The first year of university shouldn’t be treated as unimportant

From what I’ve gathered from endless conversations with fellow peers and older students here at the University of Edinburgh, university is a stressful time, no matter the course, the number of readings or the difficulty of the exams. This is inevitably the result of the pressure we students put on ourselves before even enrolling, making promises to ourselves that our work ethic is going to be different this year, that we will do all of our assignments and stay on top of the work. However, it seems that we tend to fall short on at least some of the above very soon after the beginning of the course, well at least the majority of us. We are faced with our unrealistic and unachieved goals, with expectations from our family (which might not even be true) and with the desire to impress and not disappoint the tutors.

However, I believe the pressure we put on ourselves is soon contrasted by the minimised pressure we receive from older students and tutors. “It’s only the first year, it doesn’t count towards anything,” is the sentence I have heard countless times and while it is probably supposed to make me feel better and less anxious about my studies, it can in fact reduce my expectations and goals. This is not what I came to the university for. Not to be misunderstood, enormous pressure from the tutors would probably make us all very anxious and could result in worse performance due to being so stressed about excelling at all times. After all, it is our first experience of studying at a higher academic level and we are unsure of what to expect from the exams, so further pressure besides the one we put on ourselves could be too discouraging and would make university experience miserable.

Here is where I would like to comment on another sort of pressure we, especially first year students, experience. When we hear that “the first year is about passing” and that we “should just have fun in the first year,” we often feel almost embarrassed for stressing about our studies and not enjoying the typical university experience of going out every other night and always trying out new societies and activities. It seems that the expectations and goals we set to achieve are too high for a fresher and we are missing out on the social aspect of our studies. It surely makes it difficult for us to balance these, so perhaps mutual encouragement for both “work” and “fun” part of student life would be appreciated instead of the usual complaints of “how much we have to do,” no matter how stress-relieving it sometimes seems. After all, we came here both to do well in our studies, which means working hard and aiming to excel on every step of the way (while allowing ourselves to fail), as well as enjoying the ever-present socialising and opportunities to meet new people.

Image: perzonseo via Flickr

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