One of the main driving forces behind the actions of students, aside from alcohol, is the fear of missing out. Not wanting to feel like an outsider to the experiences commonly shared by many university students is a natural worry that I’m confident has, and still does, cross many of our minds.
I, for one, felt like I didn’t make the most of my freshers week; I went to the clubs, I signed up to whichever societies offered me free pens, but that’s about it. I look at people around me and see them with their seemingly life-long friends, chatting about how they bumped into each other one night and just happened to share the same interests in life, the universe, and everything. I’m not alone in this – I’ve chatted to numerous friends along the way who have repeated the sentiments of feeling like members of the fringes, and feel like there is some ethereal part of the ‘university experience’ that has simply eluded them.
Interestingly, most people probably have doubts about how good their time has been in comparison to others, because revealing you’re having a pretty rubbish time at uni is seen as a taboo thing – an admission that you’re not a wild party-animal, or a Mean Girls-esque BNOC.
University is seen as a time to make yourself a new person, an adult, and with that there is the deceptively corrosive notion that adults are people who have no worries socially, academically, financially, or otherwise. Instead of admitting to ourselves that we do have problems that can’t be fixed with VKs and ‘being a bit more outgoing’, students – particularly freshers – see each other as flawless modern-day Dionysia, and themselves as frauds who failed to get into the proper spirit of university.
University is seen as the best time of our lives, a notion I touched on in a previous piece, but this is not the case for many students. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to find your future spouse here, you don’t need to make life-long friends here, and you don’t even need to choose a career here – beyond getting a degree (and going to Cheesys), there should be no expectations placed on anyone about what the future should hold. There is an unfortunate stereotype most of us hold ourselves to that is often perpetuated by the media; that students are raucous sex-fiends who sleep all day, party all night, yet still end up with their futures sorted soon enough, and we are all a little guilty in valuing our lived experiences based on this mythical JP. Introverts feel like their lack of party anecdotes means they are wasting their time, extroverts feel like their lack of consistently good grades means they are wasting their money.
The most glaring area that this fear of ‘missing out’ can be found is in friendships.
By the end of their first week, many freshers will be inwardly nervous at the relatively small size of their social group, or they will dislike flatmates and think it’s a mark against their own personalities, or they will hate the people they meet in seminars/lectures. Some of my closest friends (myself included) admit that the first year has felt a bit wasted in terms of the number of people they feel have impacted on their lives and vice versa. The importance of having outlets and human connections in university cannot be understated, but we often overestimate just how many people we need around us for our social lives to be a success. A few people you can talk to about anything is all you need – if you don’t have a different squad for every club night, you aren’t suddenly a social failure. If you can’t reel off half a dozen ‘mad’ anecdotes about parties, socials, or daytrips, you aren’t a waste of space. If you find it tough to keep up with work and lectures, you aren’t an academic fraud.
If you feel like you’re missing out, look around you, and cherish what you’ve got. Chances are, you aren’t missing much.