For most university is a step not a goal, we set out to a new city ready for a change and prepared to start an exciting adventure. Setting up your accommodation, meeting a bunch of different people and the whirlwind of freshers sets you up for an incredible time but unfortunately, the freshers high doesn't last and as assignments roll in so can doubts.
Don't get me wrong, university is an amazing experience but as is the case with most things the reality of university is not always the sunshine & rainbows those looking back with nostalgia paint it to be. So, for those of you who have chosen to go to university, or are perhaps returning and starting over, here's some tips on how to make it through your first year relatively unscathed.
1) Talk to everyone
Starting uni you're never short of people to meet, from your halls to your course to your student union there are thousands of people who are in exactly the same situation and are looking to make friends. It may seem awkward at first but strike up conversation wherever possible, you really can't go wrong with: 'where are you from/what course are you doing/where are you living?'. Although it's easy to make friends, finding ones you have things in common with takes a little more work; some students are lucky enough to meet their best friend the moment they move in but for those of us not living in a teen comedy, finding a friendship group can take a little longer. Don't panic, it'll happen.
2) Try everything
and no, I don't mean the horrendous alcoholic concoctions that are put together during an ill advised game of ring of fire. Sign up to a union, go to a local gig, volunteer at an event, take up a sport, protest something, take part in Carnage... whatever takes your interest! These events are the moments that make for the best memories and there's no better time to pick up a hobby. Not only that, you'll meet people who share your interests. After all, there's nothing like a bit of hazing to bond you for life.
3) Don't expect to change (at least not straight away!)
Going to university is the perfect time to reinvent yourself, especially if you're moving to a new city but it's important to remember that change is usually a slow process and as much as you wish something to be, nothing changes unless you do. Chances are if you're naturally quite shy and introverted, you're not going to turn into a loud extrovert overnight and that's okay! Of course, if there's things you want to change, a hobby you want to pick up or stereotypes you want to shed then go wild, it really is the perfect time for it. But don't try to become someone you're not, especially not to impress somebody else, it's really not worth the effort.
4) Keep in touch
Some people spend their first day away from home sobbing and regretting every decision that lead them to that point and some people are already drunk. I was neither of these people. I left for university ready to get the hell out and was more than happy to wave my family off and never look back (sorry, Mum). So determined was I to make a fresh start, that I unintentionally cut myself off from those who I care about the most. Even if you do get caught up in your new life, make sure you take the time to keep in touch with your friends and family, they'll be there when you need them the most.
5) It's okay to be sad & it's okay to ask for help
There's so much pressure to make university 'the best days of your life' that it can be hard to admit you're struggling. If you're having problems with your course, your relationships or even homesickness, you're not alone and there are so many people and services that are there to help you. If you're not enjoying your course, speak to a lecturer; they'll be able to help you with your modules or even offer advise on changing course. If you feel overwhelmed by your new life, check out your university's counseling options, they have workshops and trained counselors to help you manage all aspects of university life. If you're homesick, try to schedule a visit from your parents/friends or perhaps plan a trip home so you have something to look forward to. There's no defeat in asking for a little assistance and it'll be worth it in the long run.
6) Explore your new city
Sure the majority of university is simultaneously balancing your workload & your alcohol limit but if you've chosen to move to a new city, get out & explore. It doesn't have to be expensive, most cities have free museums not to mention parks, libraries and fairs. Grab a friend & get out. it's time to fall in love with your surroundings.
7) Trust your gut
This seems like common sense but we often override what we feel with what we think. Turning the volume down on anxiety you know is irrational is great but suffering through uncomfortable situations for fear of what others may think is pointless and potentially dangerous. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Seriously.
8) If you're going to bail, bail early
This rule applies to pretty much everything. From a housing situation to your decision to stay at university; if it's not for you, don't drag it out. We all have those insane moments, usually at 3am when trying to complete an essay due in in 6 hours, where we think 'screw it, I’m done!' but if you're serious, talk it through with someone who knows you and someone impartial, like your course leader, and make a decision that's best for you. There's always another option and there's no shame in changing your mind.