“Ah. University. It’ll be the time of your life…”
Nearly 4 years later:
These are the snapshots and snippets of intoxicated conversation that I am assaulted with as I make the 10-minute walk from my house to the top of Bournbrook road. A guy sporting a tutu shoves a peace sign in my face as he drunkenly skips by with a friend who is wearing nothing but a bin bag as what I assume to be some variation of a little black dress.
What the fuck am I doing here?
I have always liked the beginning of a new academic year. I am inspired by the notion of a fresh start, of possibility and reunion. You see, I began my final year with a heavy dose of what I call pre-reminiscence: that feeling you get when you think about missing something that you haven’t even lost yet- an aperitif to wet your mind’s appetite for the bitch that is nostalgia.
It is the weekend just before the start of term and I make my way down the road to this local student bar. I sit there, sober and fake-smiling, trying to laugh in appropriate time to the conversation I’d rather not engage with. I watch two girls grind against each other whilst holding pool cues- one arm extended to take a selfie as they both force an open-mouthed smile. They are having the time of their lives…right? At least that is what it looks like in their constructed social media moment. Until- the arm drops. They are now both typing away on their phones and slurping their drinks through neon straws as they aimlessly glance around. Looking for a friend? The toilet? Validation? Its hard to tell. The charitable deceptions of impending nostalgia are gone. I remember why I hate being here.
This must be some branch of hell.
It is not surprising that statistics imply a crisis on campuses with respect to students’ mental health. According to a government survey of Britain’s students, over a quarter report having a mental health issue of one type or another. How did it get this bad? Though I cannot claim to know or understand all of the contributing factors; I am here to argue for one that I believe is blatantly obvious, but for some reason seems to remain unacknowledged.
Drum roll, please….
‘Having fun’ is not a reason to exist.
Anyone who wishes to contest this statement has fundamentally misunderstood how we work as a species. We are wired to have a purpose. In any other context, if you had nothing to do with your time except drink and do drugs, it would be tragic. Yet, at university it is glorified. I am not here to propose that student life should be devoid of recreational poison. I am simply saying that it should not be at the cost of mental stability, healthy relationships, passion and personal responsibility.
In terms of socialisation, the quality of both romantic and platonic relationships is inversely proportional to the percentage of alcohol in your system. Not all, but many friendships are an extended edition of drunk girls in club bathrooms loudly showering each other with empty compliments and offering 13-year-old relationship advice. Men and women alike avoid commitment like the plague because it is ‘too much work’ or they want to ‘keep their options open’. Many of the ones who do commit, end up crossing some line at one point or another.
Students who have no work ethic are rewarded with extenuating circumstances for laziness while an embarrassing number have no concept of common courtesy when living in a shared house, let alone society. In a world where post-modern philosophical thought has concluded that ‘anything goes,’ and ‘everything is subjective’, people who stand for anything at all are parodied. You are left with the insecure majority who haven’t done the work ridiculing those who have the strength of character to actually honour the fact that they are here to earn a degree.
So, here is a population of students most of whom sum up their lives in booze, bangs and blunts. As for those who try to remain sane, it is fundamentally dehumanising to spend most of your time in an environment where people snort their lives up their nose, down it in a pint or watch it go up in smoke – proudly proclaiming that they ‘made it to every -insert crappy student club- night of the term so far.’ They are probably friends with the girl who woke me up the other night by screeching drunkenly that she wanted chicken nuggets.
Welcome, to Student Purgatory, “the time of your life”.
By Shaima Alterkawi
Find more of Shaima’s work on her site: https://saintshimmy.wordpress.com/