Don't Live The Student Life, Live Your Life.


Emily Oldfield explains to Cathartic, why living your own life is important as a student:


Going to university, whether for the first time or as an older student is an occasion it’s difficult to disassociate from a word which worries so many of us, so much – expectation.


It’s even there beforehand, sealed in the shiny prospectuses they serve up at open days and events. Pages filled with lists of attainment and smiling faces; implying university is a place where success and satisfaction are guaranteed. This certainly wasn’t the case for me; and I am driven to address this, as well as the wider way in which ‘student life’ seems to be something ‘advertised’ rather than ‘actual’ It’s important to remember a ‘student’ does not define who you are, it is simply used to describe a stage of life you are at…

Yet so much media seems pre-occupied with ‘student life’ as a kind of magic concept – a packed social schedule, academic success, endless energy. I went to university expecting that these things would just fall into place as many people who knew me did - but no such result. Yet how many people have you heard say ‘university will be the making of you’ or ‘student days will be the best of your life’; it was a series of expectations I heard over and over. The time of being a ‘student’ is sold as a dream. But what I want to pay attention to is the reality – the modern status of ‘student’ can actually be quite unhelpful. Firstly, it is sold as a time without struggle, and expected social gain. Secondly, it is mishandled by the media, with ‘student issues’ gaining a kind of secondary status. Yet the life and mind of someone studying deserves just as much consideration as any other individual…


Living up to experience, not expectation


In short, ‘student life’ often comes with an unrealistic, socially-spun expectation of plenty of fun and a fast-route to success. I was quickly jumping to the conclusion that I wasn’t good enough soon after I started at university; because I couldn’t balance the essay demand with the expectation that I’d also take up sports, societies, other forms of enrichment. Whilst ‘student life’ said I was going to be constantly buzzing and thriving, in reality I felt a little overwhelmed and ashamed in my own comparatively solitary interests. It’s only in retrospect that I realise there was nothing ‘wrong’ with how I felt – I was feeling ‘me’ rather than a specially-packaged ‘student’. And that is okay!


That is what I want to urge to every person at university, to think of themselves (it’s not selfish, but healthy!), rather than the ‘student’ stereotype:

  • University can serve you, not the other way round - as a student, I found it difficult to turn off to the emphasis of ‘hard work’ – convincing myself that this meant I must be working wherever possible. Working hard can be a constructive part of happiness, without being self-effacing.


If you are a student finding it difficult to cope with academic life, then Cathartic is here for you. We offer an anonymous platform, that allows you to express anything that you need to with the intention of clearing your mind and allowing you to rid your subconscious of the thoughts that may be overwheming you.  If you have thoughts, feelings or a story to share then feel free to click "Your Story" above and share whatever you need to.