Saturday, July 20Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

University is the Most Confusing Time of your Life, and No One Talks About it

By Claudia Macaluso

Picture this. You’re eighteen, it’s Christmas Eve, you’re sitting around a table with loads of people who you’re apparently related to, and you suddenly get asked this question: “So how’s uni?” And you shudder, thinking to yourself, “How could I possibly answer that nonchalantly?”

The truth is, university is undoubtedly the strangest time of your life, and you’re not given enough credit for it. Everyone anticipates this moment for most of their teenage years, and yet when the time comes, you turn into this tiny goldfish who gets tossed into a massive aquarium full of fish species you’ve never even heard of before.

One of my friends once told me, “I would love university if I didn’t actually have to do university.” You’ve been in education your entire life, yet it still feels like you’ve never opened a book before. So many times, when I was writing my first assignments, I felt like I was robbed of my sight and catapulted into a maze, which I somehow had to make my way around. Words like ‘referencing’ and ‘Moodle’ all of a sudden become part of your daily vocabulary, although you still have no idea how they even work. Forget primary; first-year hits harder than year one, except this time you’re an ‘adult’, and you don’t have parents coming to collect you at the end of the day with hugs and biscuits.

Then comes social life. I never knew how long my social battery could last until I went on my first night out. At first, you feel invincible, like you could go out seven days in a row, until you suddenly find yourself stuck in bed with the so-called “‘freshers’ flu”. And that’s when you realize that perhaps you’ve been caught up in trying to make friends so much that you’ve been overlooking self-care. The pressure is real, especially with social media. It seems like after a week at university, everyone’s already found their best friends for life, as they’ve already crossed the finish line, and you haven’t even started the race yet. 

Everyone is trying to find themselves while looking for “their kind of people”. And unless you want all the good houses to run out for a second year, you have to start looking for people to move in with in October. October! How could you possibly decide whether you want to live with someone after one month of knowing them? Bullets have left guns slower. In this simulation called ‘university’, one week corresponds to seven years in real life. I am completely serious when I say that it feels like I have been through a first love, a marriage, and a divorce all in the span of ten days.

Your parents are somehow proud of you, even though you’re always exhausted, broke, and an alcoholic. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’d gone shopping the day before and then returned home in need of a warm lunch, only to find half an onion on my fridge shelf. You’re living off five coffees a day, and sooner or later you’ll find out that you can’t even afford them, so you’ll try to make them at home but will end up melting your plastic cup because no one ever told you that you’re not supposed to put warm liquids in plastic!

The best (or funniest) part is that life doesn’t finish here, and you must start figuring out what to do next. People always ask you what you want to do in life, and you don’t even have a clue where you’re going to be tomorrow night.

So, in answer to their question, that’s when you reply, “Yeah, University’s great, thanks. How are you?”