A year ago, I was considering dropping out of university. For the most part, whenever someone would ask me how I was enjoying my studies, I would tactfully remark “they’re going well” or “things are good”, leaving them unaware of my feelings towards higher education. But to those closer to me, my family, my girlfriend at the time, and a select few friends, I admitted that I didn’t think the student life was for me. The only part I really enjoyed was the independence. I had moved out of my home, made new friends, and was cooking for myself far more often than I did at home. It was a new experience, a supposed freedom that I was told to enjoy whilst it lasted.
A year has passed, and I’ve had a realisation and gained a new outlook. After one too many overly messy nights, I’m trying to cut down on my drinking. My grades haven’t been great, so I try to make more of an effort, even though it’s earned me a reputation amongst some of my classmates. And for the most part, I like to think I’m happier for it, because I’m finally starting to escape what I see to be the biggest deceptions about student life.
A lot of students go into university with the same mindset they left school or college. It’s not cool to give an answer unless asked, and drinking in bars and clubs is a new and exciting pastime. From my experience, seminars can often be a place with minimal discussion as no one wants to contribute. I am equally guilty of this problem, as in many seminars I’ve sat in silence, spending an hour hoping not to be picked upon. But if all students are determined to sit in this silent seminar, hour after hour, why are they really spending thousands of pounds on education? The idea baffles me, despite being one of the perpetrators of this offence. However, I’ve noticed that when people attempt to speak up in classes, they seem to be judged for actually doing what we’re sitting in class for. In one such lesson, I heard a classmate slyly remark that they wouldn’t have to do anything, because I would do all the talking. This shouldn’t be how students operate. University is attempting to mould us into the people we will need to be for the world of work, and we’re fighting it off its help in an effort to remain young and carefree. But it’s not getting us anywhere, and anyone who tries to escape is dragged back into the mass of uncaring drones.
However, students are often more than happy to regale each other with tales of drunken exploits. Again, I’ve been prone to do this, drinking on a far too regular basis over the summer holidays, something which earned me a bit of a reputation amongst some of my friends. However, as one of my closest friends exclaimed months ago, the whole thing has started to lose it’s appeal. I’ve come to realise as of late that I had forgotten exactly how good a cold glass of coca cola tastes, or a sweet black coffee as opposed to an alcoholic a mixer. Now, I’m all for drinking when the occasion commands, and a cold pint is very welcome after a long hot day. But the drinking culture that’s overtaken youths is getting a bit tiresome. Maybe it’s because I’m currently taking a module on the history of alcohol in North America, and history’s lessons are actually getting through to me, or maybe it’s because I’ve again been reminded of the indignity that alcohol brings. In 1920s America, young men would often gather together and form social clubs, where they could relax, drink, and escape the social problems that plagued them during the day. However, the rise in heterosocial culture combined with several other factors would eventually draw them back out of these clubs, and into the wider world. It’s a perfectly acceptable stage of life that’s clearly been going on for decades, but I feel like it’s finally time for me to try and do better.
What this has all made me realise is the real benefit that University has given me. All the time, lecturers and career advisers encourage students to get involved. Parents urge their children to make the most of their time in University, as apparently it’s all downhill afterwards. And while for the longest time, I’ve been ignoring the advice of pretty much everyone, I’ve finally begun to understand. In the past few weeks, I’ve been finding new ways to occupy my time; volunteering, applying for the position of student ambassador, or even, more conventionally, casual visits to the film society. For the first time in ages, I’ve got goals and motivation. I’ve realised new favourite pastimes. Cooking. Watching new films. Burning incense. Drinking coffee. (And, unfortunately for my wallet) Comic hunting on eBay. Simple menial things that I’ve been doing for years, but only recently realised how I enjoy them far more than drinking and the other staples of ‘student life’.
Which is really just as well, because from here on out, things actually count, and frankly despite my previous claim that I have faith things will work out, that’s quite frightening.