Daunting. Overwhelming. Awesome; Just a few words that have been used to describe university life. For the average undergraduate, three years away from home can change lives. But what differences do students actually experience with this change of lifestyle? The Wessex Scene interviewed a few to find out…
When I first started university one of the main things people warned me about – especially as I was self-catered – was a change in my weight. Over and over I had people, mainly my female friends, regaling stories about how much weight they had lost or gained in their first semester. No doubt this was due to a huge range of different diets and attitudes to food; some seeing a significant drop in decent fresh meals being cooked each day, others taking advantage of having control over their intake and hunting down the best takeaway options.
One third year female History student said her lifestyle actually improved at uni, contrary to popular belief that students exist on a diet of Pot Noodle, pizza and pasta: “I’m more in control of my life, I eat more healthily and have less time to eat so I lose weight at uni and put it back on at home when I have nothing to do and eat out of boredom”
However, I had others tell me that their newly found freedom as to what they could eat, and therefore an increase in their reliance upon fast food, meant that they put on weight. A second year Psychology student claimed they were ‘the unhealthiest I have ever been’, admitting to having bought value garlic breads and junk food when their funds had been spent on shopping rather than fresh, healthy food.
‘Why does this have to be the way in the first place?’ I asked myself. Are university students not capable of looking after themselves? Perhaps the sudden change from having meals cooked for you to having to cater for yourself is to blame. Indeed, when interviewed, a third year male History student commented that his mum gave him ‘good Irish cooking’ at home rather than eating ‘mainly pasta’ at university. When asked about his change of diet, he confessed that his pasta-biased menu was because he was ‘mediocre’ at cooking.
Of course there is also the massive stereotype that is always slung on the shoulders of students: we are known for being ‘big drinkers’ . Many a student at Southampton has blamed their deadline failures and embarrassing tagged photos on the much celebrated ‘Jesticles’ in Jesters or the Vodka Blues in Sobar, and certainly the prices help this. Where 50p pints and £1 shots are standard for student nights at university, clubbing at home can cause minor heart failure when you find receipts the next morning for £20 a round, as well as a host of lollipops and novelty glasses that you purchased from the loo attendant for some unknown reason.
A second year English student said ‘since coming home, I’ve realised how ridiculously overpriced drinks are! I’ve had to pre-drink more because the price of a Vodka Triple at Sobar doesn’t even cover a single at our local watering hole’. So could this drastic difference in prices actually be teaching students how to budget? Maybe that’s going a bit far, but it certainly leaves us something to think about.
And finally, the thing that we’re all actually at university to do …studying! Nowadays, many sixth form colleges try their best to introduce us to university-level work and marking schemes, and yet the jump to higher education still baffles many students. On a personal level, I found that I went from practically living in my sixth form library during study periods to running in and out of the university library as quickly as possible, mainly to avoid the sleep-deprived Undergraduates who had practically pitched up tents on level 3 of Hartley.
I found it much easier to study within the four walls of my small university accommodation, merely because I could shut myself away until the early hours of the morning, when I finally stashed away the caffeine tablets and succumbed to sleep. This rather reclusive way of studying isn’t for everyone, however, many finding distractions outside of the library too much to handle. One second year Nurse said,
Living with friends makes studying much harder. I’ll always find something that I could be doing instead.
For some, the university lifestyle certainly lives up to its stereotype. Several nights out, several late mornings, and several starch-ridden meals with high saturated fat contents. As a result of readily available, cheap alcohol and unhealthy food, many stumble into an inevitable cycle of hangovers and super noodle-filled diets without being presented with an imaginable way out. However, there comes a point in a student’s life when enough is enough, and dissertations and/or end of year projects call for a more substantial way of life. Ultimately, as one interviewee concluded, the university lifestyle gives a student no other option than to ‘grow up a bit and finally become a real adult’.