The holiday season is officially over, and it has just dawned on you that your university orientation is… *checks timetable* tomorrow?! No need to hit the panic button yet, as this new chapter in your life signals a time of optimism. Whether this is your first, second, or third start to the university year, one piece of advice still holds true: “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
Your university experience will vary to that of your peers, even to those with identical class timetables. You will meet people from all walks of life, some with subjectively privileged upbringings and others with the hopes of repaying the sacrifices their family made to give them a better chance at life. Yes, I am generalising here, and this list should be exhaustive (nor are the two examples I provided mutually exclusive); but the truth is, that was my experience. Initially, I found it hard to make friends and keep up with the high demands of the degree. I grew to resent other students who I perceived to have a thriving social life and still score well in assessments, something I was naively conditioned to believe was not possible. I had to keep reminding myself I deserved to be here — I received an offer to study at this university just like everybody else.
However, this isn’t one of those sob stories, and I am not asking for your sympathy. What I am inferring is that imposter syndrome is real and it’s OK to not know what you are doing. Luckily, it took me only one semester to snap out of this adverse mindset. Over time, I realised that whilst my experience was seemingly different, most students shared universal issues. Now as an academic myself, I can pass on a few tips that I wish I knew before I started university.
It’s OK to not make friends immediately or skip social occasions to study. It’s also OK (with reason) to prioritize social events over study. It’s OK to never understand a subject matter, no matter how hard you try — failing a class is not a unique experience and can happen to anyone. The whole point of university is to find out your strengths and weaknesses, and to exploit this knowledge for your future career in the workforce. Naturally, it’s OK to dislike your assignment group members, some people really are hard to work with.
Herein lies the university experience paradox: your experiences are unique to other students but instantaneously similar at the same time. This explains why so many students feel disenfranchised with the whole process. It goes without saying that there is no point in comparing yourself to others. Focus and work on your own strengths and flaws, irrespective of those around you. Your time at university will be some of the best years of your young adult life, so try to make the best of it.
Whilst comparison may be the thief of joy: “Pessimism leads to weakness and optimism to power”. Enjoy your upcoming university orientation events and good luck in your studies. Power to you, you have earned it.