‘Adulting’ while still at school? The struggle of a confused responsibility

Sarah contemplates the universal difficulty of trying to be an adult as a student, despite feeling very much still like a child.

This article may be on a more personal level. Still, one of the most stressful experiences I have that occurs weekly is balancing the task of washing dishes every night while having numerous readings to do for my classes. Even worse is the chore of making my bed in the morning while rushing to a 9 am lecture. Although these tasks are not new to me, they always seem to creep up on me just as I am on the verge of feeling overwhelmed. After all, I am a uni student, and therefore basically still a child that should be looked after and coddled rather than have to do the same bloody dishes every night. Yet here we all still exist in that confused state between school students and adults.

As adults, we are expected to cook, clean and pay bills and rent on time. But we have come to university as awkward teenagers, just out of the battles that puberty brings while still experiencing that unwavering universal angst (when will it ever leave?!). How can we be expected to go from wearing school uniforms and having a break time to finding a place to live and figuring out when we can afford to turn the heating on? There is no smooth middle-ground or transition between these stages of life; rather, we are given a baptism of fire into the world of ‘adulting’.



Being a fresher is a very specific experience. You are still considered the baby, many of us still being only seventeen, yet you are pushed into a completely new and wild social environment. Because of this, freshers are often excused and helped along the way. It is part of the university experience to eat pesto pasta every night and only buy Tesco’s own vodka for nights out. The struggle is real. But what happens when we’re not first years and now actually have to partake in the university that we applied to and exhibit some control over our lives? Now being a third year, I can’t help but feel tired from being a sort-of adult. The thought of reliving life as a fresher is not only now unappealing but exhausting too. In the span of two years, I have gone from seventeen to thirty-something.

University life feels like a trial period before we have to enter the real world. Monday to Friday we live like adults with routines and deadlines then once the weekend hits we either go to parties, see our friends, or go back home to be coddled by our parents. This experience is even more amplified as our seemingly exclusive town is so separate and unique from everywhere else. Being a university student invites more worries like keeping your landlord happy and controlling the inevitable mould and dampness in our flats all while still being expected to be a teenager and have fun. Students are looked at as a specific group in society as we are given reduced ticket prices and are not required to pay community tax (phew!). But does this make up for our confusion of responsibility and identity? How come we simultaneously stress about coursework scores while doing a food shop? Not only are we confused about where we stand in the world, I think it is still unknown to those around us too.



Most obvious are our parents’ perceptions of us, as they phone in every so often for proof of life and to make sure we have been drinking enough water but all the while they have trusted us to live miles away from home with almost no supervision. To them, we are still children who are just doing adult tasks with an exam or two on the side. Personally, the relationship between my parents and I has evolved through the hopeful but blind faith that everything will be somewhat fine. Although there is always support for everyone somewhere, making this transition to adulthood is something we have to learn alone. My parents are now people I enjoy speaking to and I genuinely value their opinion, for the most part (after all I am still a teenager), but I will still always end up having to ask how long to cook a potato for.

Attending university is what makes our journey to adulthood even more confusing. Lectures, tutorials, homework, quizzes, and exams are all activities that we have done throughout school. After all, it is these university exams that have pushed us into the position where we are acting like adults while being teenagers, yet these exams have the same structure they’ve had since we were children. The main difference as we get older is the stakes seemingly getting higher, because we clearly need to have more pressure and stress as students. Here is where the confusion lies.

Despite us all doing test after test our whole lives, it is the ones that we do here that will partially decide our future. This looming fact is a hard pill to swallow, even harder when everyday tasks and chores become overwhelming if we even attempt to have some sort of social life. There is so much pressure on us high-achieving teenagers who roleplay as adults. However, each one of us is an academic trying our hardest to perform well.

It is acknowledging the reality of our experience that will settle our confusion of responsibility. We are teenagers who are responsible for ourselves. We can partake in ‘adulting’ without having to take on the full responsibility of adulthood – quite yet. So whether you enjoy living independently or are still acting like a fresher in your fourth year, whether you go home at the weekends so your mum can do your washing or if you’re in bed by 9 pm every night; we can all fit into the identity of a student – a confusion of responsibility split between a teenager and a REAL LIFE ADULT (scary, I know).



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