So starting university can be daunting and you are most probably feeling very anxious. Trust me I have been there and wow it was tough.
It may be your first time away from home or maybe the fact of having to make new friends daunts you because you have been at the same school for your entire education. Well I arrived at university with thousands of question just spinning in my head to the point where I needed my parents to keep reassuring me and just say “relax” for me to understand that everyone else is in exactly the same position! I thought, what if I don’t make friends? What if I fail? Aren’t people going to judge me for going to church after everyone at school were so supportive of my faith and accepted me for who I was? What if I get homesick? What if I didn’t pass the first year and couldn’t get into dentistry, what would I do with my life? All these things were going through my head for weeks and weeks and it got worse as I started to meet new people on my course and thought, they didn’t like me or feeling angry that I couldn’t ask them what I wanted because my anxiety yet again prevented me from doing so.
My mum said it would get easier but I really couldn’t see how, unless someone could take away all the anxiety and self doubt I was experiencing. Well she was right I suppose! I got to Christmas and I was finally starting to settle in, found people on my course, was attending the Christian Union, despite the challenges and was enjoying my course.
Now the second semester was very challenging after my brother’s death but the fact I spent the Christmas period with my family, after delaying my January exams, helped a lot and meant I could mentally sort myself out. I was determined to go back to university and thats exactly what I did. I was just as nervous for going back this time than I was the first, especially because I was so scared of people avoiding me because they didn’t know what to say or in fact asking me if I had any siblings when I introduced myself to new people.
I was staying in private halls which weren’t part of the university and sadly didn’t really have much communication with my flat. However, I suppose this was kind of a good thing because it meant I could retreat to my room after feeling exhausted from communicating with people all day. I knew this probably wouldn’t do me any good in the long term, that’s not to say time alone and self-care is not important. Far from that. But if I was going to do this every time I got in then mentally I would have made things worse. Thankfully, Ellie a friend from home decided she was going to move in to the room next to me, after commuting for the first semester. I was so grateful and some could say perfect timing.
Now exam period was extremely stressful. I found myself up at 11:30 pm still revising and then waking up at 8 am the next day to carry on from the night before. My self-confidence spiralled lower than it already was, asking myself was I good enough? What if I have to retake the exams? and worrying about going out at night with my friends because I should be revising.
Of course after doing my exams I thought I had failed and was preparing to retake them but my mum and dad constantly reassured me that everything was going to be ok and that if I had to retake them what was the big deal? What was really going to happen? They were right! What really would have happened if I had failed my exams and I had to retake them? Yes I would have had to revise over summer but I had 16 weeks off anyway!
Below are some top tips I would recommend for your first year of university:
Self-care - always make time for you, it is not selfish! if you need to have some alone time, tell your friends and be honest. Are they really your friends if you can’t speak honestly and truthfully to them about how you are feeling and they don’t support you?
Manage your workload - prioritise and step away when you think things are getting too much. I will now go to the gym or on a run when I am feeling stress. My parents laugh at me because I will go to the gym a very anxious and stressed person and come back completely different, my usual energetic, loud self (yes I really am very loud when I am at home!!)
Literally make the most of every opportunity and try not to back out because once you have passed the first hurdle of introducing yourself and making friends it will be so much easier from there (I am still trying to get better at this one!). I highly recommend joining societies because this is where most of your friends will be made, probably not in an hours lecture where you say hi and thats it. However, don’t do too much or join too many societies to the point where you are overloaded by work, training and socials, manage your time wisely.
Set your goals high but not to the point where it is unrealistic and makes you more stressed
Don’t be picky about your friends and think that you have to stick with them and can’t speak to anyone else! (something I regret doing in first year, I definitely wish I had spoken to more people)
Look out for other people as well as yourself, you may find a buddy which feels just the same way as you
Eat a balanced diet - I believe diet and exercise vastly improve your mental state. I will be writing a little bit on Deliciously Ella’s podcast on the gut soon, where she shows the correlation between your health and your mental state, very interesting!!
Most importantly, BE YOURSELF - it’s going to be a lot of hard work if you try and be someone you are not. In the end you most probably won’t be able to keep it up and will just crash in a heap. I know a few people whom live their lives based on others and it’s now you start to see that they really don’t have their “perfect” life with “perfect” friends and they in actual fact have no clue who they want to be or do with their lives.
I am now in second year and yes I still find things tough but the fact I am living in a house with 5 amazing girls, brings comfort and that sense of loneliness in first year has completely gone. So my parents were right all along, as usual and things will get easier, so don’t worry!!
This is just MY experience with university so far so please don’t think this is what it is like for everyone or that the tips I have given are correct or the right things to do, they are just right for me and the reason for me sharing them with you is because they might be beneficial to some. If I can help one person then that really has accomplished what I set out to achieve.