DD so upset at uni it's breaking my heart

(156 Posts)
amumthatcares Thu 03-Oct-13 08:33:40

Just to re-cap: For those of you that read my previous posts, DD was torn between a uni for the city and it's vibrant nightlife and the top uni for her course in a quieter city. She firmed the top uni. On getting her results she had a complete melt down and said she'd made a terrible mistake with both the course and the uni. She wanted to be in the vibrant city and do a course that had a wider career path choice. We discussed everything, pointing out all of the possible pitfalls if she changed (ie, strong possibility of not getting campus accommodation, etc.,) She was still sure she wanted to change, saying that she would make friends with house mates and on her course etc., and so we did everything we could to help her swap through clearing.

She got allocated an off campus house (5 sharing). It started off badly when we took her down and nobody else moved in that day and so she spent the first night alone. The next day two lads moved in who she has got on well with. That was 3 weeks ago. This week 2 international students have moved in that obviously have completely different cultures and do not share similar personalities to my DD. She has been unable to meet anyone at the Uni as she has to travel by train for a one hour lecture of 100+ students and then 5 hours later (too long to spend hanging around on campus with nothing to do) go back for another lecture. Everyone just leaves the lectures and goes their own way and so she goes back to her house. She sees all her school friends on FB that are in uni halls, posting pics of Freshers flat parties and clubbing.

She is quite a strong, outgoing girl and very sociable and is in absolute bits that she is finding it so hard to make friends and have that uni Freshers experience. We have looked at the societies that the uni has to offer and there is literally nothing that would remotely interest her. Apart from feeling very lonely and isolated, her big concern now is that students start sorting out next years house shares shortly after Christmas and she is panicking about what she will do. I know she made the decision to swap and go there, I know she has to live with it, I know there is little we can do to help change the situation but it hurts like fucking hell to see your DC so distraught sad

NotALondoner Thu 03-Oct-13 10:01:21

At the very last resort, am I right in thinking that if you drop out before December you don't pay course fees?

Tavv Thu 03-Oct-13 10:02:07

> what would be the point of joining a society if she were not with like minded people? If there was a society that she was interested in, the likelyhood is, there would be people with similar interests and personalities, but there is not.

I agree with * SavoyCabbage* that it's good to join in with things anyway. One of the great opportunities at university is to meet people who are different from yourself, have different interests and personalities and who are not "like-minded" or "from a similar background". You can make all kinds of new friends and broaden your horizons.

IceCreamForCrow Thu 03-Oct-13 10:04:42

sad Oh dear I'd feel just the same as you amumsad

Mine aren't at that stage yet but I think I'd be encouraging her to give it until Christmas just to see if it improves. That's a point in the not too distant future to aim towards as a time to assess the situation seriously, but to give it her all between now and then.

Don't do anything too hasty for now it's still early days and all feels raw and different.

I would also get her to go along to the uni dept that organises the on- campus accommodation and regularly pop in so they get to know herwink. Spaces may become available and if they keep seeing her they'll think of her.

People do drop out of their courses a lot at the start of term so something better may very possibly become available in accommodation that suits her better. Don't chuck away her dream course and University just because she's feeling isolated where she's living. That could well be fixable in time.

SatinSandals Thu 03-Oct-13 10:05:26

I think the housing is the key she needs to try her very best to change it.
There is some good advice on here.

Bumpsadaisie Thu 03-Oct-13 10:06:16

I sympathise with her unhappiness and your distress but the idea that there are literally NO societies that interest her seems a bit limp to me.

Most people go to uni not knowing anyone. You have to make a go of it! It's a real shame she's not in halls though. Was that because she got her place late?

RedWineAndCheese Thu 03-Oct-13 10:10:01

I would offer a "man up and just get stuck in" advice to your DD. 5 hours inbetween lectures? Go to the library and study! No friends yet? Just get out there. No like minded British people??? She really needs to broaden her horizons because the World is an International place and there are already too many grown adults who have issues with "different cultures".

And I think you must stop being this involved. For you to even be looking at the list of clubs and societies is a bit helicopter parent-like, isn't it?

I don't know the other post, but if she's at a less academic University, perhaps transferring or restarting there would be best anyway.

VenusDeWillendorf Thu 03-Oct-13 10:10:31

She needs to think of herself as having a full day, and not return to her flat.
Once she's in she's in college.

Maybe bring her gym stuff and work out, or take up a sport she'd never thought herself doing like trampoline or fencing.

Also she could go to the library! And stay off fb. Everyone only posts the best in their life there, not the mundane.

My feeling is that she's going to need to grow up and start being proactive, not easy if everything's been done for her up to now, either by her friends, or other asults, and she's been allowed to chop and change and not live with the consequences.

She needs to lean to make the best of her situation, and stick it out.

I'm sorry not to sound more sympathetic, but if there is a genuine problem why she's unable to settle, ie sn / anxiety / depression then of course, let her leave and reapply, but otherwise she needs to grow as an adult, and these are teething problems which must be overcome. If she really loathes it, and its affecting her mental health, well then why not reapply to the other uni for next year, and she could get a job for this year, and brush up on her life skills.

MinesAPintOfTea Thu 03-Oct-13 10:12:35

Sorry, but she needs to grit her teeth and join in a few societies. She won't meet new people if she sits in her room and feels sad that she's not getting on with her housemates. FWIW I haven't spoken to my first year houseshare people since I left. I regularly see people from one of my societies though, as does DH.

Is there a sport she doesn't object to (she doesn't have to love it, just like it enough to go along each week)? Netball, skiing, hiking, rugby, dance? Or another hobby? The chances of her happening to be lifelong friends with the people who she has been thrown in a house with are much lower than the chances of her getting on well with someone in a society she chooses to join or on her course.

Could she ask someone from her course if they want to study together, maybe go to a cafe or the library in a gap between lectures? Will there be group projects? They force people on the course to talk to each other. Is there a department society (ie Chem Soc) which organises social and subject-matter events for fun.

Universities are packed with ways to meet people, but unlike in school she will have to take the initiative and look for them. And you can't do it for her. Its also unlikely that the university itself is the problem at this point: wherever she had ended up she would still need to go out and find ways to meet friends herself. And her school friends won't be posting pictures on facebook of the days when they're crying that they will never make friends, of course facebook will make it look like they're having a fab time.

spiderlight Thu 03-Oct-13 10:13:56

I remember crying in the library because I felt so utterly alone at the start of uni. I chose to live at home and go to my home-town uni and struggled a bit to make friends initially because of this, but then I did eventually make two good friends (one was simply someone I saw most days on the bus in and eventually got chatting with) and then they both dropped out at Christmas, leaving me feeling totally bereft because everyone else had their own little gangs by then. It does get easier though - she'll soon be having smaller group tutorials and probably group assignments to do, which will help her to get to know people from her course - I'm still best friends with the first person I was paired with in a tutorial. She does need to join a few random societies or on-campus activities though - I did sign language and rambling, both of which were nice low-pressure ways to get to know people. Hopefully she'll be able to move closer to campus as well, which will help.

plummyjam Thu 03-Oct-13 10:15:38

She needs to speak to accommodation and ask them to move her into halls when a space becomes available. People drop out of uni in the first few weeks all the time.

A flatmate of mine quit her course in the first week and another girl moved in from a different hall. I ended up living with her for the next 4 years and we're best friends more than 12 years later.

I also think she needs to be a bit more open minded - the other students may be from a different culture, doesn't mean they can't be friends. At uni you also tend to become friends with other peoples friends - has she been out with the lads she gets on with?

PenelopePipPop Thu 03-Oct-13 10:16:32

Am a lecturer and personal tutor.

She will not be the only one feeling like this. This is normal for 50%+ of first years and obv her living arrangements are not helping. There is a reason why everyone drinks heavily to help them deal with the social awkwardness of the first few weeks. The first series of the programme/'documentary' (well I thought it was until my students explained to me) Fresh Meat does capture this horrible finding/reinventing yourself period very well.

Students join societies they are not interested in. Some will stir enthusiasm some won't. No matter. No one goes to uni an enthusiastic hang-glider/caver/photographer/opera-singer. Loads of people leave having done these things. This is why I live with a man with a complete paragliding kit taking up half our loft-space. And a canoe.

After lectures you hang around in the library or the SU, make eye contact with other people preparing for seminars and tutorials and chat. 5 hours is not too long to spend on campus if you have a stash of reading to do. If everyone else is spreading to the five winds it may be because they feel too shy to start up conversations too.

She needs to speak to her personal tutor now about how she is feeling. If for some reason she doesn't have one or doesn't get on with the one she has, she should e-mail the course director and request a meeting. If she does want to transfer off the course talking this over earlier rather than later is wise.

You say international students 'obviously' have different cultures and personalities. The different cultures is one of the joys of university, the personality point isn't obvious to me at all. Have you asked her how much effort she has made to make friends with her housemates? International students often experience very high levels of isolation, not helped by the assumption that they 'obviously' won't want to socialise with home students.

Tavv Thu 03-Oct-13 10:17:46

Agree that visiting the accommodation office would be a good idea. There may well be a space available in halls, if someone else has dropped out or moved, for example. She won't find out if she doesn't ask.

Does she have a particular tutor that she could talk things through with? Or someone at the counselling service could listen in an impartial way while she talks through her options?

If she drops out, could she ask the university in the quieter city if they could defer her place until next year? Then she could do a "gap year" of working or volunteering, to gain some life/work experience.

If everyone is going their separate ways after lectures could she invite one or two people if they'd like to go for a coffee? And while she's waiting for the situation to improve, she could pick two or three of the societies to join (at random if needs be!) in order to at least spend some time with people, rather than being in her house by herself.

ipswichwitch Thu 03-Oct-13 10:19:02

I also can't help thinking that surely among the myriad of societies most universities seem to have there must be one that's at least mildly interesting. The main focus for a lot of the societies is to get people mixing - quite often the subject of the society is of secondary importance. I say this as someone who joined the National Hat Society in freshers week. The only requirement was to meet in a pre designated place the bar wearing a hat. Ok, so it was just a flimsy excuse to go drinking, but it was great for getting out meeting people, especially in the first few weeks when you don't know anyone and are far from home.

titchy Thu 03-Oct-13 10:21:29

She has two weeks from the beginning of the course before she becomes liable for fees. She may only be liable for pro-rata fees, that will be hp to the university. But she will 'lose' a year's entitlement to a loan.

However agree with the others - why can't she talk to the person sitting next to her at the end of the lecture? They'll all be first years. There are plenty of cafes on her campus - if she's that outgoing it shouldn't be too difficult to talk to people in the queue. And yes join stuff!

IceCreamForCrow Thu 03-Oct-13 10:21:31

Brilliant advice from Penelope theresmile. I agree about getting to know the house mates. Sounds like they could do with a evening in getting to know each other over a few drinks and some food.

They are all living together after all, it would be nice to build a bit of a relationship and support one another rather than the house just being somewhere to sleep.

angeltulips Thu 03-Oct-13 10:23:24

I'm guessing she's in London by your comment "everyone goes their own ways after lectures" - I did my masters at a uol school and was amazed that this was absolutely true - the campuses are not really big enough and London is such an interesting place that people separate immediately after class.

So, she really has to join some clubs. Hockey is a good one for girls, as is netball. Photography? As the others have said, it doesn't have to be her life long passion. And definitely transfer to halls (or look for a house share closer).

Finally, if she is in London, remember that there is life outside of uni! There is so much going on for young people that is cheap or free - particularly in the arts. Soak up the galleries, join creative societies, go to free lectures & parties - the world is her oyster!

She shouldn't worry about the house thing- only the super organised people start looking for a place right after Christmas, we're barely out of freshers and some people I know got their houses for this year sorted in late August! Plus in March/April there's ads popping up all over the place by people looking for housemates.

ipswichwitch Thu 03-Oct-13 10:25:57

I should add that I am in no way interested in hats or any assorted headgear - I saw it for what it was, a chance to meet people. Barring my own bad experience with some foreign students, I did meet and make friends with a large number of other foreign students and even ended up spending 2 summers visiting and travelling with them in their home country. Just because you don't get on with some students from other countries, doesn't mean it's the same for them all. It certainly broadened my horizons meeting people who are hugely different to me and my background

ShoeWhore Thu 03-Oct-13 10:26:02

OP I can understand this is very hard to watch. If it makes you feel any better I was quite miserable in my first term at uni as well but once I settled in I had a blast.

I think your dd will get more out of the experience if she can find a way to approach it in a more open-minded way. I find it hard to believe that there isn't a single society or activity that she could muster some interest in. and I'm afraid I do tend to agree with pps that meeting people who are totally different to you is one of the big pluses of going to uni!

If the housing thing is really getting her down then she could speak to accommodation though.

Chin up - she will learn a lot from this experience.

CocktailQueen Thu 03-Oct-13 10:31:56

Can she apply for a place in a hall of residence next year? Are there really NO societies that would interest her?? Can she speak to her guidance/welfare officer and see what they suggest? Surely she will have tutorials/smaller classes where she can meet people? What about the uni library? Maybe she just needs some time to settle in - it's a big change.

sunnybobs Thu 03-Oct-13 10:32:53

This is when I feel pleased that I went to uni before social media & email etc. There just wasn't the same opportunity to compare all the time. Now her situation sounds very similar to mine when I was there - I was in a hall but one that (to me) seemed to be only filled by people post gap year & far more outgoing (looking back I'm sure that wasn't the case really!). My immediate neighbours were 2 nice but only interested in computer gaming boys & 2 Chinese students who were also lovely but older, more focused & did speak mostly Chinese all the time (obviously but quite hard to break in to for a chat) I was very very unhappy at first especially as I didn't drink & hated clubbing. But it did get better - once classes started I met some lovely people & made some really good friends though it was still hard work as making friends does take time. I also gritted my teeth and made myself be the person who invited others for a coffee or for a walk (very hard as I was shy but this was a challenge I made myself do) I joined the dramatic society on the technical side and while I was utterly rubbish I made myself do it for a term as it gave me an evening focus & I met other people who were doing it for the same reason. I went to the films on my own & always found another person to chat with. Every day it got a little bit easier & when I moved out of halls eventually it was in to a house share with friends. I will say I still don't look back on my university years with mass joy but I did love my course, did love the travelling allowed and learnt a huge amount about confidence. I think your daughter should set herself some small goals - so sign up to one random new society & attend its mixer. Start a chat with someone in the library cafe & have coffee together. Ask someone on her course to study together for the seminar. Remind her that most people will be feeling the same way even if it doesn't appear that way. My internal rule now is to give everything a chance till after Christmas so to try really hard to make it work for a term & then review properly. Hope she feels better soon - it's a huge step & an enormously difficult thing to do.

Theas18 Thu 03-Oct-13 10:35:28

Penelope is so wise .

Pass that advice on. She's got to work on getting stuck in. Get to know the international students- organise a sharing meal/snacks and a few slightly silly games one night as a house bonding excercise. Dd plays card games with her housemates - not poker or high brow things, but snap, go fish and similar ! They also have board games ( try charity shops)

DH was in a self catering flat in 1st year with 2 international students ( Malaysian ) he never did quite understand the pyrotechnic cooking but they shared meal nd got on fine ( I bet they were baffled by his beef stew too!).

5hrs "stuck on campus" s when she need to get her brave hat on and speak to people. A simpe " this is the last comfy chair the coffee shop can I sit here.... What course are you on...joined any societies...." type conversation isn't that hard.

And open her room door at home- sit in the living room not on your bed. No one, even the nicest housemate will chat if you are in the room with the doors closed.

Dear reader I met a geeky kid when he was looking lost over a baked potato in the really basic "caff" in the SU, and there were no seats....that was 30yrs ago and we've been married nearly 25. 2nd day of freshers.

lainiekazan Thu 03-Oct-13 10:39:38

No e-mail in my day, but I went to see the warden of the halls of residence I'd like to have been in. I was in a house with a drug addict (and I had never come across drugs before) and a bloke who tried to come in my room every night. The next day I was in that hall of residence!

Understand about making friends. It's hard. I was very shy and didn't make the most of my university experience. Agree with the others - join any society. I don't know what course she's doing, but every course has a society. I remember going round the Freshers Fair and being too intimidated to join anything because everyone looked so confident and was chatting to their pals on the stands. What a wimp! The advice I strongly give to my dcs is to not be put off if people look scary. You will soon be in the gang.

Re the OP's dd seeing all those FB posts. Well, I remember going back home at Christmas after first term at university and everyone trying to outdo each other as to the amount of drinking, water fights, high jinks and generally wild times they were having. FB is just one-upmanship and people only post the best of things. They're certainly not posting a selfie where they're alone eating a pot noodle.

amumthatcares Thu 03-Oct-13 10:42:19

Thank you for all of your replies. There are some very encouraging suggestions that I will talk through with my DD.

However I would just clarify these points: RedWine No like minded British people??? She really needs to broaden her horizons because the World is an International place and there are already too many grown adults who have issues with "different cultures Not once have I mentioned the word 'British' only 'likeminded' regardless of their nationality and she does not have any issues with 'different cultures'. My point on this was purely from a socialising perspective and the different ways in which 'different cultures' do this. She likes the clubbing/drinking social scene and not all cultures participate in this. Yours and others suggestions that my daughter is intolerant of 'different cultures' is totally wrong. Also, And I think you must stop being this involved. For you to even be looking at the list of clubs and societies is a bit helicopter parent-like, isn't it? We were actually sitting on the sofa together looking at the societies options as a way for her to meet people. Should I not sit with her then?

figroll Thu 03-Oct-13 10:43:48

I know how hard it must be to have her so depressed etc, but she chose this university and has to make a go of it. My dd2 started a couple of weeks ago and honestly, you would think that she was going to Kavos on a 18 - 30s holiday. The only debates we seemed to have were about what to wear on nights out (she laid these out on the bed in a row for each night), which nights would be the best, what is the cheapest cider to drink, etc. I had to intervene and say hang on a minute, I am not paying all this money for an almighty p* up. The expectations are so high about life at university it is a bit unreal tbh. Photos on fb give the impression of everyone having a fab time but there are lots of kids who are homesick - I was terrible when I went.

It's harsh but she is the master (mistress?) of her own destiny and she will settle in and find her place, but it isn't instantaneous. University is different things to different people but judging your experience through other people's photos on fb is not a good idea. Sorry if this sounds mean, I think you have to let them get on with it sometimes and support them when the going gets tough.

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