When in school, the thoughts about college revolve around campus parties, drunken shenanigans most nights of the week, new friends, a social life and a calendar full of events. This picture of a place where it’s all fun and laughs has been created in the minds of many students. College years are said to be some of the best years in a person’s life. The memories from college are ones that people will look back in years to come with happiness.
Unfortunately, not all students experience this side of college.
My first year in college was very tough. I was recovering from a mental illness which made it difficult for me to interact with other members of my class. I was very nervous when it came to social events and a lot of time I didn’t take part because of it. At this stage I was coming to the end of my illness, but it was definitely the most difficult to overcome. I’m not a big party person, I’m not a heavy alcohol drinker, but I just wanted a sense of belonging somewhere in college.
Sadly, at the time I wasn’t strong enough to push towards that goal. DCU offers free counselling and mental help services, I had the chance to get that help easily. But, I was tired of going to counselling sessions, I just wanted to move on from that stage of my life and I thought I could do it on my own.
Looking back now, maybe I should have given the DCU support team a chance. It wasn’t difficult, a phone call, a quick email or even simply walking in to the Student Advice Centre on campus could have made a big difference. It’s not that I was afraid to go, I simply didn’t want to.
Another big issue that affected me, along with countless other students, was money. I had no income and my family were unable to support me through college in terms of the social aspect, so that was another reason why I didn’t attend events, and it was my go to excuse whenever I was asked to go somewhere with my classmates. Of course, my family said they’d help me out but I couldn’t take their money, not when they were struggling financially themselves.
I got employment in the summer after my first year. I thought going into second year, everything would be different. I’d be able to build friendships, interact more, and be involved more. I was wrong.
For all of second year and most of third year, I was working forty hours a week around college which was extremely difficult. But I had no choice, I had bills, I needed the money. A typical college day for me would be: getting up, catching the bus, sitting through a three hour lecture, rushing out of college the moment class finishes to make the bus to work. I would typically work until 11pm and then I would rush home and straight into bed in order to be up for my 9am lecture the next morning.
The SUSI grant system helped me with college fees and offered a small amount of money towards my travel but it wasn’t enough. I had rent, car expenses, and the usual food and electricity bills. I didn’t want to ask for help, I had fought to get my college fees covered, I wasn’t going to demand any more money from them. I would earn it myself.
There are services available at DCU (and many other colleges) regarding financial assistance that can help with this kind of situation. And these services aren’t a secret, you regularly receive emails, informing you that they exist. I don’t know why I didn’t try to seek help. I guess I was just tired of asking for help and wanted to figure things out on my own.
But there’s no shame in asking for help whenever you need it. I encourage people who have problems, either personal or financial, to talk to someone. Help is always available, you just have to take advantage of it. I learned this the hard way but that doesn’t have to be the way for everyone.
Opening up and talking about problems isn’t something to be afraid of. Help is there for a reason. If there’s something wrong, go to college services, seek the help you need. A quick chat with somebody could make all the difference.