In My View: Student life is by no means easy

Graduates from UEA. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Graduates from UEA. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Those of you familiar with my articles may have noted that I have a particular agenda - to dispel the preconceptions of what it is to be a student.

EN In My View columnist Liam Heitman-Rice. Picture: Liam Heitman-Rice

EN In My View columnist Liam Heitman-Rice. Picture: Liam Heitman-Rice - Credit: Liam Heitman-Rice

We are not all debt-ridden layabouts who exist on Netflix and ready meals. Indeed that is why I strove to write these opinion pieces in the first place, to offer a genuine first-hand account of the university experience and all of its hidden wonders and dramas.

This week, I have been stressed to the point of insomnia.

Such an episode may strike you as familiar, as I am confident that many of you reading this will be aware of the prevalence of mental ill-health amongst young people, particularly students.

While you may be aware of this, I am unsure if you have an understanding of it. I am going to contextualise these reports by sharing with you all what it is that spins around in my head, because I want you to understand what it is that students have to deal with.

True, university is not the workaday world. You may think it is a rainbow kingdom compared to the productive monotony of holding a career, but I want to assure you that ours is an exhausting utopia.

I am on the committee of two separate societies, Debating and Showchoir, which meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

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I have three seminars a week, along with all the preparatory reading and presentations they require, followed by a film screening on Thursday evenings.

I work two evenings across the weekend at a busy restaurant - and among all of this I will aim to go to the gym three times a week, see friends outside of class, do my own personal writing, do laundry, keep the house tidy, buy food and try to sleep.

The upside of this frantic schedule is that I am rarely bored, as I am prone to despondency when I have little with which to engage myself.

The downside, however, is that I am often intensely distracted by my to-do list. One of my greatest difficulties is letting things go - I cannot relax until I have finished whatever task I have committed myself to, be it washing the dishes or cleaning my shoes.

These habits may portray me as an obsessive personality and that can at times be a fair assessment, but it is the volume of my responsibilities that has caused this obsessiveness. For in order to complete so many tasks I need to ensure they are completed first time round, which means they need to be done right the first time.

It's like they say - if you want a job done, give it to a busy person.

The fundamental means I have of coping with all of these demands is the immense personal satisfaction I gain from their completion.

I may be trembling with frustration and on the brink of tears some days but, how fine it is to say, I've done it.

The effort involved in crossing so many things off of my to-do list can at times be insupportable, but that sheer satisfaction I gain from doing it is my saving grace.

It renews the assurance I have of my own abilities, and that just about makes it worth everything. It is hard, but I know I can do it.

It is not my intention here to aggrandise myself. I do want you to read this and think of me as an uptight micromanager seeking validation.

I want you to read this and understand how much students have to deal with, the weight of their deadlines, the heaviness of those to-do lists.

I want you to understand why mental ill-health is an affliction amongst students – it is the result of stress and exhaustion, it is the result of having too much to balance.

Ultimately this is the one of the hardest things to achieve - balance. Being able to allocate enough time to the tasks that need to be done – the reading requirements, the research, the presentations – and those that you want done for yourself.

It is exhilarating and, as I have said, it is the much preferred alternative to boredom - but it can prove to be unendurably stressful. This might be easier than 'the real world' of mortgages, meetings and Monday to Friday schedules, but it is by no means easy.

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