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The Identity Crisis That Is University

By Sayuri Persotham

The University Experience, sourced from:

There’s a notion lodged in our minds that university is the key to absolute liberation. A life of freedom and choice, unburdened by the rigidity of school and the watchful eyes of parents. This is the mindset I entered university with and probably the one you did, too. It is true, in part. 

University is the light at the end of the tunnel for many high school students. Granted, it is not the correct path for everyone. But for the students who wish to further their education, we work tirelessly to attain that acceptance letter. We dream of being gifted the stamp of approval that validates the last twelve years of our existence. It’s a medal of honour bestowed upon us. Something for our parents to brag about and our friends to look upon enviously. "I’m going to graduate, follow my dreams, and become a real adult! And I’m going to live life to the fullest in between,” is the thought echoing in the mind of every matriculant. This naivety propels us forward into the unknown. I wish someone had told me adulthood begins the minute we walk through those doors. 

Unfortunately, the entirety of university is not a series of wild nights and seemingly terminal hangovers, as shown in movies. Every aspect of your education becomes solely your responsibility. If you choose to move away from home, you need to figure out how to keep yourself alive in the process. Here’s the truth about university life: the content is tenfold, the deadlines are impossible, and everyone is still expected to maintain an 'Instagrammable' social life. Quite frankly, it seems impossible. 

University throws your whole life into question. Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? How do I juggle everything at once? Am I happy? These questions represent an all-too-true reality for every university student. The lens through which you view life changes from black and white to technicolor. The world suddenly seems like a big, scary place where you, a toddler, prepare to take your first clumsy steps. You will stumble, fall, and make mistakes. You will be stressed beyond belief, excited beyond measure, and nagged by a pervading sense of doubt. The university experience is a sensory overload, indescribable in its power. 

The good news is that every single university student feels this way. We are united in a state of permanent uncertainty and anxiety. It’s called growth. The human body experiences aching or throbbing sensations in the legs, known as growing pains and essentially, to grow, discomfort is a necessity. It is a sign of your character development as you transition from adolescent to adult. You are learning to handle the struggles life will inevitably throw at you, and in the process, you will discover who you are. A version of you that is unclouded by rules and restrictions. For the first time, you are utterly in charge of everything that will ensue. University life is terrifying and enticing all at once. In truth, starting this new chapter will feel overwhelming. However, being confronted with all these possibilities is crucial to find yourself. 

Your parents have already ingrained in you the need to study voraciously. They have cautioned you against distractions that will knock you off course. “Don’t lose sight of why you are there,” they lecture authoritatively. It is as if they were not young once. In any case, my intention is not to bore you with those tiresome details. You’ve heard them countless times. My purpose is to remind you to live. The unimaginable amount of work stacked against you is a given. As is the party culture that sweeps you off your feet and dazzles you. But I’m not talking about that; I am talking about actually living. Talk to new people. Try new things (within reason). Immerse yourself in art, culture, sports, and every other experience that the university has to offer. Go on adventures and take risks. Engage in stimulating conversations with your lecturers — they are some of the most bizarre and fascinating people you will ever encounter. Just live.

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