Keiron struggled with feelings of isolation and anxiety when he started university. He explores the things he did to help, such as finding an LGBTQ+ community in lockdown.
- Video transcript
As a university student, this year has been difficult for myself, and I'm sure many other students.
I think that being able to meet new people and connect with others is for many of us, one of the best parts of university life.
I am going to be sharing my experience of anxiety and isolation in university, how it affected my ability to engage with my course and in particular how the pandemic affected me as an LGBTQ+ student.
If you're like me, then you've probably left your first year of university feeling isolated, angry and very underwhelmed.
When I applied to go to university over a year ago now, my biggest worry was being on my own in a new place far away from home and not making any friends.
As someone who struggles with social anxiety this felt like a very real concern.
Everyone I knew told me that it wouldn't happen, that I would find my group, I would have a great time.
But then Covid struck. My worst fear came true and my worries became reality.
One of the biggest reasons I went to university was to push myself, to get out of my comfort zone and to challenge my anxiety.
Making friends at uni has been really difficult, and I wasn't really able to make any connections.
Everyone on my course had their cameras turned off, including me, and barely spoke, which made it really tough to connect and share experiences.
This meant that I've gone through my first year without really making any friends on my course and as a result, motivation became very challenging, and I struggled to attend lectures and keep up with assignments.
I didn't want to bother my tutors and hadn't connected with them at all so I just kept my struggles to myself.
In retrospect, this was the wrong decision and I have since learned that my tutors are very willing to help if I need it.
I spoke to my university's wellbeing service and they were able to connect me with my tutors, which helped relieve a lot of the worries I had.
And in the end, my tutors helped me to understand my assignments by offering me one-to-one sessions.
I now feel more confident to reach out in the future, on my own, if I'm struggling or need support.
It was also challenging to make friends as I ended up just staying in my room for the first term of uni.
I didn't speak to anyone and I was genuinely terrified of even going out to the kitchen.
I felt so angry and out of control.
I wanted to quit uni and simply give up because I couldn't even imagine what things would look like when the pandemic is over.
I don't know exactly why I decided to stay or where I found the strength or courage to do so.
But what I do know is that it's probably one of the best decisions I made.
I discovered that outside of university there was still great organisations in my area such as YPAS (Young Persons Advisory Service) that wanted to help me and give me opportunities to meet people online.
It allowed me to make close friends I never would have done otherwise.
The opportunities I discovered online turned out to be some of the best experiences I've had and ones which I probably wouldn't have had the confidence to try in person.
As someone who identifies as gay, and who recently came out before the pandemic, I hoped this uni year would be my chance to discover who I was, find my community.
But this didn't really feel possible.
Identifying as LGBTQ is still a scary thing, even in 2021.
Without a supportive community around me it felt lonely and isolating.
I wanted to meet other LGBTQ+ people, to join my university society and to be confident with my sexuality.
The very thing that brings us together was taken away from us, Pride, a celebration of diversity and a protest for change.
A chance for us all to come together and unite.
I was looking forward to it so much.
It would have been my first Pride that I felt confident in my sexuality to attend.
Finally a chance to be my true self with thousands of other people like me.
In the absence of Pride though, it felt as though homophobia and attacks had been allowed to silently rise during the pandemic as the world's focus was on the virus.
However, through joining a virtual LGBTQ+ support group, I was able to feel more connected and safe to express myself in the online environment.
And this helped me to realise that were other people in similar situations.
I hope in my second year I will be able to meet people on my course, join societies and experience what university life is meant to be.
There are still many times when my mind starts to spiral back into negativity.
But I'm learning that that's okay.
I just have to try to remember that this feeling and this experience is only temporary.
And I have grown so much resilience and courage to just make it out in one piece.
If that's all I can say that's come from this in years to come then I think I can be very proud of myself for that.
I know it's not easy, but keep going.
In my experience it got better and it was all worth it.
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