University and I haven’t exactly got along well so far. It’s been a rollercoaster, with loop-the-loops and huge dips but not very many high points, and I hope sharing my experience with you will help some of you out. Even a little.
I remember going to an Open Day at a university while I was still in Year 12 and a tiny, scary woman coming up to me and my parents. She took one look at me and said “you need to take a gap year.” I was so startled an kind of terrified so I went “OK!” in the hope that she would not talk to me anymore, but I didn’t take her advice seriously. I should have. I should have listened.
I went to a selective high school that was very focused on achieving the best results ever. We were conditioned to think that university was the only next step after graduation, and that only the “big” few Sydney universities would do. I did well in school, especially in essay-based subjects. I loved English, and Society and Culture. I wasn’t great in Maths, but that was okay because I wasn’t ever going to have to study it again. My preferences were all Arts courses, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study yet but I was absolutely certain it wasn’t any other course.
I didn’t even consider a gap year. I’d never had a job and I didn’t have any money and I thought I might as well just smash out my schooling all in one go. Big Mistake.
I needed a break. The Year 12 exam period was difficult for me, and I struggled with severe anxiety because of it and also just in general life. I was so sick of school, sick of studying, that I don’t even know why I thought I could go straight into university. I had basically given up.
A gap year would have given me a little time to sort myself out and help myself before I threw myself into a degree that was completely unspecific, with no real future in mind. I didn’t know this then, but I do now.
So I did a semester of Arts at a huge university in Sydney. I wasn’t really able to make friends, and if I did, I had no idea how to keep them. I didn’t think the subjects I was doing were useful to me in any way. A lot of it felt like common sense. And, there were so many people there it was overwhelming. I felt like a ghost, I didn’t matter there, I didn’t belong. So I stopped going.
I took the second semester of that year off. My parents were angry with me because it looked like I was just going to laze around for months (which was my plan for what I saw as a well deserved break). I got a job at a yogurt shop, started going to a psychologist and had to tell people “Oh, I’m not at uni right now.” God, the judgement you face for that in my area, let me tell you.
Then my mum said “Have a look at this degree at this university.” I did, because I could tell she was trying to look out for me, but that she was really disappointed in the choices I had made so far and the last thing I wanted to do was let her down.
I was excited about it before I went because it felt like a new start, but when I got there I realised it absolutely was not for me. While this uni was slightly smaller and the degree was more specific, I felt like I was going the wrong way. I stuck this one out for a year. 2014 was spent doing pointless subjects and journalism assignments that terrified me and my anxiety every single day. I physically dreaded having to go to class every single day, but I was too scared to say “I don’t want to go” to my family for the second time.
I finally did, and once again I was shepherded into applying for a different university, even smaller. Then, in June and July of this year, I took a trip to Europe. It was the refresher I needed, both on the anxiety front and the uni front. I would have had to start my new course as soon as I got back, and thinking about it made me feel sick every day it got closer to the end of the trip. So when I got back, I said I wasn’t going. After a few weeks, I found that Year13 were looking for a writer, and here I am today.
Up until now, I had been doing things based on satisfying my parents. I was terrified of disappointing them. If I had believed in myself and my ability early on, if I had taken time off to collect myself before I tried to take on too much too soon, I might have avoided years of crying, anxiety and yelling to get my point across.
It is my personal belief that uni isn’t for me, at this point in my life. I might go back later, I might do some online courses. There are so many ways to get where you want to be, and although I’m not quite there yet, I think I’m on my way. I’m proud of my writing skills, I’m proud of the job I’ve been doing here at Year13 and I’m proud of where I am today.
So if you’re a little stuck, or a little worried, just know you’ll find your way eventually. And don’t make your choices based on other people, especially when it comes to your future. That’s what I’ve learned from all this. That, and how to Harvard reference. Handy, right?