University is supposed to be putting us where we want to be in life, but where does it take us on the days that we are unsure? Where does it put us when our alarms go off and we hit snooze over and over again because that mood we were in last night didn’t go away? Where does it bring us when we get lonely? Where does university bring us when we get stressed? Where does it bring us when our courses seem pointless, when our ideas seem dumb, and when we can’t think of how to feel any better? Yes, university is certainly the golden road to our futures, but no one said that this road would be easy to navigate.
University is a great step-up from school academically, and the heavy workload can be a major cause of stress. “Homework overwhelmed me last year,” says Alex, an undergraduate studying Economics. “I would stare at my computer and refresh Facebook for hours before I started working on the stuff I needed to do. I was so worried about my work that I was afraid to start it.”
With constant talk of high unemployment, the pressure of what lies ahead is a key cause of concern for students. “I just want to know that this degree is going to be worth it’, says Anna, a postgraduate: “it’s tough because when I think too much about life after college I get worried that I’m not studying the right thing, I start to question if I should even be in college at all. My parents help me pay for this. I don’t want to waste their money.”
Coursework overload, uncertainty of the future and financial woes concern university students all over the world, but many, if not most of the problems we deal with at university can be caused by the lives we lead outside of the classroom.
The challenges of maintaining a busy social life can at times be as difficult as academic pressures. “Sometimes it’s hard to stay in and study because I want to go out,” says second year student Eric: “I feel like I’m missing out if I stay in. I’m trying to make friends, but I feel like I’m going to lose them if I’m not going to the bar on Tuesdays.”
For students studying far from home, student life can be particularly challenging. “I miss my family most during the winter,” explains Anna, “it’s a cold and lonely time, and it’s hard knowing that they’re all together and I’m across the ocean, by myself.”
Yes, university is that golden road, that winding golden road that climbs up hills and dips down valleys, and when we’re up we are on top of the world, but when we’re down, well, everyone knows what that feels like.
Issues with stress, anxiety and depression are common consequences of the pressures of student life, but the good news is that there are resources set up so that, when the road gets dark, we don’t have to walk alone.
Big White Wall is one of these resources. It is a support network that works with people over the ages of 16 who struggle with issues of wellbeing and mental health. The University has a rapport with this agency, and provides a link to its website on the student counselling page.
Big White Wall’s sessions are anonymous and you can express yourself under customized perimeters, whether that be community, group, or one-on-one therapy sessions. Big White Wall also offers clinical tests to students who want to see if their condition can be diagnosed. All of this help is judgment free and given by people who have dealt with similar issues themselves; they are passionate about helping students make a change because they know what it’s like to be in a slump.
Another valuable resource for students is Nightline, a confidential and anonymous listening service for students that operates over the phone or online messenger. Their specially trained student volunteers are available every night of term between 8pm and 8am. They are a non-judgemental service, with whom you can talk through any issues, no matter how big or small.
University inevitably has its challenges, and everyone can use some guidance or someone to listen at times. So when the golden road gets slick and foggy, when you feel like you’re lost and slipping, get some support; lean on the Big White Wall.