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Four young students gathered round their phones and laptops

Our University experience so far…

Moving away from home for the first time is a big step for anyone. Such a move can be accompanied by feelings of excitement and freedom, or of vulnerability and insecurity, both are not mutually exclusive.

It’s important to not get drawn into a false sense of security suggested by the highlight reel we are fed online. The Uni experience simply isn’t the same for everyone.

Izzi’s Story – First Year

Going to University was never quite the plan – I have never considered myself a particularly academic person. Whether that is more fantasy or reality I’m not sure.

In any case when deciding what to do once I’d left college, the decision was pretty easy and really a no brainer. To my father’s horror I decided I wasn’t going to go. I decided to take a year out to gather my thoughts, gain some more independence and earn a bit of cash. Just like thousands of other students in my position were doing.

Later down the line however, I concluded that whether I liked it or not a degree in something…anything would give me a leg up and essentially be putting my best foot forward.

Despite making, in the words of my father, ‘the grown-up decision,’ I always resented my decision to go to university and regarded it a means to an end.

Now, two, nearly three years later I still think this way.

Finding support

When I moved to uni, I made it my mission to throw myself, however begrudgingly, into the uni life style. It didn’t work.

The transition knocked my confidence completely, my mental health deteriorated, and I began to feel isolated. I didn’t feel as if I had anything to offer those around me. Nor did I feel like I could contribute to my course the way I should.

Luckily for me, the people that I had met in the first couple of weeks were to become some of my best friends and all shared similar feelings about the environment we were in.

Finding the right people to spend my time with and confide in, in the first year helped me to stick with it. I kept my nose to the grindstone and ensured I had fun, birds of a feather flock together.

Seb’s Story – Second Year

My second year of university came without much warning.

After my first year was slashed in half due to COVID-19, I then found myself living in a house with other students who I still didn’t know all that well.

All lectures were done online. And throughout the year, pastimes such as team sports, gyms, pubs, clubs etc. were all restricted.

The rules about what we could or couldn’t do changed constantly. This really limited my social interaction with the rest of the world as I only had my new housemates for company.

With no escape from this environment, arguments between us followed. As I’m sure it did for many.

This wasn’t helped by poor internet connection when trying to listen to vital information about my degree, buffering always at the worst moments. Not being able to see lecturers in person made it increasingly difficult to get assistance with work when it was needed, some trying harder than others to keep students in the loop.

Challenges

Furthermore, there was ever-increasing pressure to find a placement as the year ticked on. With limited organisations even considering taking on placement students, there was huge competition for every role.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the start of university I had been hoping for.

An abrupt ending to the first year, followed by an extremely restricted second year meant it didn’t feel like university at all. Without really knowing it, my mental health had taken a hit.

All I really wanted to do was go back to the comfort of my parents’ house, all while having to continue renting my student home. Not living in the house seemed like a huge waste to me. I was also still ever hopeful that things would go back to normal, and I could have the university experience I had dreamed of.

For me, University should be your first chance at experiencing life with full independence. At times it can still be especially hard. But it has helped me grow as a person, and problem solve in situations where in the past it would have been taken care of on my behalf.

Although the second year wasn’t the most exciting or engaging, it was greatly beneficial to me as a young man who wanted to experience the real world and embrace the difficulties that coincide with that. For me, I think it’s important to remember that with every mishap thrown at you, you will find a way to overcome the situation you find yourself in.

Lauryn’s Story – Placement Year

My placement year has not been anything like I expected it would be.

You hear final year students taking about how their placement was their favourite year, or how their placement year was the best decision they had made. This wasn’t how my placement year started out.

Initially, I found myself struggling to find a placement. I felt more and more demotivated with every company that didn’t get back to me. Or rejected me with no explanation. When I was finally offered my first placement role at a sales company, I accepted it straight away without considering whether this job was really something I wanted to do.

From the very first day of my placement, I knew I didn’t enjoy the job. However, I decided to stick with it to see if things could get better. As time went on nothing was changing, I was stuck between leaving or staying.

A difficult decision

There were so many thoughts constantly going around my head: What will my family think? Will my university support me? Will I be able to find another placement? And, what will my placement year look like?

My family and friends started to see my wellbeing deteriorate. I was feeling sad and drained every day, away from home, and not having my safety blanket.

This made this decision even harder to make.

I decided to get in contact with my placement advisor. I felt anxious and embarrassed to tell her. But, knowing the university would support either of my decisions helped me to start the process of putting my mental health first.

I decided to try and complete my placement. But when I went in Monday morning, I instantly felt sad again and knew the right decision was to leave. I built up the courage to talk to my manager, who I felt had not connected with me on a professional or personal level very well. I walked out of there an hour later instantly feeling happier in myself and a weight lifted off my shoulders.

Before starting the placement process again I spent some time relaxing and focusing on myself . Anxiously, I started applying. There was one placement I was really keen to get, and luckily enough I heard back from them straight away. The interview process went by quickly. Before I knew it, I was happy, in a placement I was enjoying at Dorset Mind. And connecting well with all my colleagues.

Placement year can be hard sometimes. You can be in a job you don’t enjoy. Or the first placement offer you get could turn out to be the job of your dreams. Placement year can take a while to adjust to, but it is okay to leave your placement. It’s okay to put your wellbeing before a job. And its okay to take time to find something you really enjoy.

Our guest bloggers:

Thanks to our very own Dorset Mind placement students – Seb, Izzi and Lauryn – for sharing their honest accounts. Seb, Izzi and Lauryn are third year Bournemouth University students studying business and marketing related degree courses.

If you’d like to apply for a volunteer placement at Dorset Mind, please follow this link.

Get help

If you’re struggling to cope with your mental health, please talk to your GP or call Connection, Dorset’s 24/7 Helpline free on 0800 652 0190.

You can also check out dorsetmindyourhead.co.uk for mental health resources and support services for young people aged 11 upwards.

If you are in a crisis, treat it as an emergency – call 999 or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123.

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