The University of Sheffield's Students' Union

The University of Sheffield Students’ Union

This time last year, I had just completed my A-levels. The prospect of (hopefully) going to university two months later was incredibly exciting.

A few days ago I found out I had passed my first year of university with great grades. I should be happy, right? Honestly, I couldn’t feel more indifferent.

Not indifferent about my grades, but about the university experience in general. So much has happened in this past year that has tarnished my idyllic, perhaps naïve, expectations of uni. This post serves to break it down gently for you new uni hopefuls anxiously awaiting your A-level results.

Don’t let this list of reasons put you off going to uni altogether – trust me, going to university is hard and it would still be a struggle without all the unexpected annoyances along the way. This post is solely based on my experience, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s to not let the experiences of others dictate your own. Yet we often go through the same things, so if any of the following happens to you, you’ve been warned.

10 REASONS WHY UNI SUCKS (but you should still go regardless)

Yeah, I’m going Buzzfeed-style. Apparently, this format is cool because it makes relatable stuff more digestible, and Buzzfeed is for young people, and I’m writing for young people, so from that I deduce you must read Buzzfeed listicles, even if you don’t I’m just trying to be hip and cool and with the times because over this past year I have realised how much of an old woman I really am. Please don’t hate me, I know that was a really long sentence and this is too and I should know how to write with proper punctuation if I am going to be a journalist, I can assure you I do, but having assumed this Buzzfeed style of writing articles it seems that I have lost my grasp of basic English grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. I just added an Oxford comma at the end of that last sentence so you guys know I can actually write.

REASON 1: It’s very easy to get mixed up with the wrong crowd
With the excitement of starting university and moving away from home, everyone is insecure in this new environment and therefore friendships are made very quickly. However, it isn’t long after freshers’ week that people’s true colours begin to shine through. It’s easy to get dragged along on nights out you don’t want to go on or to suddenly find yourself surrounded by drug addicts. Be proactive with making friends – university is harder to go through alone – but keep vigilant. Don’t trust people immediately and remember that not everyone who says they’re your friend is your friend.

REASON 2: Your mental health will take a beating
This huge change in your surroundings, lifestyle, style of study, and having to manage a tonne of new relationships can take a huge toll on your mind. Look after yourself. Take some time out for your own mental well-being. It’s very easy to get exhausted with all the new activities and responsibilities you have. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health problems, or can see themselves struggling at university in the future (I did during my first year), take a look at my post about tackling mental illness and my #DrawMyFeels page. You are not alone.

REASON 3: Thieves are in operation
Just four days ago I was due to receive a delivery at my halls only to discover it had been stolen by a fellow student living two floors down. She refused to speak to me face to face on multiple occasions and then denied it when I messaged her. She claimed she had moved out of halls on Friday night even though I saw her in our accommodation on Saturday and Sunday. People lie and people steal. Not everyone is as kind or honest as you are. Beware.

REASON 4: No one will have the same home-training as you
It is safe to say that if you ever use the toilet in someone else’s flat be ready to be met with recent evidence of a volcanic eruption, a swimming pool, and/or toxic fumes. Statistically, this occurs on 4.5/10 of all occasions.

REASON 5: Some of your fellow students will lack a moral compass
Students do some crazy stuff. Sometimes you will question whether some of them actually have a brain. Lots of them tend to screw people over with no regard for anything other than themselves. Prepare to be shocked. Not everyone comes from your small town where everyone is the same – some people will do things which you would never dream of doing for reasons you cannot comprehend.

REASON 6: Competition is real
On an industry-focused degree like journalism, competition between students is a given as these types of courses are a microcosm of the industry itself. Yet it can be hard to deal with the competitive nature of the course when your rivals are your friends. Don’t let it get to you too much; you have to grow a thick skin and remember it will be even harder in the real world.

REASON 7: Estate agents will take advantage of the fact you are young, impressionable students who have never signed a tenancy agreement before
DO NOT RUSH INTO A TENANCY AGREEMENT FOR YOUR SECOND YEAR. Very early in the academic year, unscrupulous estate agents will prey on excitable, naïve students who can’t wait to move into a cool new pad with their new friends. Many students are pressured into signing contracts in November out of fear that “the best places will be gone if we wait too long; we aren’t going to get a better offer than this.” Don’t be fooled. You can wait until around February to find a new place, and you’ll be better off too, as you will have more time to look around and meet with a variety of estate agents. You’ll learn all the tricks and realise how they’ll try to take advantage and make you sign a contract quickly so that you don’t have time to read the small print. They’ll take your money and then the problems will come. Again, stay vigilant.

REASON 8: You’re plunged into adulthood, which can be quite daunting
If you’re like me and never had to do any chores at home (thanks, mum), coming to uni can be a tough gig. No one is going to do anything for you. No one will clean your room, no one will do your laundry, no one will cook your meals, no one will do your coursework and no one will wash your plates except you. Learning how to do everything expected of an adult is hard at first but you soon get used to it. However, remember that this is the time when it’s OK to make mistakes, to live in a pigsty (if that’s your style), or to never use your toilet brush. But also remember that if you don’t learn now, life’s going to be much harder once you leave university.

REASON 9: If you’re religious, your faith will be at risk
As a Christian, I knew it would be difficult to maintain my faith while at university with all the temptations that come with a new environment and newfound independence. That’s why I made contact with my university’s Christian Union when I found out I got my university place, and I found a church where I felt welcome and comfortable within the first two weeks of uni starting. Yet even with other Christians around you, remembering God is still difficult. University is a trial, but by God’s grace, you can get through it. Plug yourself into a church and surround yourself with Christian friends who encourage and inspire you, and you will feel a lot less insecure in your faith and life in general.

REASON 10 (wow we finally got to the end I am so relieved): You’ll be laden with regret
Your first year of university is a massive learning curve. There will be a mountain of things you think you could have done better, opportunities you should have taken rather than ignored, and things you wish you hadn’t done at all. But that’s OK. This is the one time in your life that you can make changes and get away with mistakes. Take advantage of that fact, and don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re still young.

As said before, don’t let this list be a deterrent. All these things can be overcome and are part and parcel of life, let alone university. Once you complete your degree and graduate, you’ll be wondering why you worried so much in the first place.

Good luck!

sun pri obs

Left: The Sun‘s front page on Friday 3 June. Headline reads ‘Fury at ‘racist’ BBC: Auntie is anti white’. Right: Private Eye‘s response to the Sun’s front page in their 10 June issue.

Just going to get this out of the way first: if you’re reading my blog and your pro any of the Sun’s xenophobic drivel, or you read the Daily Mail as your go-to news source, move your mouse to the top right hand corner of your screen (left if you use a Mac) and click the red thing with an X on it. See you later.

There aren’t tons of things to say here – it’s all pretty self-explanatory – but here’s a short blog post anyway for those who might not get it.

On Friday 3 June the Sun‘s main headline attacked the BBC’s trainee schemes for people from BAME groups – that’s Black And Minority Ethnic – calling them ‘racist’ because somehow they are excluding white people. Private Eye responded, pointing out that Sky News, the Sun‘s sister TV channel, runs its own work experience scheme for BAME and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Ha ha.

Maybe I have some sort of vested interest because both ‘BAME’ and ‘economically disadvantaged’ apply to me, but I’m sure white and economically privileged people with a sound mind would agree that there need to be provisions for these groups to ensure equal chances in the industry. White and economically priveleged people except those who work at and read the Sun, obviously, but I don’t think ‘sound mind’ applies there.

It is incredibly important for people from ethnic minorities and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to look at those who make up TV and print newsrooms and see BAME talent and people from working class families.

People need to be encouraged that whatever their background, they can go far and achieve whatever they want if they put their mind to it. This just isn’t happening yet. There are only seven BAME people on my course, myself included – BA Journalism Studies at the Univeristy of Sheffield – out of almost 100 in my year group. This is proof enough that we need these BAME and diversity trainee schemes. They give us the room and ability to achieve more and be recognised for our talents in a predominantly white, middle-class industry.

However, the Sun being anti other – not just in journalism but in life in general – is nothing new. Just take the following inflammatory headlines against Muslims, migrants, and even those who are mentally ill:

  • ‘Muslim call to prayer on TV: Ramadan a ding-dong’ (July 2013)
  • ‘Horror in suburbia: “Muslim convert” beheads woman in garden’ (September 2014)
  • ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’ (November 2015)
  • ‘Immigration shock: Green & pleasant crammed’ (November 2015)
  • ‘Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants’ (April 2015 – not a front page headline but caused a stir nonetheless)
  • ‘1,200 killed by mental patients’ (October 2013)
  • ‘Psycho cabbie’s rampage on CCTV (June 2010 – the use of negative sensationalist langauge ridicules mental illness)

I rest my case.

Going back to the BAME issue:

Some people may spout the following rhetoric, a rhetoric implicit in the Sun: “Positive discrimination is wrong: it favours those of particular ethnic or economic backgrounds, while white people who work hard miss out.”

Really? White people miss out? Even with these trainee schemes, white people are still more likely to get TV and print jobs regardless of their talent than those from BAME groups. Yes, the UK is mostly white but much of England at least is not. If newsrooms, particularly print newsrooms, continue to be solely white then they will not be reflective of the population. It wasn’t until June 2013 that Amol Rajan was appointed as editor of the Independent, and he remains the only BAME editor of a British national newspaper.

BAME and economically disadvantaged people will continue to be put off trying to enter this industry because they cannot see people who look like them on TV or behind the written word. There may be a few, but a few isn’t enough. This is why there are only seven BAME students on my course. We need these schemes. We need to be encouraged. The industry shouldn’t shut us out: we can do the job just as well as any white, economically privileged person can.

Nevermind how much the Sun wishes we couldn’t.

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