I debated whether or not to share this, and to be honest I'm still not sure whether I should. This is incredibly difficult for me to talk about, as it's something that I never really share. It's very personal and I haven't shared this story with many people in my real life, let alone online, but I think it is something that may help others who've been through a similar situation or for people who are about to go off to university.
I don't want to scare anybody, but I think there are so many articles and blog posts about university being the best days of your life and how amazing it is, and it made me feel worse when I was going through this because there seemed to be nobody speaking out about how lonely and difficult it can be.
So, I hated university.
Before going, I thought I would love it. I was excited to be living away from home, to meet new people, to follow my dreams and complete my dream course, to become an adult. I'd watched all sorts of tv shows and films about going away to university and college, and I couldn't wait.
On the day I was moving into university, I remember unpacking my room, sticking posters and photographs on the wall and waving goodbye to my parents. I'd spoken to a girl on my corridor on Facebook already, so I was excited to meet everyone in my halls and have a great time. 'I'll make friends for life!' I remember thinking.
Unfortunately, it didn't happen like that.
Everything was great for a while, but it didn't take long before I was labelled by my 'hall mates' as the weird, nerdy girl who didn't want to go out drinking every night. As the only one on a teaching course, I had early placements and lots of essays to write, so I couldn't be out until 5am every night. Also, I just didn't want to! There were things that everyone else was doing that just weren't my scene at all, and I wasn't going to bow down to peer pressure just to fit in. The whole 'university experience' just wasn't my thing at all, and it wasn't long before I was shunned by the people in my halls.
By shunned, I mean bullied. They would hide my stuff, eat my food, smash my plates, bang on the adjoining walls of my bedroom with pans at all hours of the night, call me names... It got to the point where I was constantly phoning my parents and my boyfriend at the time, telling them that I couldn't do it and that I needed to come home.
I began having panic attacks for the first time and developed anxiety, which was scary enough, but even scarier when I was on my own, away from home, with nobody to talk to. I barely ate because I was terrified of going into the communal kitchen. I became paranoid. I felt lonely, depressed, scared, anxious and miserable. It really affected me and still affects me even now, 10 years later.
With the support of my family, I spoke to someone at my university about how I was feeling and they referred me for counselling to deal with my panic attacks. They also said they would look into moving me into a different room in different halls, which thankfully they did.
For the remainder of my time in uni, I lived with some lovely girls who were already close friends with each other. After first year, I lived at home for the rest of my time at university and commuted over an hour every day because I was so affected by what had happened.
I wish I had enjoyed university, but it was a really awful time in my life and has left me with some damaging scars. I now suffer with panic attacks and anxiety as a result and have spoken to therapists about the causes and triggers which stem from my time at university. I'm glad I stuck it out, didn't bow down to peer pressure and completed my course to become a teacher, but it does make me sad that I don't have fond memories of my time there.
It especially affects me when I see other people who made friends for life at university and talk about 'the good old days'. As a now-27-year-old, I don't have any friends from university and only have a small group of close friends, most of whom I met as an adult.
So I'm here to tell you that if you went through something similar, or if you're going to university, it's okay if you don't love it. It's okay not to want to do the things that other people are doing. It's okay not to make friends for life. If something is happening, if there is someone that makes you feel uncomfortable, if anybody is trying to pressure you into doing things you don't want to do, please speak to someone and tell them how you feel.
Did you go to university? What was your experience like? Feel free to share your stories in the comments.