I went to university straight after high school, and although I look back on my time as a primary and high school student with fondness, I also know that I was bullied extensively in ways I didn’t even know possible and by people who I had known as friends. It never became online attacks directly to me, but I don’t know what conversations other people might have had online about me.
I thought that in university things would be different, and I was happy to be a part of a small circle of friends that seemed to look out for each other. We hung out a lot, but I also had classmates who I hung out with and became good friends with. In my second semester at university, I was surprised to find that some of my friends were taking the same class as me, and as the study group of friends I’d come close to in that course filed into one row of seats in the lecture theatre, and the girls I hung out with socially filed into the row above that, I realised I had to decide between which group I wanted to sit with. I wasn’t overly concerned, because it was just a row away and I could easily lean forward and talk to the study group or turn around and talk to the girls. I went with my gut choice and joined the study group’s row, but quickly turned around to talk to the girls. They instantly wanted to know why I wasn’t sitting in the same row as them, and I tried to explain it wasn’t a big deal because I was right in front of them to talk to anyway.
I kept this seat for the rest of the semester, and after setting up my books and pens for the lecture, I’d turn around to say hi to them. At first I found it easy to join in with their conversation, though as the weeks went on I would find myself waiting for them to finish talking in whispers in front of my face before turning to me and asking what I wanted. It felt so cold and awful and made me so uncomfortable. Their treatment of me was bad enough, but the worst part was that it was because I had done something so minor as to sit a row in front of them. It was exactly the kind of drama I thought was exclusive to high school, and I was disappointed to find out it doesn’t end there.
This experience helped me realise that those girls weren’t my friends, and I’m glad I learnt that quickly, and that if anything, I’d grown enough since high school to know I had to remove myself from that situation. I also learnt that bullying can occur after high school, in higher education and the workplace and in many forms, such as social exclusion or cyber harassment. I hope in future that I’ll remember how it felt to be pointedly excluded and that I won’t do that to anyone else.