University Life

Dear Debby,

I started university at the beginning of March. So far, it has been much better than high school. I’m finally studying what I’m into - a lot of business-related subjects, like marketing and management. Orientation Week was fun too - I went to a few parties and met a lot of new people. I’m writing to you because I’m worried about my boyfriend. We’ve been dating since high school, and now he’s majoring in Engineering at the same university as me. Since the parties of Orientation Week, he has been drinking at the student pub almost every day. Sometimes he goes there with his classmates and waits in line for it to open at noon. I told him I think he should be studying more, but he just told me that THIS is what university is about: drinking and hanging out. I’m not against doing those things, but Marketing is competitive, and I need to work hard if I want to do well. He texts from the pub asking me to join him, but most days, I tell him I have too much reading to do. He seems to think I can do my reading after “a couple of beers.” I’m honestly wondering if we should break up. In high school, I thought he had ambition, but I guess I was wrong.

Serious Student - Surrey, England.

Dear Serious Student,

Welcome to post-high school life! I’m glad to hear that you like your subjects.

The dilemmas that you’re facing are classic and twofold. Firstly, both of you must find balance between the social and the academic. Most students struggle with this at first, but it sounds like you’re much closer to balance than your boyfriend is. You’ve already tried to talk to him, that’s good, but if he is not listening, this might be a wasted semester for him. It’s not ideal - university study costs money after all, but for some people it takes a few F’s to figure out that they need to work harder.

Your second dilemma is between old loyalties and future goals. Being important to each other at one point in time doesn’t mean you have to stay together forever. I don’t want to tell you to break up with your boyfriend, but now is the time to find the people that will help you achieve your goals. Drinking every day is unlikely to lead to success.

Good luck with your studies.

Debby Dupont

Silhouette of Debby Dupont

Worksheet with activities

Useful Language

  • Be into [sth] (phr. v) - to be extremely interested in something
  • Orientation (n) - activities to welcome new members and teach them about a new place
  • Pub (n) - a bar
  • Noon (n) - 12pm (daytime)
  • Hanging out (n) - spending time with people in a fun or relaxing way
  • Competitive (adj) - describing an environment in which people compete against each other
  • Dilemma (n) - a problem that sometimes involves having to choose between options
  • Twofold (adj) - having two parts
  • Struggle (v) - to have difficulty doing something
  • Figure out (v) - to learn something, to come to understand something


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Did you go to university? Which subjects were you into? If not, what did you do after high school?
  2. Which university department’s students study the most? Which students party the hardest?
  3. What is university about? Is it for drinking and socializing as the writer’s boyfriend thinks?
  4. Have you ever drifted apart from somebody because you had different goals in life? How can we know when a relationship should end?
  5. Is it okay to take time to learn a lesson? What’s wrong with failing a few times?
  6. Have you partied enough in your life? Do you wish you had had more fun?
  7. Do you have ambition? Since when have you had it? If not, why not?
  8. Is there enough balance in your life? What things do you try to balance?
  9. For you, is it possible to study after a couple of beers?
  10. What do you think of Debby’s advice? Would you give different advice to Serious Student?