The turbulent road from VCE to university

By now the first semester of this year is officially over and everyone is on holidays. This will be the first ever semester break for all of those other first years out there and I’d just like to say congratulations on transitioning to university! You did it! We did it. In this post I’d like to talk a little bit more about myself and to reflect on how things have been thus far.

In high school, I wasn’t the popular kid, the sporty one or the artist. I don’t know how other people saw me, but I like to think that I was un-categorisable (don’t tell me that’s not a word because it should be). Who knows though, perhaps that is a category in itself? I went to a government school in the west of Melbourne and I’m proud of that because it’s meant that my peers and I have never had anything handed to us. In school, I did a bit of everything. I was a student leader, I took piano lessons and was in my school’s senior ensemble and even, briefly, a choir. I went on a leadership camp in the country for a term, travelled to Japan and even took part in a philanthropy program.

But the thing is- I’ve never really excelled in any particular area. I changed my subjects so often that most of my VCE subjects were done without units 1/2. I completed Further Maths and History Revolutions in year 11, and Maths Methods, English, Japanese, Biology and Psychology in year 12. I liked the challenge of science subjects, but enjoyed the thought that goes into humanities. My grades were reasonable (though this was not always the case) but I’ve always done better studying what I enjoy.

However, when my mental health declined (think anxiety and depression), these grades that I had always been used to, well they plummeted. I came close to failing exams and sacs (thankfully my school’s pass mark was 20%), I would fall asleep in class, come late almost every day and rarely did I even look at my homework. In year 12 I had daily anxiety attacks. I’d go days without sleeping or eating properly and if anyone asked, I was ‘just tired’. I didn’t think I’d graduate. But I’m so glad I did. I stuck it out, maybe not with the scores that I know I could have achieved, but I got into my dream course and that’s all I could have asked for.

I believe that VCE is a lot more stressful than it needs to be. For me a lot of that stress came from my teachers as they would often tell us that we could be doing better, and as a perfectionist better meant not good enough (I’m not saying that it was unfair for them to do that but rather that too much importance is placed upon student’s outcomes in their final year). It’s common knowledge that people learn differently and we all have different strengths yet somewhere, someone decided it would be a good idea to rank us all against each other and tell us that our future depended upon it. Kind of ironic. I wish that someone had told me that I did not need to put so much pressure on myself. Where there’s a will there’s a way- as they say. I also wish I had known that you don’t need to have everything planned out straight away because that’s what life after school is for.

I wasn’t sure about university at first and if you go back and read the first posts I made on this blog, it’s obvious that I found it difficult. Nobody tells you that tertiary education isn’t suitable for everyone or that it can be bland and unenjoyable. They tell you that it will be a time of discovery and partying, yet leave out the fact that for many people, the adjustment can be tough. Don’t get me wrong- I love uni, but it took me a whole semester to get to this point. The difficulties had less to do with the actual workload and more to do with making friends, feeling like I didn’t deserve to be in my course and with travel time.

Forming friendships, especially when you’re shy, takes time but to anyone out there struggling with this don’t be disheartened because it will happen and sometimes the best friendships take longer to form. It’s just a matter of taking those in class relationships out of the classroom and even in a course with a large cohort it’s possible. In regards to not feeling like I deserved to be in my course, I’ve only started to realise that this is the right place for me very recently. It’s difficult to gauge how you are going when you only get a few marks back during the semester and the expectations at university seem foreign at first but after receiving my exams results, I’m feeling okay. I can do this and those H1’s? They’re within reach. Public transport is still horrible and if I could live on campus I think my performance would definitely benefit but living at home isn’t so bad. The train rides have just become a part of my daily routine and I barely even notice them anymore (Okay, that’s a lie, just ask me again in peak times when I usually end up sandwiched between people with nothing to hold on to).

So then, how is life after high school going? It’s going reasonably well. My passion for knowledge, which was cruelly crushed during VCE, has been rekindled and uni makes me happy. It is difficult, there’s a lot of work which I know will only increase and I miss having my friends nearby, but I’m glad that I’ve made it this far. At university it feels like the world is at your feet and that you can do anything because really- you can. For the first time in a really long time, I feel free.

Thanks for following my journey and here’s to the next time we talk  -S

(PS. I Apologise for any spelling/grammatical errors that occur as a result of my writing this in the middle of the night)


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