October 4, 2023, by UoN School of English

The pressure to have ‘The University Experience’

‘The University Experience’ is more than just something first years use as a reason to dump their long-term secondary school girlfriends/boyfriends.  It’s a term that gets thrown around often and is commonly used to justify going clubbing when you have a paper to write or pulling all-nighters the day before your essay is due. But what really is the quintessential university experience and why do we pressure ourselves to have it?  

A wide shot of a club with lasers illuminating the shot

Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash 


As a student beginning her third year, my university experience so far has consisted of making new friendships, getting my heart broken, falling in love, learning to live on my own and with my friends, getting to know myself, all while writing essays and going to classes. I have joined societies and I have gone out more times than I can count (I’ve also stayed in more times than I can count) and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  

Is this THE university experience? Maybe. But I haven’t experienced a sport society initiation ritual or starred in a play or won an award or had a one-night stand or anything else that others may consider a key part of ‘The University Experience’. So, does it all count?  

Students playing sport

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash 

There seems to be this pressure to do everything when it comes to university. Whether it be joining a sports team or living in the library for a week working on an essay, the invisible checklist of things you have to do to have ‘The University Experience’ is always looming. However, there is a key difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because it’s part of ‘The University Experience’. I would argue instead that your university experience is about finding out what you like and who you are. 

There is no singular quintessential university experience. How can there be when everyone has distinct interests, likes, and dislikes? It’s easy for your peers to tell you that you’re doing university wrong because you make it to all your 9ams or because you haven’t yet joined a society by the end of first year. But I can assure you there are no rules. You can’t physically do university wrong because it is what you make it. 

A young girl with her back to the camera looks across the street at a cherry blossom and row of houses

 Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash 

To any nervous offer holders, or current students who feel like they’ve done the whole university thing wrong, take this as your reassurance. Your university experience is your playground, let it be whatever you want.  

 – Jamey Heron-Waterhouse, 3rd Year BA English

Posted in SocialSocieties/clubs/extracurricularStudent WordsTips/Advice/Guidance