I hate the term ‘drop out’. Every time someone asks me why I ‘dropped out’ it makes me feel like a failure all over again. Mostly because people just can’t believe it. Why would you leave a top five UK university? From an outside perspective, it just doesn’t make sense. But if my experience taught me anything, it’s that there are hundreds of other students who are probably feeling miserable, inadequate and stressed right now at the thought of another year of academia.
Having studied at a comprehensive school and sixth form I immediately found myself a minority at my university. Although my background is that of the average Brit, the culture shock I experienced is undeniable. Our education system means that a significant proportion of students at the top UK universities are from the 7-8% of the population who are privately educated, which can make an average teenager feel incredibly out of their depth.
As a world -renowned institution, it goes without saying that the university I went to has a competitive environment. However, the sheer level of competition breeds a culture in which students are expected to push themselves to their absolute limit to not only succeed, but also outdo their fellow course mates. It seemed as though mental health disorders such as anxiety were accepted as a normal side effect of being highly functional academically. Excuse me if I’m being radical here but I was raised being taught to value my health and wellbeing over an exam result. Throughout the year I felt unsupported both academically and personally, and the overwhelming attitude I experienced was that struggling to cope equated academic inferiority. Eventually I made the controversial decision to leave, and my life has been all the better for it.