The other day I logged on to my university homepage and was shocked to see that the date of my graduation ceremony had been released. I thought to myself, finally it’s almost over. University for me has been the most crazily hectic time of my life, and I don’t mean that in a cool, loose partying-way.
To any of you little newbies currently filling out your QTAC preferences let me be the first to say that university is vastly different to how it is portrayed in the movies, or even to what your parents have told you. Older generations seem to have this bizarre idea that this is a time in your life where you discover who you truly are through various parties and orgy-like experiences. I hate to break it to you, but that’s American college not Australian university – we have some class. Now don’t get me wrong, you will probably consume more alcohol over these few years than during the rest of your life, but it’s not all fun and games.
I know that I definitely went into university with unrealistic expectations.
Firstly, university isn’t a period to bludge around and relax – even though much of society thinks that’s what we do. Time for me has been one of the biggest issues that I’ve faced at university, as I find that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything. For most of us we are trying to balance classes, external study, working (part-time to full-time), completing (unpaid) internships, and attempting to squeeze in a social life amongst all of this. Older generations deem us to be the “entitled, narcissistic and lazy” demographic. I’m not sure how this stereotype developed, as millennials have been proven to be some of the hardest working individuals.
We face various financial burdens on a daily basis, being brought up in an unfortunate economic state, as both the job and housing market are an absolute disaster. The fantasy of attending university, which leads to a steady full-time job, and then being able buy a house at the end of it all, nowadays for millennials is simply unrealistic. However, older generations believe that this life is still attainable, while they sit in their mansions in Ascot sipping on Dom Pérignon.
“We are a part of the over-qualified and under appreciated generation.”
My god, I didn’t mean for that to be so intense – apologies if I just triggered an existential crisis. Now it’s time to talk about my time at university and how I want you all to learn from my mistakes in order to make the most out of what can be an incredible experience, to set yourself up properly for the future.
One of the most significant lessons that university has taught me is the importance of health and how your overall wellbeing must always come first. This realisation has honestly taken me almost four years to fully comprehend. Most people, like myself, tend to solely focus on their physical health. Now don’t get me wrong, exercise and nutrition is extremely important as it impacts your ability to concentrate, your energy levels, and influences your likelihood of getting sick. However, an aspect of our wellbeing that is commonly overlooked is our metal health.
University is such a massive leap from school. We go from having these intense support networks within a schooling environment to nothing – all in the space of about five months. University is commonly seen as a time for mass socialising, however this isn’t the case for a lot of people. You chop and change between different subjects, and therefore different people, which gives you a very amount of limited time to form lasting bonds with your peers. Thus making a lot of students feel very isolated and alone, and like something is wrong with them. Therefore it is no surprise that “mental disorders accounted for almost 50% of the total disease burden among young people in 2003”.
Mental health is a topic that is not often talked about in society. Those suffering feel as though they are inadequate and unable to accomplish what others do with ease, especially within a university setting. That is why young adults are the demographic least likely to seek help and treatment for their mental health.
Therefore it is imperative that we are aware of the importance of a balanced lifestyle, both in the physical and mental sense. For me, this is what I have struggled with most of all throughout university. For the first two years, I would be going non-stop all day, rushing between activities. I never allowed myself a period to relax because I felt as though I was wasting time and being unproductive. I can tell you from my own personal experience that this is a terrible option. You end up stressed for the entire 13 weeks (plus SWOTVAC and exams), having breakdowns every second day, yelling at the people you love, and just generally in a terrible state of mind.
Your body and brain need time to rest and have some down time, so make sure you don’t try and fit too much into your day. It may take you a semester or two to find out what balance works for you, be it part-time study, or simply giving yourself a day off every once in a while.
My second piece of advice revolves around making the most of the opportunities and resources available to you at university. It sucks to admit, but we are a part of a generation that is severely over-qualified for the limited number of jobs available. I am going to be one of those unfortunate individuals who will be heading into the health field after all of the cuts to the industry over the past few years; it’s not going to be pleasant. I literally was looking on seek.com the other day and was presented with two…only two nutrition positions within Queensland – both of which were looking for senior nutritionists.
Graduate employability researcher Ruth Bridgstock explains how all of the extra-curricular, volunteering and internships that you can add to your resume will help to make you more appealing to employers. It shows that you have the knowledge from university and the real life experience to apply it within a professional environment.
It’s never too early to start making connections within your industry, as this will commonly be how you find a job in the future. Your best option is to do so through your lecturers and tutors. Who knew they could do more than simply ruin your life by having all of your assessment due on one day. They have all had experience within the industry you one day hope to work in, with colleagues and connections to share with their students.
I hope that I haven’t completely terrified you about university; it really is such a wonderful time in your life – if you do it right! You finally get to start learning about content that you are interested in and that really matters to you. Even though it may seem overwhelming, don’t worry, millions of us have done it before and we have all managed to survive. We have all been late to lectures and had the entire room look at us, we have all sat alone in the library, and most importantly we have all failed at something. Good luck!
If you do feel as though you want to talk to someone about your wellbeing, there are numerous people and resources available. There are counsellors at university or websites such as Kids Matter or Minds Matter. Just remember, you are never alone.
Also published on Medium.