Students today are overwhelmed with images and information telling them how to ‘do uni right’ and ‘make the most of your time’ there. We constantly hear that these three or so years are destined to be ‘the best days of your life’, leaving students who may not be quite so passionate about lonely all-nighters, constant stress and never having enough money to get through the week wondering how much worse it’s going to get. University students are typified as binge-drinking oversleepers, something which is apparently destined to provide us with fond memories for the rest of our lives. If you don’t fit into the category of constant clubbers or people who get a kick out of banging out an essay 43 minutes before the deadline, groups which unfortunately tend to be the more vocal and thus come across as the vast majority (although this may not be entirely accurate), you might feel a little alienated, or feel that you’re ‘doing it wrong’ or not ‘making the most’ of your youth-filled, eye-bag-less, stress-free years.
It can be difficult to embrace one’s non-uni-student-ness, particularly when constantly condemned for it and inundated with questions from family and friends at other universities about Oxford. Most of the time, its far easier to laugh a little, as if the question has brought to mind all those hilarious Oxfordtastic antics after chugging port at the bod and snorting cocaine off your top mate Johnny’s matriculash mortar board, and say you love it, and you’re having the best time EVER. (Try not to grit your teeth when you add the ‘ever.’) Alternatively, make the laugh genuine by amusing yourself with how little they will ever understand your suffering. The pressure to pretend its ‘all that’ can be overwhelming, and often can mean students conceal how they’re really feeling. The role of other students in constantly hyping up their experience doesn’t help, either. Often it becomes a competition of who can express the most aggressive enthusiasm for the new reading list, or getting back to Oxford for a night of unpacking before 9am collections – ‘Isn’t it just great to be back?!?!’
The toxic enthusiasm culture is a truly dangerous one. By sharing our struggles with one another, we help not only ourselves but others by reassuring them that they are not alone, and that we all go through the same things. I’m not suggesting we become more whiney (we’re already pretty great at that), but that we face our university experience with a more realistic and open attitude.
It’s ok to get in bed at 6pm with a cup of tea and doze off while rewatching ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’. There is no shame in occasionally locking your door for a few hours to get some space from your flat mates. If you haven’t been to Bridge all term, you’re not a loser. Not fitting the ‘university student’ stereotype shouldn’t mean anyone feels out of place, or isolated. And when your grandma asks ‘How’s my clever little darling doing?’ on the phone on Monday of 5th week, feel free to reply ‘Absolutely fucking awful, nan.’ You do you.