Feeling scared, out of place, lonely, unsure, lost, stressed, overwhelmed, isolated, or vulnerable? We can empathise. University is a challenging time at a challenging age, but you are not alone. Below, four students share their experiences: acknowledging that wobbles can happen to everyone, at any time, and, most importantly, that they can be overcome.
I started year twelve with a fresh and new mindset following successful GCSEs. With an interest in applying for university, I started many different activities to add to my CV and personal statement. Following some not-so-great January mock examination results, and a diagnosis of dyslexia, I began to seek help from my teachers to try and improve academically whilst still engaging in extracurricular activities. Nearing the end of the Spring Term before the Easter holidays, my day started normally with classes and studying surrounded by friends. By the end of the day, my body, mentally and physically, was shaken to its core by a nervous breakdown – I had another the following morning, both taking place within school.
Within these breakdowns I lost all and any sense of myself, feeling like an outsider looking in on my life. The next year was a process: struggling to find professional help that fit, taking every day as it came, and living my life in a completely new way as I was not in the routine of school. It took time to open up, to be able to understand what happened and why and to feel like myself again. By the end of the process, I became much more self-aware – to be able to check-in with myself and my physical and mental wellbeing – which is something I could now not live without.
Following a year of recovery and rebuilding myself, I wanted to engage in the interests I left behind at school, so I built my life around volunteering, travelling, working abroad and at home, and gaining new life experiences with so many fond memories that I look back on. Following a couple of gap years, I came home wanting to further my education (having not completed my A-Levels) and my plans led me here, to study at Nottingham University.
Last year I had a wobble in the middle of the Autumn Term. Out of nowhere, lecturers began to talk about assessments and deadlines, whilst I was only just beginning to adjust to being a second-year student. I immediately flew into panic mode. It felt as if everyone around me was armed with coursework ideas and exam revision notes, leaving me the only one who felt completely lost. The pressure to decide on essay topics was overwhelming and it suddenly felt as if my life was counting down to the final day of term, after which I would be left to my own devices to figure it all out. The more I thought about my coursework, the more stressed I became and the harder it was to sit down and try and come up with ideas.
Talking about how I felt with my friends was the best way to push through my stress. It made me realise that I wasn’t the only one struggling to prepare for assessments. I was prompted to put things into perspective and think rationally. Christmas felt like it was looming over me, but really, I had over a month to go until the end of term and my deadlines were sitting safely in the distance. Speaking to my seminar tutors about my coursework ideas also helped me to calm down further. It provided me with some valuable reassurance that I was on the right track which made the entire planning and writing process much more relaxed than it would have been otherwise.
The most important thing to remember if you are likely to have an academic wobble like me is that everyone is in the same boat. Speak to people around you: I bet you’ll find they are feeling exactly the same as you.
The decision to head to university takes a lot of deliberation. We’re constantly reminded of the impact it has on our future success, piling the pressure on us to make such significant choices. Being continually told that our university years are the best of our lives, the bar is raised so high that many of our expectations fail to be met. It’s no wonder many of us face challenges. After year thirteen, I felt pressured to make a decision that I was not ready to make at the time, and university felt like the default option. Not only was I unprepared for what to expect, but coming from a small town and school, I truly felt like a minuscule fish in a massive pond. I postponed reaching out for help for a long time, racking up over four grand in tuition fees alone by Easter, hoping that if I persevered for long enough things would change and I’d learn to love it. I came to the realisation that I couldn’t justify spending so much money on something I wasn’t enjoying, but, more importantly, I couldn’t let it affect my mental health the way it was.
My decision to change course and university was not one I took lightly. There were so many things I needed to consider: time, finances, friendships. But, ultimately, after stepping back and re-evaluating, what came first and foremost was my mental wellbeing. Withdrawing from Sheffield University wasn’t an easy task, but both Sheffield and Nottingham’s staff offered immense support along the way. As soon as I did seek help from my personal tutor, who directed me to finance advisors at the SU, everything became easier. However, this was only the first hurdle. There are infinite challenges we face at university. My rocky start led to anxiety surrounding friendships, academic success, and general doubts. However, so much help is at hand here at Nottingham, from departmental wellbeing officers, workshops run by the counselling service, and student-led organisations such as Student Minds. Wobbles are guaranteed, but you don’t have to face them alone.
Lilith Lear Hudson
We all know the wobble. The unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach as you start to question and second guess yourself. “Did I choose the right module?” or “Is this the right university?” may sound all too familiar for many of you. Don’t panic. The wobble can be a helpful creature that you can use to assess your situation and maybe make some changes that your mental health has been needing.
My university wobble took place as I was looking over the campus and everything seemed so big, so vast, and I was unsure if I was clever enough for the task I had set myself. A few hours later the wobble came back and I found myself needing to sit down, take slow breaths and try and calm myself. After some unhelpful advice (‘Just soldier on’ being my favourite one), I finally contacted Student Support and discovered I was not alone. I uncovered some helpful pathways that the university offers to help students with their mental health. Many university students received help with course changes or were reassured about finances which had, up until now, been the cause of a few wobbles. For me, I was offered a mental
This, I believe, is the power of embracing the wobble. Recognising concerns that we have and seeking a resolution to them can often lead to a more confident outlook, help with self-confidence, or, in my case, beginning the important road to highlighting and dealing with deeper mental health concerns. Whilst the wobble is not a pleasant feeling, it is an important one that could be the start of your journey to better mental health.
Read more about what the Faculty of Arts is doing for Wobble Week 2019 here.
For more information on Wobble Week visit: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/arts/teaching/undergraduate/wobble-week/wobble-week.aspx
Featured image courtesy of UoN Faculty of Arts. No changes were made to this image.
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