DD unhappy at uni - what should I do?

(80 Posts)
RandomSocks Fri 09-Oct-15 14:09:30

DD moved in to her college on Sunday and is very unhappy and says she wants to come home. It is still Freshers Week and classes start on Monday.

Her confidence and interest in her subject, that she applied for over a year ago, has fallen. She wasn't well-taught in the final year of school, and instead of getting the top grade that she expected she got the equivalent of B, which was still enough to have her place confirmed.

She could have taken a gap year and re-applied for a different subject, possibly re-sitting one or two exams to improve her grade, but didn't want to.

She says that she doesn't like it at Durham and wants to come home. She isn't looking forward to classes on Monday. I am sure that she could do her subject if she wanted to, but it doesn't seem like she wants to. On the phone, she sounds lethargic, disinterested and unhappy. What should I do?

OP’s posts: |
IAmAPaleontologist Fri 09-Oct-15 14:14:37

Oh bless her, freshers can be a nightmare really, certainly not uncommon to feel lonely, to doubt yourself and wonder if you should be there.

It isn't too late to change course. I know it will be difficult as she won't have met tutors etc yet but encourage her to go and talk to someone fromher department about her options, they may be able to suggest a switch in course and talk through things with her. Whether she quits and reapplied elsewhere for next year or finds something else indurham she thinks would be better it doesn't matter. If you are going to spend 3 years and a lot of money on something then it has to be right! What subject is she doing?

brokenvases Fri 09-Oct-15 14:17:49

I would encourage her to try lectures first. Decent uni lectures might reignite her interests. If not then talk to the uni. Lots of people switch courses.

elelfrance Fri 09-Oct-15 14:18:46

I would be inclined to say encourage her to stick it out for another while before making any decisions, its still very early in the term ! I remeber feeling very at lost during the first term of uni, then around christmas, it clicked, and was loads better after that

pinktransit Fri 09-Oct-15 14:19:26

My DD was like this at first too.
We have a '3 week rule' that applies to lots of things, and definitely to the start of Uni.

It's generally that you can do anything for 3 weeks, however tough it is. If, at the end of the 3 weeks, you still don't want to do it, then you can leave. But you have to do the 3 weeks.

By the end of week 2, Dd still hated it and wanted to come home. By the end of the third week, it still wasn't fun, but she could see that she would begin to enjoy it. By the end of the first month she was having a whale of a time, and loved her first year.

It's like the first few weeks of a new job - you don't know anyone, you don't know where to find things, or how to get to places. But you know that soon, you will know where the stationary cupboard is (and that the notebooks are kept somewhere else), you'll find the canteen on the first attempt rather than the second, and you'll have someone who takes the same tea breaks as you do to chat to. So you plug on through it.

brokenvases Fri 09-Oct-15 14:19:56

In my experience freshers week can be hell if you aren't a party animal.

IAmAPaleontologist Fri 09-Oct-15 14:21:07

I live in a village outside Durham. I could go hug her for you but I suspect a random woman turning up and hugging her might put her off Durham even more.
However, what does she like doing? Any sports or hobbies she does at home that she wants to continue with? Those of us that are local might be able to help with contacts etc so she doesn't have to do it all herself when she's already feeling crap and nervous.

Oh and I switched my degree to pick up an additional, complementary subject at the end of my first year. At Durham.


Mytholmroyd Fri 09-Oct-15 14:25:53

Have PM'd you Randomsocks

KittiesInsane Fri 09-Oct-15 14:28:22

There's so much admin to sort out in the first week or two, plus the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by strangers and just lost. Add in that the more obvious people all seem to be having a ball and it's easy to feel like the only miserable, out of depth one -- but I know lots of them are struggling.

How is she normally with big changes, new people, new schools, that sort of thing?

Whatevva Fri 09-Oct-15 14:31:30


Womans hour covered this last week.

There should be student services in place for her to talk to people so she can make the right decision. There might be options, such as deferring her place for a year, but she needs to find out.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Fri 09-Oct-15 14:32:22

She's talking about coming home, but doesn't she really mean 'drop out'?

If she does, then the low confidence will probably get worse, because she gave up on uni after a few days, and will have a lot of time to fill before she can get on another course.

This was me, really. My mother wanted me to come home. My father flatly refused, and told me I couldn't come home until Christmas.

My father was right. I had to give it a proper go. By Christmas it was a lot better and I stayed.

It can take a bit of time for the quiter people to find each other among all the Freshers' Week madness. Advise her to stick it out longer.

NameChangerGoGo Fri 09-Oct-15 14:33:23

OP, I work as a lecturer at Durham. Is your DD far from home? Did she go to state school? What college is she in? What subject is she doing?

Freshers week at Durham can be hugely challenging for kids from state school backgrounds as a lot of it is about college identity, societies, sports clubs etc. which I have found come much more easily to the students who have been to private (boarding especially) schools where these kind of things are very normal.

The first few weeks at university are unlike the rest of the time at university and it'll take a couple of weeks for things to settle down and for people (staff and students) to settle into a routine. It is then that the students who have been a bit homesick or quiet come into their own and really start to get into things.

I'd advise her to give lectures and classes a go on the course she has chosen. It might be, as others have said, that a friendly lecturer will reignite her passion. Tell her to be patient and be herself and friendly with everyone but don't expect to make friends with everyone straight away. Sorry this sounds like really obvious advice but every year we see students getting really miserable because they're trying to make friends with everyone in college, everyone on the course etc. but these things take time.

If her academic adviser is approachable, I'd recommend going to them with any concerns about the course. The colleges can also be a great source of support for students as well but I really would advise her to give it another week or so before jumping to another course.

RandomSocks Fri 09-Oct-15 14:33:23

Thank you for all the replies, they help so much after the phone call.

brokenvases that is exactly what I am hoping - that inspiring lectures will inspire her. She is almost through freshers.

pinktransit three weeks sounds like a good rule. I'll use that for now, would that be three weeks including freshers, or three weeks of classes? I am confident that she could settle if she wanted to.

OP’s posts: |
NameChangerGoGo Fri 09-Oct-15 14:36:21

Sorry, I meant another couple of weeks or so.

pinktransit Fri 09-Oct-15 14:39:02

It's a flexible rule smile
I would say 3 weeks of classes, Freshers is a separate category of hell altogether that doesn't go on for 3 weeks (thank god!).
However, it could mean 3 weeks from moving into halls if that's what you want it to mean.
The main thing about it is that it's not indefinite - telling someone to stick it out until they're sure about something isn't helpful - that could mean days/hours/months.
It is just 3 weeks - and then they can choose to stop.

pinktransit Fri 09-Oct-15 14:40:55

She does have to actually give it her best for those three weeks though - not just sit in her room avoiding people and lectures..

Goldmandra Fri 09-Oct-15 14:45:25

My DD1 has AS and has had a rough start to university.

She's four weeks in now and, following some major wobbles, she's beginning to find her feet at last.

She came home the first two weekends against our advice (encouraged by very unhelpful boyfriend). Last weekend I went and spent Saturday there with her which helped and this week she has started to build some proper friendships. She's invited some other students round to eat a couple of time and been shopping with one of them too.

She's also joined a couple of societies, one sport and one academic which I'm hoping will help.

The wobbles are heartbreaking to deal with but, when things start to improve, it does feel much more positive.

RandomSocks Fri 09-Oct-15 14:57:58

NameChangerGoGo thank you for your post. DD went to a private day school and is a two hour flight from home. She has booked some auditions and try-outs for things that she loves perhaps if she gets in to some of the things that she is trying out for, she will feel better.

I am going to encourage her to do her course with enthusiasm for two weeks.

It is her first time away and her first time to live in the UK, although she is British.

The thing is, she is normally outgoing, sociable and friendly. I hardly recognise her with the anxieties she is currently showing.

IAmAPaleontologist thank you! I do think random kindness helps! You live in a beautiful place - Durham turned out to be just as visually stunning as I had read. I hope that DD comes to appreciate it.

OP’s posts: |
RandomSocks Fri 09-Oct-15 15:02:03

Whatevva thank you for the link, I'm listening.

OP’s posts: |
catsrus Fri 09-Oct-15 15:09:46

my dd phoned home at least once, if not more, a day for the first couple of weeks, she wept and wailed and I felt like the worst parent ever for not going to get her. My big advantage was having worked in HE for 30 yrs I just KNEW she would settle if she gave it a go. She said she was on the wrong course, everyone else was really different to her, she should have done X instead - I encouraged her to go to the counseling service, which she did. Then she got involved in the netball team and never looked back trying to un-see the facebook pictures she was tagged in

She's in yr 3 now, is best friends with the girl she was put in flat in when she was there on day one, yr one, has a lovely boyfriend and is doing well.

I think it's important that you let her know it's OK to be scared and yes, she might have made the wrong choice, and that she can back out - but that it's only sensible to give it a go first and be sure.

It's horrible being the parent in this situation wine

NameChangerGoGo Fri 09-Oct-15 15:16:53

Randomsocks I can see why she's probably feeling quite isolated and it might be that other students are thinking she'll be okay because she's British (even though she's never lived in the UK before) and 'gets it'.

It's great that she's trying out for various different things and will approach her course with gusto next week.

I'd also encourage her to get a group of people together, random people from college or from the course, and suggest a trip out somewhere perhaps next weekend. Northumberland is a really stunning place and Newcastle has lots for a day out. The first few weeks can be stifling as students don't really leave campus and I think it does students well to get away for a day. It might even be that she goes on her own. In my second week at University, I took myself into the local city and just had a wander around the free galleries there just to get away from the intensity of the campus for a bit!

Agree with PP, you should stand tough and don't encourage her to come home. It'll be heartbreaking but really good for her.

Sending you wine and flowers

RandomSocks Fri 09-Oct-15 16:05:05

catsrus I am glad that your DD turned out to love her uni. I hope my DD does too.

NameChangerGoGo thanks for the tip of getting out into the countryside, that could do her good.

Of all my children, I would not have expected DD to be the one that is homesick. She was keen to leave and didn't want to stay at home because all her friends were going to universities, even though the option of a gap year and re-applying for a different subject was there.

DD has a ten-minute walk to get to breakfast and so is missing it most days because she isn't always ready in time to go with the others and then she doesn't want to go alone. It seems very stressful to have to have to be dressed up and out so early.

Thanks for the wine! I'll keep it for later.

OP’s posts: |
TurnOffTheTv Fri 09-Oct-15 16:10:20

Random I live in Durham with my three children. If she's still feeling lonely over the next week or so she's quite welcome for a family dinner here if she wants to X

fastdaytears Fri 09-Oct-15 16:15:37

I was at Durham and lots of people felt like this but everyone (I knew) settled in with time.

Freshers Week isn't great for everyone and most people seem to be pleased to get into a proper routine afterwards. Hopefully she will really enjoy her lectures and having a bit more structure. It's easy to feel lost during those first few days.

I never went to breakfast though so I can't help with that.

Teladi Fri 09-Oct-15 16:16:58

I remember my boyfriend came to visit me the end of 'Week 0' (week after Freshers Week, no idea why we needed 2 weeks of aimless admin etc) and when he got back on the train to go home, I would have probably got on with him if I'd been able to buy a ticket onboard. I was full of the cold, hadn't slept properly for 2 weeks, was suddenly a very small fish in a huge pond, and was entirely overwhelmed.

13 years later and I still remember his train pulling away, like it was yesterday. I stayed and have very fond memories of my time at university!

It'll get better once she gets into it, and once everyone else has to get into the swing of every day life too, not the craziness of Freshers. She should try and join a society if she can too. I wish I had in my first year - I had an absolute whale of a time doing musical theatre in my second and third years!

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