Dealing with the expectations of university life

Eunice Wu

High expectations

Growing up, I always had the expectation that my university years would be the best time of my life. This is largely owing to the idyllic portrayal of university life in the media, where you are expected to meet the best people and engage in life-changing experiences. While I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth at Durham, there is no rose without a thorn. University can be one of the most valued years of your life, but the struggles you may endure are often downplayed in these same conversations.

It’s not all sunshine & rainbows

We should normalise acknowledging struggles at uni, that it is not all sunshine and rainbows. For starters, loneliness is rather prevalent among university students, even for those who seem like the life of the party. Never feel embarrassed about reaching out to your friends for company, as they likely know exactly how you’re feeling. You could also reach out to services like Durham Nightline, even if just for some lighthearted chat! There is always someone there to listen.

Take time for yourself

Feeling comfortable in your own company could also remedy the sense of loneliness. I like to listen to music whenever I’m getting to and from lectures as if curating a soundtrack to my walks. It sounds like a given, but finding your own groove while walking around Durham could really elevate the experience! If you’re feeling brave, you could also try going to a cafe alone. I don’t just mean to study, because I’m not convinced anyone can wholeheartedly say they enjoy studying. I mean to take yourself on a date, nibble on a cake, read a good fiction & people-watch. Relish in the moment and create your own definition of solitude.

Find your own pace

It is ok to be struggling with coursework, and it is definitely ok to have unproductive days. It is virtually impossible for anyone to feel 100% all the time. It’s easy to say not to compare yourself with others, but it’s still something that I’m trying to come to terms with. Remember that when you hear about someone pulling an all-nighter at the library, that’s just a fragment of their life that you caught a glimpse of. Engaging with your course material at your own pace is incredibly important, and so is taking your time to find the most effective way to learn.

Managing expectations

I don’t mean to expose the ‘ugly truth’ about university or anything like that. It’s about managing expectations and prioritising mental health. Durham is full of unique opportunities and prospects, but they may be accompanied by feelings of stress and anxiety. Enjoying the highs while acknowledging the lows of university life would be the key to making the most out of your time at universoty.

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Eunice Wu


Hello! My name’s Eunice and I’m a third-year psychology student from South. I’m also a first-generation university student from Hong Kong. As a student, I have been actively involved in societies such as PalTV and Disney Society. Check out my YouTube channel ‘CooKHei’ if you’d like to follow my home cooking endeavours and see what else I get up to!


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