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Dear Captain Awkward,

I moved to the UK for uni a year ago with plans to get a job at the same time, since that was what I’d always done before. At first I decided to wait until second semester in order to settle in, since I had student loans and a scholarship to lower tuition a little. I ended up dealing with mental health problems and focusing on those instead. (Look! You don’t have to recommend therapy!)

Now that I have things more under control, I’ve sort of started looking again, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to put real energy into it. There has been one job of the few I’ve applied to that I’ve been interested in, and I didn’t hear back. I know I don’t actually want the type of job I expect to get as a student, and that if I’m super-cheap I can survive on my loans, but at the same time I feel a lot of pressure to get a job. The two big reasons are 1) I am very aware of how much I have out in student loans overall, and 2) I really want to stay in the UK (this city is the first place where I’ve both felt like my own person and felt like I can be somewhat sociable and meet people which has resulted in actual friends) after I graduate and the recent awful changes to visas have made me feel like I need to be amazing while I’m here in order to even have a chance to stay.

I’m really not sure what to do since I can’t shake this feeling that I should have a job because that’s the grown-up thing to do and I will end up miserable in my home country if I don’t make employers love me now.

All the best,
Anya

Dear Anya:

I think it would be good to have a job. Look for something part-time in retail, tutoring, or light office work and don’t worry about it lining up with your passions.

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Dear Captain Awkward:

I’ve always been a little different from most people, and it was only about a year ago that I was finally diagnosed with¬†Asperger’s Syndrome. This came as a somewhat crushing blow to my already dwindling self-esteem. I’ve honestly thought about suicide numerous times because of it, It just makes me feel as if I can’t connect with people on a meaningful level, regardless of whether that’s true or not. I can’t help but notice this MASSIVE stigma against people with¬†Asperger’s, people saying we’re shut-ins, that we’re all like “Chris-Chan” or have some other manner of extreme antisocial tendency. I find that I have none of these, in fact for the most part I’ve gotten along just fine with people, even if I have a little bit of trouble making friends in the first place.

Anyway, the problem is that I feel as if I’m lagging behind my peers in terms of emotional and social maturity. I’m off to university in September and I don’t have even the slightest idea of whether I’ll be ready for the environment there or not. High school left such a negative mark on me that I’m worried that what’s left of my attitude there will carry over into university and the real world.

Tl;dr, I’m mildly autistic, over the years people have driven me to hate myself for it, and I have no idea what to do now.

Dear Mildly Autistic:

I’m so sorry you are having so much anxiety and depression around your diagnosis.

  • Please don’t hurt yourself, and please get your parents to take you to a therapist who can help you with this.
  • Hopefully with some time you can see the diagnosis as a helpful way to describe some of the things you’ve been struggling with all along. You’re not broken! There’s a reason you’ve been feeling the way you do.
  • I don’t know if this is comforting to hear, but pretty much EVERYONE has anxiety about starting university. “Will it be worse than high school in some ungodly way I haven’t anticipated?” Some of the pluses are that university is voluntary, you get to study subjects you are passionate about as hard and as much as you want, and that there will be a whole crowd of new people who are also anxious to find their place and make friends and an environment of social events, communal living, classes, and extracurricular clubs and activities designed to facilitate this. Being non-neurotypical may make the transition a bit harder or more anxiety-producing for you, but you said yourself that you get along just fine with people, so I really believe that you’ll get along just fine with the people at school.

But don’t take my word for it. When I got your letter, I put a call out on Twitter to see if some of your fellow Aspies would be willing to talk about their own experiences making the transition from high school to college, and this is what they had to say:

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