This was the topic of my first ever blog post on my very first blog. This was actually the reason I got into blogging in the first place (unless you count the crappy Tumblr blog I had where I’d inconsistently post music reviews ). When I first dropped out I wrote a post about it, but I did it more as a form of therapy, to allow myself to vent about the situation. This post is going to be different. It’s been several years since then and I can see how things have turned out since then (I wrote the post within weeks of dropping out so I obviously had no idea how things would go from there).
In short, dropping out was definitely the right decision for me. However, it seems to be largely frowned upon- people seem to think it’s better to tough it out no matter how awful you feel. I wanted to right this post not only to share my experience but to also encourage you to do what is best, even if it is a pretty huge decision and feels like a bit a massive risk.
I’ll give you guys an overview of my experience. I started attending the first university at the end of September 2015 and lasted a grand total of 5 weeks. I’ll hold for the applause. Actually, it really did take a lot of determination for me to stick it out those five weeks, I wanted to drop out after only a day. I’d never felt more isolated in my life. I was several hours away from home. I had failed to connect properly with my flat mates, which made me feel uncomfortable in the situation I was living in. I found it difficult to gel with people on my course mostly because they all got along with their flatmates and didn’t feel the need to make friends. I was very, very lonely, and that had a major impact on my mental health. I tried to go out and join societies but I was already pretty drained, and the travel (the university was a twenty minute bus ride from the student accommodation) made it even more tiring. At this point I’d lost most of my motivation and energy and, because I’d lost motivation and energy, I subsequently lost interest in my course too. The only thing that kept me sane binge-watching The Office on Netflix.
I think the worst thing is that when I tried to reach out and get help I found there was barely anything available. I couldn’t access the counselling service, and the one person I managed to speak to who was involved in student welfare or something like that was pretty dismissive. Getting help is scary, but it’s even worse ending up with nothing for your efforts. I guess that was the last straw for me- I knew I wouldn’t last in this environment where I couldn’t even get sufficient support to help improve my situation. (Side note: having seen a post on The Tab revealing their university mental health rankings I was appalled to find that this university ranked very well… it makes me tempted to name and shame as this is the complete opposite of what I experienced and I don’t want anyone else to face the struggles I did at this university. I’m petty, but I’ll contain myself.)
Having dropped out I faced a relatively unhappy period where I struggled to find a job, so I filled my time with a bit of voluntary work, my first blog and taking the opportunity to binge-watch Netflix. I also reapplied to university (I was lucky enough to have enough time to get an application in and I also received a lot of support in my application from my college tutor) and luckily was offered places at both the universities I’d applied to. There’s not much point in discussing this period in depth, the most important thing I wanted to say is that, throughout it all, I never regretted dropping out.
In fact, there hasn’t been one point since then that I’ve regretted it. On the contrary, while it was a somewhat scary decision to make (because I didn’t have a firm place at another university for the following year and I had nothing lined up for when I had dropped out) I was so glad I made it. And I’m still glad.
While it hasn’t been without issues (the first term of my first year was especially difficult) on the whole it has been a lot better. It was definitely worth the ‘stress’ of dropping out (which, funnily enough, was no where near as stressful as it was having to endure even a day at that university). Of course it hasn’t been all smooth sailing since starting at my current uni, but on the whole I’ve seen a hell of a lot of improvements and I feel like for the first time I’m taking the first few steps in (what is hopefully) the right direction. I generally feel more comfortable and happy here, and I have been better able to reach out and get help when I’ve needed it.
I really wanted to share my experience as a lot of people questioned my decision to drop out, which can often make you feel like you’ve made the worst decision. I know you shouldn’t really let this judgement get to you, but when you’re in a period of complete uncertainty it’s difficult not to get caught up in these opinions, to believe that you might have set yourself up for failure by deviating from the ‘normal’ route. However, it’s important- so important- to do what’s right for you. It will work out. If you’re in a similar situation and would prefer to rough it out that’s cool, so long as it’s your decision and you feel that this is the best option for you. If you know taking an alternate route would be better, go for it! It’s so important that you feel as happy and comfortable as is possible.
Also, I’ve learnt it’s fairly normal to feel unhappy in some form in university, but it’s not widely discussed. Before starting, I thought it would be a blast from start to finish, filled with constant, crazy fun. This is how university’s pretty much always portrayed. I’d never heard of anyone facing issues, which made me feel even more alone. Having left, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this… it was actually more common than I’d realised. No one seems to talk about this side to university, so I wanted to speak up. Had I known this could be a possibility, I’d have prepared better.
Anyway, if you’re experiencing this you’re not alone, just make sure that whatever you it’s best for you. If you want to ask any more questions or would like some advice or support drop a comment or message me on Twitter. How’s your university experience been? Hopefully it’s better than mine was!