Beating The Blues: What To Do If Starting Uni Is Getting You Down
Starting university is one of the most daunting things a person can do. For many, it may be the first and last time you arrive in a new city with no connections and no idea what to expect. You have to cook and clean for yourself, manage your own money and study with minimal supervision.
The work is hard and there are many demands on your time. You’ll be living in halls with people not just from all over the country but across the globe. And with all this going on, you’ve probably told yourself that within a couple of weeks, you’ll have met you best friends and settled right into university life.
The fact is, for many people, it’s not that easy. And why should it be? Below are five top ways to beat those initial blues.
Don’t drink through it
‘Freshers Week.’ The phrase strikes fear into the hearts of undergraduates up and down the country.
Although a good night out is one way to bond with your new flatmates, don’t feel like you have to commit to a fortnight-long bender. For anybody who isn’t a superhuman with a turbo-charged liver, there will probably come a point where you have to hold up your hands and say ‘sorry, FOMO, I’m not doing it.’ Bear in mind, too, that alcohol is a depressant, and while it might relax you initially, if you’re feeling anxious or sad then heavy drinking can make this much worse.
It can feel like you’ll be missing out on making friends and be left behind if you don’t take every opportunity to go out drinking with your flat, but it doesn’t work like that. The friendships and reputations that emerge during the first few weeks change and sometimes disintegrate as term moves on and people get to know the true, sober versions of each other.
For those who don’t like going out or don’t drink, universities are usually careful to run ‘alternative’ nights such as film screenings, city tours or food nights. Chances are this will be a better way to get to know people than another game of ‘Never Have I Ever’.
Talk to people outside your flat
The chances of becoming life-long friends with the twelve or so people you live with are slim. Many people find there’s nobody they really click with in their flat, and that can be an uncomfortable feeling, especially if it seems like other people are really getting on. Fear not, though, because universities are large and vibrant institutions, and they’re full of people in the same situation. Besides socialising with your flat or block, there are two main avenues you can pursue when it comes to meeting new people.
First off, look among the people on your course. Make an effort to chat to people in seminars and at the beginning or end of lectures. Keep an eye out for department events, or organise your own as a way to establish friendships outside of the lecture theatre.
Secondly, societies are a huge part of university life for a lot of people. A quick look at this A-Z of societies at the University of York will give you a flavour for what’s out there in the standard uni!
Find a routine
When you’re feeling homesick or out of your depth, one of the best things you can do is try and establish a routine. Having a structure and sticking to it can be a good way to keep things ticking along while you acclimatise to a new situation.
Try to make sure you get up before a certain time each day, maybe factor in some exercise a few times a week. Timetabling your study sessions will help you feel on top of things academically, and relieve some of the pressure that can mount up there.
That said, be careful not become wedded to a routine and remember that’s its only a guideline to help you through!
Take advantage of on-campus services
Universities know that the transition can be a tough one and they’re equipped to help struggling students out in a number of ways.
One service they will usually provide is Nightline – described on the Nightline Association website as ‘confidential, anonymous, non-judgmental, non-directive and non-advisory support service run by students for students.’ Many Nightline services will be able to take phone calls, answer emails, texts, instant messages or speak to students in person. It can help to talk to someone – and an awareness that the system is there can be helpful in showing struggling students that they are not alone!
It’s very likely that you’ll also be able to access counselling on campus. Once again, the fact that these services exist attests to their frequent usage by students – so don’t feel you’re alone if you opt to try out counselling. This page from the university of Warwick shows some of the different counselling services you can expect to find on campus.
Be nice to yourself
For many people struggling at a new university, it’s easy to beat yourself up for not living up to expectations of what your first few weeks at university should be like. Eat well and get enough sleep. Rather than berating yourself for missing home, questioning your ability to make new friends easily or doubting yourself when you don’t score a 2.1 in your first assignment, try feeling proud of what you have achieved so far.
Give yourself a pat on the back when you really understand a lecture, or when you manage a bit of extra reading. Feel proud of yourself for asking someone you met in a seminar if they’d like to check out a local pub with you. And above all, remember to give yourself a break. Because such big changes in circumstance take time to get used to, whether you are 19 or 90.
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