Are you entering university soon? Or, are a few weeks in and discovering what university has to offer (albeit a less complete experience thanks to COVID)?
If you’ve been finding it hard to adapt, or are worried about what is to come, what I’m going to share may apply to you. While my experiences and yours may differ in degree and intensity, I hope that my sharing will help you feel less alone and assure you that the fumbling and uncertainty will reduce.
It’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed
It’s normal to feel lost and stressed and unable to cope at the beginning of university! Please don’t think any less of yourself for this.
I was excited to start university life; I remember spending much of the night before orientation day in my hall room unable to fall asleep, playing games on Facebook and looking up herbs on BBC.
That excitement quickly died after classes began in earnest. I remember feeling in over my head: I’d come from Polytechnic and my diploma course had only one written exam. I went from that and few essays to exams and multiple essays for every module, bar one or two.
I wasn’t used to the amount of research and writing style required. I also struggled to grasp some basic major-specific terms, reading the definitions repeatedly to try and understand. I would get it one moment and get confused the next, even after consulting my professor and having patient coursemates explain patiently.
It was frustrating, and looking back, stress and high self-expectations definitely had a part to play. Please don’t beat yourself up too much if this sounds like you; remind yourself that you’re in a period of transition and that this is perfectly normal.
Find this hard to believe when your peers all seem to be doing okay or are outright thriving? Do remember that appearances can be deceiving. We all know how social media doesn’t show the complete picture of anyone’s life, and the same goes for a person’s countenance. They could be faking it till they make it, too.
Having second thoughts about university
I actually entertained the thought of dropping out, feeling that I didn’t have the brain power or mental stamina a university education required. Or maybe, just maybe, my dream major was actually a poor fit?
One night, I carefully broached this possibility with my mother. She was surprisingly encouraging.
The gist of the talk is as follows:
- It was okay to quit and pursue something else/go to work first if university wasn’t really the right choice.
- University = an investment of both time and money. Better to leave now than later.
- University may not be the path for everyone.
- There was the option of a gap semester to think things over.
In the end, I stayed the course and did just fine! It took at least half of my first semester to get into gear, and a chance conversation with a polytechnic senior helped. In it, she’d shared her struggles to adapt and how a professor had told her that she’d fail if she continued to write in her then-concise style—a by-product from our media diploma days.
If you’ve been finding things hard to adapt to, do reach out to your seniors or professors! The former may have been in your shoes before, while the latter can give you advice on how to work on what’s troubling you. Many universities also offer free counselling services if you need them.
If things continue to not make sense for a prolonged period of time, do seek help or advice from your parents or people whom you trust. A course switch or gap semester can only help so much if there are underlying issues you may need to work on.
In the end
I made it through all four years of my undergraduate degree generally unscathed, and I am incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to study what I did.
Would I continue and take up a postgraduate programme, though? Probably not, unless it aids my career. I still remember the chaos and lack of direction I had while doing my FYP. (I rewrote my entire paper the week before submission. It wasn’t pretty and I thought I’d fail for weeks)
I hope this short sharing gives you some encouragement as you navigate your freshman year!
If you aren’t a freshie and have your own experiences to share with us or our readers, please do so in the comments below or send them in! Your sharing will differ from mine, and can definitely provide readers some help and assurance. All the best, everyone!