Beginning student life for the first can be really exciting, but it can also be a time of anxiety and stress. This is a time often associated with many changes in a short period of time. As part of a series of articles by AMH MensSana aiming to support young people, this article will discuss some of the feeling and experiences you are likely to encounter as a new student. We hope that this article will suggest some helpful ways to cope with change and stress and provide some advice on simple ways you can help make the transition into student life as easy as possible.
What changes should I expect?
If you are planning to go to university straight from school then it is likely that you are facing the change of leaving home for the first time. This can be a time of excitement as you begin to imagine a care free fun-filled adventure with little stress or responsibility. At the same time, for many young people the pressure to adapt to an entirely new set of surroundings, people and independence, can leave them feeling lost and confused. But remember, a little bit of change every now and then is good. Overcoming fears and accomplishing things alone can bring a great sense of achievement and independence.
There will be many organisation, societies and social events that will be available to you especially as a fresher. While this can be exciting it can be a scary experience to try new things and meet new people. An important part of university is about developing your own identity and abilities so do not be afraid to step out and try new things. Remember, however, to recognise that now you are in charge of your own time management. It can be tempting to take on many different things but only commit to what you can manage. Recognise how much you are dealing with at one time and go at your own pace.
Maybe you are the first to go to university in your family and this can be a big change for your parents and siblings, or maybe other siblings have already been or are at university and you may be feeling pressure to live up to expectations and their successes. One of the most important things to do when coping with changing family relationships is to communicate and acknowledge that these feelings exist. Sharing how you are feeling can be a really important way of coping with leaving home for the first time.
At university you will be responsible for looking after your accommodation, finances and travel. Remember to ask for help from other students and support provided for you by your university. If possible, you will also find it helpful to attend freshers week at your university. During this week there will be campus tours, opportunities to meet other students and advice and information about what to expect during your course. Find out the location of the students’ advice centre and students’ union at your university as this will be a good place to find out more information.
Most people in first year will be newcomers and will be keen to meet new people and make friends. Loneliness can make the challenges of leaving home seem even harder. Take advantages of the social events available especially at the beginning of your first semester. Taking time to get to know the people who live with you in your halls of residence can also make your experience easier. If you are shy, you might find it harder to join in. Remember, however, that many students will be feeling nervous too. Find things that your university offer that interest you such as music or sports societies. This will help you meet people who have common interests and you will find making conversation easier.
Coping with academic work:
For most young people, university work can be a significant change from school. You will find it helpful to use the first few weeks of the semester to get the right information and ask lots of questions. Find out your timetable, what assignments you are expected to do and what resources are available, for example which library should you use (most universities offer library tours during freshers week which are a good way of exploring how to use the computer system and library services).
Get a diary and make yourself a realistic timetable for term time. When you are assigned a task, estimate how long you think it will take you. Thinking ahead allows you to prepare and will ensure that you have plenty of time to complete and submit work which is to the best of your ability. If you find that your work is getting too much for you it is important to recognise this as early as possible so that you do not fall too far behind. Your tutors, students’ union and student guidance centre are there to support you so do not be afraid of asking for advice and support.
For the first time you may find that you are responsibility for your managing your money and making sure that you use your student loan wisely. One of the most effective ways of looking after your money is to make a budget. Budgeting gives you an accurate picture of your money situation, and helps you know what is coming in and what is going out. This is a record which compares how much you earn with how much you spend. It is a good idea for knowing how much money you are spending. If you are finding it difficult to keep your spending under control, a budget planner is also a way to show you if you need to cut back on how much you spend on certain things. To develop a budget you need to:
1) Calculate your total income e.g. salary, benefits, money from parents.
2) Calculate how much you currently spend on a monthly basis. Be honest for this part as it will be an important element for your budget. If you are finding this hard you could keep a spending diary over a week/month – recording how much you spend and on what.
3) Once you have calculated both your income and spending, work out the difference. If you find that you are spending more than you earn, you need to take steps to change this.
For many young people, going to university can be the first time that they have been away from home. While it is one of the most important things to do, eating a healthy diet can sometimes be neglected. If you have never had experience cooking for yourself before it can be a daunting experience. Perhaps, when you get settled into your accommodation you could cook with others who live in you flat. You might also find it helpful to use the student canteens and restaurants especially at the beginning.
Remember feeling nervous is normal as you face leaving home for the first time, but remember this is also an exciting time where you can try new activities and meet new people. There are lots of people around who can help you, give you advice and support you while you go through new experiences.
Asking for help is a good thing to do, but can be scary. You may prefer to speak to someone you don’t know, like a counsellor or helpline dedicated to supporting young people in your situation.
If you would like further information on local organisations and sources of support, please do not hesitate to contact us at AMH MensSana on 02838 392314 or e-mail [email protected]. Confidentiality will be respected at all times.