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Read a final year student's experience of navigating university life as an estranged student

4 min read

Being estranged is definitely a taboo I would say. Such a label comes with a lot of stigma, not only from outsiders but from your own community too. The stigma around cutting contact with family often prevents us telling anyone that we are studying without the support of a family network. That is when you begin to feel distant from others and you may feel you cannot make friends at university because when everybody goes home or wants to hang out you do not have any options as to where to stay the night.

The holiday period has a big impact

You feel the impact the most during the holiday period because while everybody is looking forward to seeing their families and enjoying their time away from university, you cannot fathom what that would be like because you do not have a place you can call home. In my opinion, what most students take for granted are bursaries and scholarships as it is an easy way to no longer depend on your parents and spend as you please. Being estranged means you cannot afford to waste money because unlike most of your peers, every penny counts towards things like medical expenses and rent which you now pay yourself as well as food to survive on. Money becomes tight and you may have to sacrifice the partying, going out and all other social aspects of university.

Learning to let go of all this and start the healing process has been a battle against myself but definitely possible with the range of services available at the university. For those thinking about coming to university, rest assured that not having a a family network whilst studying is not something you will be judged for. In my experience, the chaplaincy has been a great support system in helping me find accommodation in the first few days faced with uncertainty where I found myself homeless, with no clue as to what accommodation I would be staying in. Regular chats over hot coffee in a relaxed atmosphere with the University chaplain made me feel normal again.

More conversations are needed

On top of this, the Res Life advisers provide out of hours pastoral care seven days a week face to face if you like! They want to see you fulfil your potential and genuinely have no reason to judge you which makes it all the better… it is not a formal meeting which means every time you go to have a chat it is as though you
are talking to a trusted adult/friend. When you are thinking about rent and how to pay for food, have difficulty concentrating in lectures, relationship issues in maintaining friendships or anything else, they always have a solution. Despite all this, I think more conversations need to be had so that individuals do not feel bad for doing what is best for them and their mental health.

Remember, you are not a bad person for saying no and leaving toxic people behind. Moving forward and letting go would not have been possible without the help of my personal tutor, well-being consultations and counselling one on one and Res-life. On top of this, resources such as the WhatsUp App is what first helped me flee my situation and move on in complete discernment. The out of hours services is what made me feel safe and those are valuable resources the University has put in place for urgent support and/or crisis.