If you’re a student preparing to leave home and start university, there’s a good chance you’ll be experiencing emotions ranging from excitement to dread. Going to university represents one of the biggest changes you’re likely to make during your lifetime so far, so it’s natural to feel nervous and exhilarated, all at the same time.
To help you find your feet, the wellbeing experts at CABA address the most common worries students have in the run-up to Fresher’s Week (and beyond) that can affect your emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as how to overcome them.
Meeting new people
Leaving your school friends behind and living independently from your parents can be daunting, especially if you’re not outgoing or find it difficult to make new friends. When you walk into student accommodation, or the lecture hall for the first time, remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you.
Take comfort in the fact that meeting new people may not be as hard as you imagine. A survey by Which? University found 54% of first-year university students say making friends is easier than they expected.
If you have accommodation on campus, start by getting to know other first-years in your block. Many halls have dedicated Facebook pages, so connect with others before you arrive – seeing a familiar face will feel reassuring and act as a great ice-breaker. Try leaving your door open as you unpack, and invite others in as they walk past. Freshers fairs give you a chance to join groups and societies where you can meet new people who share similar interests, so try to take full advantage of them.
Missing your family
Even if you can’t wait to start your new life at university, there’s a chance you’ll feel homesick at some point during your first term.
If you find being away from home is affecting your ability to start your new life, Student Minds recommends going home for frequent visits initially, then slowly reducing the frequency of your visits while you adjust to the change. If your university is far away, going home could prove difficult and expensive. Order a student rail card for discounted train fares, or invite your family up for lunch. Remember, your family and friends are just a phone or video chat away.
It’s natural to feel homesick but try to stick with it – your friends will soon start to feel like family and they’re your immediate support network, after all. Throwing yourself into activities will soon take your mind off your worries and the weeks will fly by.
Coping with stress
Discovering life as an undergraduate is very different from that at sixth form and can be stressful. There are more essays to write, more books to read and, at the same time, far more distractions than you may be used to. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed while you acclimatise to your new work and socialising pattern.
But if you find yourself struggling with stress, it could lead to more serious wellbeing problems, such as feeling low and depression.
Talking to someone about how you’re feeling can bring an immediate sense of relief. Try talking to a friend or a tutor or contact your university’s counselling service for free and confidential advice. Most universities also have a Nightline service you can call for emotional support over the phone or by email, text or instant messaging.
Setting your boundaries
Student life can be very liberating, so embrace new experiences but remember to stay true to who you are and never feel pressured to do, or try, anything that feels beyond your comfort zone. You may have had a drink or 2 during your school years but, through Fresher’s Week and beyond, alcohol becomes readily available. Know your limits, especially in a new city and with people you’re still building relationships with. If you’re feeling too tipsy, it may be time to pause and go home. If you’re offered drugs, reflect on the risks and law. Many universities have a ‘zero tolerance’ rule on illegal substances.
With people from all walks of life, university offers a wider dating pool than you may have known at home. Studies even show that 1 in 5 British students meet their long-term loves on campus. If you’re inexperienced when it comes to sex and relationships, build trust with new partners and stay safe. If in doubt, seek advice from a trusted friend or university advisors.
Managing your money
The fear of running out of money is common among new students, especially as many have never had to manage their own funds before.
If you haven’t done so already, create a personal budget that considers how much you have to live on and how much you can afford to spend on food, bills, books and transport. You won’t want to miss out on social occasions, so this approach will help you gauge how much extra you have left over. Once you’ve discovered your limit, try to stick to it – it’s not wise to rely on an overdraft. Student cards are cheap and entitle you to discounted meals, groceries, experiences, clothes and more at many well-known brands.
To help supplement your student loan, why not apply for a part-time job? This could be behind the Student Union bar or at the local shopping centre. Not only will this keep your funds healthy, but it’s valuable experience that looks great on your CV.
Managing your workload
University can feel a significant step up from school. Getting to grips with new subjects across different modules, as well as feeling the pressure to impress your new tutors, can cause worry. On the other hand, the frolics of Fresher’s Week and late nights may cause your attendance, motivation and productivity to suffer. Take it slower on nights before an early lecture and aim for good, quality sleep. Why not suggest a movie night with your flat mates? When it comes to meeting deadlines, find a quiet, relaxed environment with minimal distractions.
With the independence of university comes responsibility. No one is forcing you, but if you continually choose lie-ins over lectures your grades may suffer. If you feel as though you’re slipping, it’s wise to speak to a university tutor sooner, rather than later.
Above all, the first year of university is about having fun, meeting new people and embracing the new chapter of your life, just remember your limits and learn from these new experiences.