The big grumble: Why do we moan so much about our degrees?

‘“Go to University” they said; “it will be fun” they said.’ Recently, as I scrolled aimlessly through Twitter in a haze of procrastination, I came across this tweet.. In agreement I swiftly ‘liked’ the tweet and continued not to write my essay. In my effort to think about anything other than my bibliography, a thought occurred to me that I haven’t been able to shake since: do I not enjoy my degree? And if I do, then why do I relentlessly complain about it with my peers?

Throwback to UCAS applications and the pressure of making the right choice for your future – for the first time we could choose to immerse ourselves in a subject that we love for three years. So, envisioning a utopian educational experience characterised by enthusiasm, passion and expertise, we picked our top universities and nervously awaited our exam results.

We knew exactly what we had signed up for: not only did we spend months of browsing prospectuses, travelling to open-days, and comparing ratings, but ultimately, we were aware that we were applying to do a degree, a higher form of education entailing assignments and exams. Surely we didn’t expect it to be easy? So, why are we constantly groaning about having to do the work for the degree we so ardently wanted to do just a few years back?

Do I not enjoy my degree? And if I do, then why do I relentlessly complain about it with my peers?

Perhaps it isn’t the degree we can’t hack, but the lack of daily structure. Once upon a time our days were spent in school, the fridge was kept full, and weekends were cool. Now, our lives are defined by non-existent sleeping patterns, weeks that blur into weekends, and a constant battle against what I will call ‘the guilt’.

If you’re a student, you have experienced ‘the guilt’; it describes the constant, lingering shame we feel when we are doing anything other than our university work, even if that activity is one of our countless newly acquired responsibilities: namely laundry, groceries and cooking. Where our days used to be structured by our schools, our colleges and our parents, suddenly, we have to make choices. We have to try and balance our social lives with our work-loads, whilst still ensuring our own survival through remembering to eat, drink and sleep too. Is it because we are so overwhelmed, then, that we grumble and groan about our degrees?

If you’re a student, you have experienced ‘the guilt’

Moreover, we students are all in the same boat. Trying to navigate the rocky waters of university life isn’t easy, but we find a level of reassurance in discovering that our peers are facing the same struggles. Discussing the abundance of stresses you’re experiencing with a friend is unarguably a way to find relief.

Knowing you’re not the only one facing ten hours-worth of reading, five hours of lecture catch-up, two assignments and a group project is good for the student-soul. No longer are you a lone soldier in the battle-field that is your student-life, you’re part of an army fighting the pressures facing you all.

We find a level of reassurance in discovering that our peers are facing the same struggles

From my perspective: we moan because we are exhausted; we rant because we have a to-do list that spreads across three pages; we whine because we need the reassurance that our friends are overloaded too. It isn’t that we hate our degrees. It’s that our responsibilities are like juggling balls and no matter how hard we try we can’t seem to keep them all in the air at the same time. We grumbling students aren’t ungrateful for our privileged educations, and (most of us) remain passionate about our subjects.

But it is not easy. We are not superhuman; we are youthful, enthusiastic, and extremely overwhelmed young people. It’s no wonder we can’t always keep our juggling balls in flight. I will unquestionably continue to moan about my work, as will all students putting in the hours. However, I am going to start making a conscious effort to remind myself to try and tackle the stress head-on, with positivity and fervour.

We are not superhuman; we are youthful, enthusiastic, and extremely overwhelmed young people

Confucius, is alleged to have said “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Granted, university is not a job per se, but perhaps if we adopted this approach towards our immeasurable responsibilities, and reconnected with the excitable, spirited versions of ourselves that we were during A Levels, then we would relieve some of the pressure we feel, and complain just a little less than before.

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Comments (2)

  • It is human nature to feel better if someone else is as, or more miserable than we are. It some how gives us motivation to persevere. I don’t know what that says about human nature, but it is real and follows you throughout life. I guess if you see someone overcome and succeed that has more to “whine” than you it seems easier to overcome our obstacles.

  • Lucy Stubbings

    I love this comment. I think you’re very right, I guess us humans don’t want to feel like failures! I also agree that there is a level of motivation to putting your own troubles in perspective against that of others, and using that as fuel to keep going yourself!

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