haven’t heard of and learn how to live off pasta ‘n’ sauce powder and Richmond sausages.
According to most, uni is supposed to be fun and important. More so than school, and definitely more so than anything which happens afterwards. You’re supposed to try ketamine for the first time and bend your sexuality in different directions and form opinions based on books you have or haven’t read about philosophy. Then, when you leave, you’re supposed to spend the remainder of your 20s, 30s and 40s feeling misty-eyed and nostalgic about the good old days, back when you could sleep in until 1 PM and dress like Spinelli from Recess.
That’s how it often goes anyway. But also, it doesn’t always work out like that. When I close my eyes and remember uni, for instance, I don’t recall anything major happening at all. I didn’t move to a new city with a campus (I already lived in southeast London, where I studied). I didn’t make that many friends for life (casual friends and acquaintances yeah, but no one I’d cry down the phone to). I spent the majority of uni in a monogamous relationship (meaning casual sex was off the table). My mum lived literally down the road. Was it an important time? In some ways. Was it the best years of my life? Definitely not.
Shamefully, I don’t even remember attending graduation. While everyone was being photographed in their hired gowns by beaming parents, I’m pretty sure I was stoned in New Cross Gate somewhere, or else asleep, completely oblivious. You know that feeling when you’re watching yourself in a dream from above and it’s sort of you, but it sort of isn’t? That’s how I felt for the entirety of my uni years: as if I was physically there, but not truly there, not like everyone else seemed to be.
This might sound a bit depressing, but it wasn’t really. I did all the things you’re supposed to do at uni (awkward shags, questionable fashion experiments) at various other times in my life. I met my “real, proper” friends before and after uni. Going to uni also gave me access to a student loan, which in turn meant I was able to intern at the places I went on to work at afterwards. Uni had its pros and cons, but it was definitely less significant than other sections of my life so far.
While my experience was a bit more “meh” than Fresh Meat, many report having an actively shit time at uni. In a survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, possible clinical anxiety among students was recorded in 46 percent of men and 64 percent of women. Possible clinical depression was found in 12 percent and 15 percent respectively. Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, where you’re expected to have the Time Of Your Life, is obviously going to make some people anxious and miserable. It doesn’t help that you’ll probably be skint and hungover for three entire years. Then probably three more after that.
If you’re going to uni this September, you might indeed have the time of your life. You might dress up as a banana for nights out and play games like Ring of Fire and have a crush on approximately 28.5 people and love every second of it. You might have a weird and radical new haircut and spell your name with an “ee” instead of a “y” because you can now.
But also, you might have three extremely lacklustre years and make one single friend. You might look back and think, “Those 36 months were not worth 50 GRAND OF DEBT.” Either way, it doesn’t really matter. There will be other times in your life that you can’t get back. That’s literally how life works. Onwards and upwards.