5 Tips if You Are Starting University This Year
You will have likely been told more than once that university will be the best time of your life. In some respects, this will hopefully and most probably turn out true. However, putting pressure on yourself to have a 'good time' doesn't often work out for the best, and that along with with the pressure of making new friends, making a new home in a new city and passing exams can make university a bit of a muddled time. Here's five tips that I wish someone had shared with me when I started university.
1. Take a deep breath. Whether you’ve moved into halls or a flat share, this is probably the first time you’ve lived away from home, in a real way – the fun way when you were travelling with your pals isn't really the same. Whether you were anxious about leaving home in the first place or running out of the door, you might find yourself experiencing a range of emotions you weren’t expecting: homesickness, loneliness, hunger (where’s dinner coming from?), like you are drowning and no one is there to help you…
2. Don't worry, you'll make friends. New friends are here to help you, and they might well feel as baffled by the whole thing as you do. The wonderful thing about university is that it’s a chance to make a home away from home. I personally only made one close friend in the first year of uni, which says something about how my Freshers week went and might discourage you from reading my ‘advice’, but we sure did make a home together and she remains one of my best friends five years later. Find people you connect with. University might seem a bit full on, like secondary school on steroids, with everyone trying to make friendship groups of tribal proportions based on the common factor that they all like drinking on Tuesdays. It’s ok if that’s what you want, but remember it’s ok if it isn’t what you want. You will meet likeminded people at university and if they are a little harder to find, be a little patient.
3. Get involved with all the weird societies you can. During your first year you will likely have a fair bit of spare time and while this may feel like it will never end, it will. You will look back and realise that you really should have tried trapeze, ukulele classes, yoga, capoeira, salsa, ballroom dancing and movie club when it was free and on your doorstep.
4. Don’t panic if you don’t feel as clever as you did at secondary school and college. This can be a tricky one. If you’re anything like me, you were an overachiever at secondary school, dropped off a bit at college but were still comfortably close to the top of the class only to go to university and find yourself to be distinctly average. This can be a bit jarring, especially when you have been brought up in a culture largely constructed on jumping through exam shaped hoops. Don’t despair, enjoy it, you’re finally in an environment where it’s all on you to keep up and you are being challenged. These are good things. Independence is what you’ve been waiting for, isn’t it?
5. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, anxious or are plagued by a sense of nondescript sadness, don’t be hard on yourself. Whilst university can truly be wonderful, it can also be extremely testing. You will likely build some complicated relationships: platonic, romantic, not-so-romantic-but-still-sexual, and with yourself. Talk to your friends, reconnect with your family and consider finding professional help. I sought help with a counsellor in my final year of university but wish I had done it sooner. As someone who always ‘got on with things’, it was an absolute relief to talk to someone objective, professional and non-judgemental. Most universities have a free counselling service, which is fantastic, but if nothing else is going to convince you that you are not alone in feeling the way you do, the likely length of the waiting list will. Many counsellors offer considerably reduced rates to students if you need to see someone more urgently.
Remember to be kind; everyone is learning as they go.