This week, an exciting change happened in my family, we got a new puppy! While Finn is utterly gorgeous, and we are all completely in love with him, we were worried about how our other dog, Archie, would react. Needlessly, as it turns out! This, coupled with the fact that it is just over than a week until I leave for Spain, got me thinking about changes and the pressures that come with them. So, this week I wanted to share with you something that I wish I had been told when I started university two years ago. It’s okay to not be okay.
For me, as I’m sure it will be for many of you, starting university was the first time I had lived away from home. It seemed like a daunting prospect and I really struggled with the transition. This wasn’t help by the fact that I felt very alone in thinking this. In hindsight, I know that this wasn’t the case but, at the time, it made me feel weak. Everywhere I turned, I was being told that my university years would be the best of my life and that message was completely out of touch with how I was feeling on the inside. So, I made myself a promise. I would grit my teeth and bear it until Christmas and, if I still hated it then, I would let myself drop out. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
As the term progressed, I found methods of easing the transition, little things that made every day a little bit easier than the previous. Methods that I fully expect I will be recycling in a week’s time. I thought I would share these with you.
- And this is the most important, talk about it. You are not weak, and you are not alone. To start with I cried to my mum pretty much on a daily basis, she had always been my main support system and this endeavour was no different. But she was also several cities away and couldn’t give me a much-needed hug. This is where one of my flatmates came in. She was the youngest of the five of us and was struggling as much as I was. We soon became cry buddies and would often knock on the other’s door in search of that hug. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her. Soon enough, what was once a daily occurrence would become a week and then two without tears. Those small achievements count!
- Make your room your home. Whether your parents are bringing you to uni or you’re travelling alone, those things that will offer you comfort and make your new space feel like home are never a waste of space. For me this came in the form of my books, a collage of my pets and my favourite teddy. I can assure you that same teddy will be stuffed into my suitcase next week, even if it means leaving some clothes at home.
- Get involved, but at your own pace. Freshers week is madness, there is something on every night and the party doesn’t stop for sleep. If that suits you, then go wild! But there is also no shame in taking it a little easier. Before university, I had been clubbing maybe once or twice, the idea of going five times in one week was overwhelming. I also don’t do well on a lack of sleep. So, I picked the nights I really wanted to do and committed to them. But freshers week is also a great opportunity to get to know your flatmates and the other students in your halls so, even if you just go to pre-drinks, it’s well worth making an effort.
- Identify your anxieties. You may be thinking that uni as a whole is your anxiety but, in all likelihood, it’ll be a few smaller parts of the experience that scares you. For me, it was halls. I found that I would have an anxiety attack every time I walked into my flat because it reminded me that this wasn’t home and yet was my reality for the next four years. To combat this, I started listening to music whenever I walked into the building. My aunt and I spent an entire afternoon trawling around Oadby in search of a doorstop, so I could talk to my housemates as they wandered past my room. If I went home for the week end, my parents would send me back with a massive meal to share so I wouldn’t have to eat alone that night. I slowly learnt how to keep myself busy and distracted. By the time Christmas rolled around, I almost didn’t want to go home!
It’s important to remember that going to university is a massive step for everyone. Fear of the unknown and fear of change is normal, its human, it doesn’t make you weak. And, if you ultimately decide that university isn’t for you then that’s okay as well. There is always another option, a better fit. I hope you enjoy your university experience as much as I have but remember that there is always someone to talk to if you need to. The university has its own support system in place, and every fresher is in the same boat, no matter how good they are at hiding it! Feel free to comment below with any concerns you might have or tips that you wish to share.