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The basics
Study abroad : Once you arrive

How to deal with disappointment at university

University is about experiencing new things and growing academically. What do you do if you experience disappointment while you’re there? We take a look at how to deal with this very normal feeling.

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So much is written about how exciting and enjoyable university is. In most cases, this is true as the university experience often gives students their first taste of independence while also allowing them to meet new people and learn new things.  


It can be especially exciting if you are a new international student and are not only experiencing everything university has to offer, but also getting to know your new home and new people. 


Just because an experience is full of positives though, doesn’t mean it won’t be without its disappointments. Being let down in any way is a difficult feeling to get used to and can affect you in almost all areas of life. 


Whether it’s missing out on social events or not getting the grades you wanted, there are many chances where you may face disappointment during your time at university. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this but it’s very natural to want to avoid this as much as possible. 


Though avoiding disappointment isn’t always an option, knowing how to deal with it can really help when it does come about. There are several things that you can do to help you deal with it.  


Look at the bigger picture 


Sometimes, when you have just received disappointing news it can be all too easy to feel that the situation is much bigger than it actually is.  


If one of your assignments didn’t get the grade you were hoping or an exam didn’t go well, it’s natural to start questioning your own abilities. You may start to think about potentially not doing well on more assignments and, therefore, your degree overall. 


During a time like this though, it’s so important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is this the only assignment you’ve not done well on so far? Are there plenty of assignments to come where you can do better? Will this assignment really matter by the time you’ve graduated


These are all things to ask yourself when trying to see a broader picture of a situation. Often, when you pause to look at the whole story you realise that the disappointment, you’re going through right now is just temporary. 


Evaluate your expectations 


This is certainly a helpful thing to do if you are experiencing an overall disappointment with your university experience. When you sit down and think about what you want to get out of your current circumstances, you may find that your expectations are too high and so you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. 


It’s very common to think about and plan your university journey years in advance, so it’s natural to get a certain image in your head about what it’s going to be like. The feelings of excitement often fuel an exaggerated image of how good your university experience is going to be. 


It’s normal to be excited and to expect a certain level of enjoyment from university but if your expectations are too high, you’ll be just setting yourself up for disappointment. 


If your first three months of university have gone by and you feel it's not what you thought it may be, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your expectations of the experience. 


Thinking about where you are as well as your journey so far and thinking about all the things you’ve enjoyed can be a great way to change your mindset. Understanding that you can include more of what you may have expected into your university experience if you really want to can also be a great morale boost.  


For example, if you thought that there would be more social events at university than you have experienced so far, why not try joining a society or club? Maybe you wanted to see more of your new hometown? Using more of your free time to travel around can be the perfect solution. 


Speak to friends or family 


A lot of the time, your feelings build up and feel worse than they actually are. This is mainly due to not letting them out. Speaking with those you are close to can be the best way to do this. It’s often said that a problem shared, is a problem halved as just speaking about your emotions can lead to you feeling much better.  


In these circumstances, if you’re experiencing disappointment in any way at university, speaking to one of your friends there can do wonders. They might tell you that they’ve been feeling the same way and you can discuss ways to solve this. Equally, they might not feel similarly to you, which may make you realise that you need to make some changes.  


A good chat with a friend or family member can, a lot of the time, be all you need to set you on the path to feeling better. 


University should be a mostly enjoyable experience, despite it being academically challenging. However, like any time in life, there may be occasions when you have to deal with disappointment and it’s always good to know how to deal with this. 


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