I'm a big fan of shit documentaries. Gypsy weddings, dogging tales, and the man with two tonne testicles - I live for this sort of sub-standard rubbish. Most of my best procrastination happens to the backdrop of Channel 4's shamelessly provocative catalogue of documentaries. Naturally I was overjoyed to find out about a brand new series, The Secret Life of Students, which follows twelve freshers in their first year at university, as well as sharing their texts, tweets and Facebook messages.
Expecting little more than an hour of light entertainment, I was surprised by just how much the show struck a chord with me, and how universal my experiences as a fresher seemed to be. It's still somewhat of a taboo to talk about how disheartening and isolated the first months at university can feel. With so much pride and so many expectations from my family back at home in Cardiff, I felt like the odd one out for not enjoying university life straight away - especially when it seemed like everyone else was having such an amazing time. Social media only made matters worse, with the Facebook profiles of my peers suggesting they were all partying like the Kardashians and generally loving life.
Having since discussed this transition period with my friends and flatmates, it turns out that we all experienced exactly the same feelings, but were equally terrified of admitting it to anyone. For the majority of new students, the first year at university isn't all it's cracked up to be, and the anticipation that freshers is meant to be the best time of your life only adds to the overwhelming sense that you're sinking.
Added to this sense of loneliness is the reality that, for most young people, university is their first experience of true independence. Away from the families and teachers who have known you all your life, it's easy to slip between the cracks and withdraw completely. Such huge, daunting changes, coupled with the loss of an immediate support network make it clear why so many students struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as a whole range of mental health problems.
In between the inevitable shots of drinking games and bar crawls, The Secret Life of Students captured these issues with a surprising level of maturity and respect. It's reassuring to know that I wasn't the only fresher to have felt lost and inadequate... or to have made some questionable decisions at the fresher's ball in an attempt to rectify that loneliness. I wish I'd seen the show before going to university, as it would have helped me to realise I was not alone in struggling to settle in. A real, honest portrayal of student life is desperately needed, especially if we want to tackle the image created by the majority of teen dramas that suggest university life is all wild parties and fun times (spoiler alert - it's not). Hopefully programmes like this, and frank discussions of the issues students face when settling in, will mean that the trials and tribulations of student life won't remain a secret for much longer.