Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Ah, university, the sudden, awkward transition from scraggly teenager to a full-fledged adult! University is a lot of things; rushing into ridiculously early 9 a.m. classes, partying the night away, joining a plethora of clubs and societies, even grinding away for that essay due in two hours! As time passes, one realises that being a university student is many things, both good and bad, but it surely isn’t easy.
I walked into the campus of Macquarie University in February, an innocent undergrad who had watched too many chick flicks portraying university life as a fairytale filled with soirees, dresses for every occasion, and a lot of prince charmings. It was all exciting; the unrestricted freedom, a possibly blooming social life, and the opportunity to finally get a taste of the adult life! If only I could rewind time and tell myself that it wouldn’t be the cakewalk I was expecting, and that being an international student in university demanded grit, grinding, and a level of perseverance I didn’t know I had in me.
This is the time where we slowly begin to unravel the meaning of words like responsibility, wise spending and saving, which I’ll admit, sounds daunting yet compelling. So you take baby steps, reducing daily splurges to perhaps weekly or monthly splurges, discovering the city on your own, keeping an eye out for a drop in the petrol prices, you know, adult-ish things! As the baby steps progress, we feel proud of ourselves, yes, we too are responsible! Adulting memes are posted on the Gram, calls are made to the family to boast a bit, and life seems to be running smoothly, who said adulting was tough?
Once the magic wanes and university becomes another mundane aspect of your life, the smooth sailing runs into turbulent waters, because juggling good grades, a social life, and perhaps a parttime job begins to spiral out of control. It is as if there is no turning back once you label yourselves an adult, now you have to live up to those expectations and standards as well! Somehow in the newfound and seemingly endless struggles of adulting, we forget that we are simply nineteen or twenty-something-year-olds, with a whole life ahead to live, make mistakes in and learn. However, when that little nugget of knowledge is forgotten, our shoulders are hunched with unnecessary burdens, slowly burning us out till the point of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
It took me about half a dozen breakdowns throughout the year and numerous calls to my parents to understand that university signifies of the beginning of adulthood, leaving plenty of space for mistakes, speed bumps, and bouts of childish behaviour. We feel like we can conquer the world during these few years, and we definitely can, just not in one shot. It’s okay to see your bank balance dipping into the double digits, it’s okay to completely breakdown and cry it all out when you’re exhausted, spending on good food is essential because your body needs it, and it’s completely alright to bug your parents, adults, or close ones with numerous calls and texts when you need a shoulder for support, you’re human after all.
And so, to all my fellow university students, you will find out while meandering around this labyrinth, that adulting is like any other thing in life, you bounce with joy on receiving your first paycheck and you groan in irritation upon discovering that laundry detergent is actually more expensive than you thought. There will be highs, lows and unimaginable twists and turns, resulting in the metamorphosis of a young student to an older, hopefully, wiser adult! Until then, take advantage of night-long adventures and binging on your favourite shows, adulting can wait!
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