By Megan Dreyer
University is a significant milestone and the start of a new and exciting chapter in your life. But with that comes big expectations, unforeseen challenges and a host of new experiences and unfamiliar situations. It can take time to adjust to this new lifestyle so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen in the first minute you arrive on campus. Or equally, if after a few months time things start to go downhill, that’s also okay. Uni can be overwhelming at times and quite fast paced. They key is to find a healthy balance and maintain a routine that works for you. It can also be beneficial to find 1 or 2 friends early on that you trust and can rely on when things get tough. It’s important stay true to yourself. Don’t feel under pressure to change who you are or do things that are way outside your comfort zone to fit in – there will be plenty of students who will want to be friends with you for the person you really are… so just be yourself.
Your time at uni will be completely unique so try to avoid comparing it with others or making assumptions before you go. We also want to remind you that the pressure and expectation for your uni experience to be the best time of your life is not always the case and actually, not everyone feels that way and certainly not all the time. Your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is so important. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re going through a tough patch - we all experience it so you’re not alone. The important thing is talk about it, ask for help and keep moving forward.
We asked students "what advice would you give to another student?’" The top 3 answers are:
Do things that make you happy.
Just got for it!
Look after your mental wellbeing.
You can watch a 2-minute video of some of their advice here:
The following tips will hopefully ease the transition into your new environment, build up your confidence, and help shape your university experience.
Try to make sure your bedroom feels like home and has reminders of good memories. This can include photographs, posters, souvenirs, lights, plants and candles if you’re allowed them, your gaming station, your favourite bedding or teddy. Try to keep your room clean and tidy too as this can give you a better headspace and help you not to feel overwhelmed by clutter. It’s important not to completely cut yourself off from your home life but equally, try to avoid texting, calling or visiting home all the time either. Not only can it make you miss home even more, it can be harder to adjust and settle in by isolating yourself from uni experiences, your studies and making new friends. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling weekends back home and giving yourself something to look forward to… just make sure you’ve got a good balance.
Communicate and interact
Sometimes it’s easier to stay in bed or not leave your room but it’s so important to regularly interact with other students, even if it’s just for half an hour each day whilst you’re in the kitchen. It’s even better if you make all your lectures or grab a coffee with some friends, go for a walk on campus, watch a sports match, try a new society / activity, head to the gym, have a movie night with friends… give yourself something to look forward to and try to build a good friendship network. It’s important to talk to those you trust about how you’re feeling. It’s likely that the students in your hall, sports team, course or society are probably feeling the same way. You’re all in this situation together. So, try to open up and be supportive to one another. If you’re really struggling, make sure you speak to your accommodation warden, university welfare / wellbeing advisor, personal tutor / mentor, a chaplain or the uni counselling services for professional advice and support.
Don’t be afraid to get involved
There are so many things on offer to you at uni. This ranges from the academic aspect such as workshops, guest lecturers, roles on committee or volunteering opportunities to help you broaden your learning experience outside the lecture hall, to a vast range of social events to dive into. So, try new hobbies, get involved in the activities on offer, make friends with students from different countries and cultures, go to taster sessions. It’s often better to give it a go and realise it’s not for you than have regrets and wish you’d done it.
Look after yourself
Your mental health and physical health go hand in hand so it should come as no surprise that if you ignore your physical health, your mental health is likely to suffer as well. Going for a walk outside can do wonders for your wellbeing! But your physical health doesn’t just relate to being active and doing exercise regularly in the week, it’s also about getting enough good quality sleep, eating healthy and substantial meals and drinking enough water. It’s not uncommon for students to put themselves under too much pressure or have unrealistic expectations but this can often be counter productive. Try to also factor in time to do things you enjoy and that make you happy. This could simply be listening to music, reading, photography, hitting the gym, tuning into a podcast or watching TV. It's important to look after yourself at uni and maintain your mental health. So whatever it may be that helps you to relax and unwind or outlet stress – be sure to make time for it!
The term goes really fast and before you know it, you’ve got deadlines, exams, group coursework, project hand ins… and relying on a high caffeine intake, all-nighters and cramming sessions just aren’t sustainable, good for your learning and growth or for your mental wellbeing. So, try to be proactive and stay on top of your modules, wider reading, revision, tutorials or coursework. Doing a little bit each day or week can really help. You’re also likely to actually find what you’re learning quite interesting and understand your degree a lot better than if you just treat it as a tick box exercise. And why not mix it up a little? Instead of going to the library each time, why not try studying with friends in a park, making revision cards or visiting a local café to do your wider reading?
You can read more of our University specific articles here.