If I think back to the summer of 2016, I remember walking around open days at different universities, conjuring up images in my head of the “uni life” that everyone seems to experience; an expectation aided by student hall windows lined with alcohol bottles resembling trophies of a night out. It feels as though this innate expectation manifests itself when we step over the threshold and become part of the student community and feel the pressure to mimic behaviour we’ve digested, consciously or not, on TV, film, and through mainstream media. But what happens when the reality of your university life doesn’t match up to this expectation fed to so many of us?
Asides from a brief stint during freshers, my social life at university appears on paper as a dramatic shift, almost a rebellion, against those around me and even three siblings, all of whom have been and done their time at university. Like most, I felt compelled to be a typical fresher and take part in the socially constructed induction into student life; drinking until I couldn’t walk in a straight line to the club, sitting in a toilet cubical smiling to yourself (the clearest indicator of alcohol intake and lack of sobriety), and deciding at 3am it was time to get chips and fall face-first into bed.
Post-freshers induction, I didn’t continue with the #StudentLife and the insecurity of that quickly set in. Even after two years at university, there is still a social pressure to adhere to the student stereotype which is propelled, like so many things today, by the rise of social media.
Fifteen years ago my sister was a student and social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, that promote instant sharing of every moment, didn’t exist. Though photos from her nights out found themselves eventually on Facebook, it was a process to get them there: digital cameras were taken to the club, then transferred to her four-inch think Dell laptop, and finally they were uploaded them to MySpace or Facebook. She wasn’t able to see every other minute what her friends across the country were doing, but I can. This dramatic shift in socialising and technology is the perfect breeding ground for insecurities.
This constant comparison to other people that, try as we might to avoid it, happens on a daily basis makes us think that everyone is having a better time than we are, and when it comes to the student life, I was able to see people perfectly matching the societal expectation when I wasn’t.
Two years into the student life and there are still minor moments of insecurity, but in general there is a lack of care for this social trope that really carries no significance. However, this pressure will continue to exist among those heading to university for the first time as the majority continue to publish the stereotypical student life on social media. Perhaps more people talking about their “boring” experiences of #StudentLife can help to lift the pressure and propagate the realisation that being a student is whatever you want it to be.
So with freshers season in the air, the only big sister advice I would dish out would be to live your student life however you want to live it, doing whatever makes you happy.