Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Although moving to university to study for your degree can be very exciting, it's also quite overwhelming for a lot of people: a new place, tonnes of new people and at the end of the day, it's a complete lifestyle switch.
In the lead up to moving to university, I was so excited because I had seen on social media how fun being a student looked.
Fast forward to a few weeks into my first semester... my expectations could not have been more wrong.
You see, all the photos on the brochures that we were bombarded with as sixth form students looked something like this:
But my experience was going something like this:
Whilst everyone else's lives looked like they were going something like this:
The good news is I am here to tell you that all this above, is a facade!
Hear me out...
Social media is an art of deception. Those photos are ALL we see on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, you name it. What we don't see is the homesickness, the lonely nights, the crying. And that is why I've put together a list of top tips that I WISH someone had told me before I made the 'big move'.
1. Making Friends Won’t Always Happen Straight Away
To me, this is the most important one. I felt UTTERLY DISTRAUGHT when I realised I hadn't found a big group of friends within the first few weeks, because that was the thing that everyone else seemed to have sorted. Or so I thought. Turns out, those photos on Instagram of big groups of students are there to catch 'over-thinkers' like me out. A lot of the time those people aren't close friends at all. They're just a group of people that have got together for that particular event or house party. And the people I know that DID have a big group of friends by the end of Freshers Week, have mostly either all drifted apart or fallen out. Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying you can't find a group of good friends at university because it does happen - it just might take a bit more time than you expected.
Go out to bar to meet new people, join a society if your university have them, (side note: mine didn't have societies, which SUCKED). You may have to go to a few events on your own and feel like a loser, but my bets are all on there being someone else in the exact same position. Look out for that person and introduce yourself. But if you're thinking that going out and socialising isn't your thing, social media can also be used as a positive. I met my best friend because she reached out to me on Instagram, so don't be afraid to slide into someone's DMs!
2. Free Time Isn’t Always A Good Thing
Some degrees have very little contact hours, meaning students are only required to attend only a few compulsory lectures a week. You may think you've hit the jackpot if this is you, but if you find yourself binge watching Netflix for hours/days/weeks on end, just be careful! I thought I was living the life having so much chill time, but this is when my anxiety started to develop, as I barely had anything fun to do to distract myself from my thoughts, and eventually this became very unhealthy. Use your time wisely: go outside or start a new hobby.
3. Student Accommodation Isn't Always Sociable.
This is another misconception. Although most universities have their own 'Halls of Residence', and yes, these tend to be very sociable; this isn't the case for all accommodation. Another type of accommodation is a 'Private Hall', which isn't for a specific university, so basically any student can live there. These places can be very anti-social, with no social events, no student bar and sometimes not even a 'common room' to socialise in. My 'Private' accommodation had a common room, but it was rarely used.
My Expectation VS My Reality
So if you're only just looking around for somewhere to stay during your first year, make sure you do some research and learn from my mistakes! And if you feel that your accommodation is almost like a prison (like mine was), don't be afraid to knock on doors and ask people if they want to go out for a drink. I wish I had done that, because, chances are they're feeling the same as you. What have you got to lose?
4) Students Get 6 Months Of Free Amazon Prime
I know it's slightly off topic, but I had no idea that this was a thing until I had almost finished my first year, so One-Day Deliveries and Prime Video? Yes please! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/student/signup/info
5) Keep An Eye On Your Appetite
If you're used to having someone cook for you at home prior to moving to university, it can be easy to lose track of what you have or haven't eaten. This can be very different depending on the person. I know some people that ended up gaining a lot of weight during their first year, and others who (like me) lost a lot of weight. Eating was hard for me, not only because I became depressed, but ALSO because had no idea how to 'cook' something more interesting than beans on toast, let's be real here!
I had never considered this was going to be something I struggled with before starting university because I had NEVER heard stories of it happening to others. Plus, I'm no stranger to Dominoes' Two for Tuesday Pizzas! So I'm here to today just to remind you to be aware of when you eat and what you are eating. A somewhat healthy and regular diet can make all the difference.
6. It’s Okay To Go Home More Than Others
You may start to feel pretty crap, to the point that you want to go home. Can I tell you something? That's okay! I know I put off going home for so long because I thought I was a failure of a student if I felt I had to visit home. But that's not the case at all. Do what you need to do, if you feel most comfortable at home, go back as often as you need to.
If train tickets are too expensive (because let's face it, they are) or you're just too far from home to visit regularly, FaceTime and Skype are wonderful things. Don't be afraid to call your friends and family and talk to them about how you are feeling; it might make you feel a little better seeing and talking to a familiar face.
7. Moving To University Doesn’t Suddenly Make Everything Wonderful
The expectations for university are set so high that it doesn’t matter what it is – friends, relationships, work, exams etc. – there will be something that you find hard. The fact that all the university prospectuses portray this image of being the place to give you a fantastic experience, makes it harder, because the reality is that they’re only competing with each other to get your £9,000+ a year.
You will become distant from your friends you had back home. You will make new ones. You won’t necessarily wake up to people in the house every morning. You meet new people. You’re living in a new place. You have so many more responsibilities, and when you don’t have familiar faces you’ve grown up with to realise any changes in your behaviour or physical health, you have to be a lot more aware of your own well being. Do things that will keep you healthy and your mind busy – exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, and socialise with people.
So there you have it. Read it, memorise it, and learn from my mistakes!
Before I sign off, I should probably do a quick 'disclaimer' and mention that I am in no way saying that University is terrible or a bad choice. I had a pretty awful First Year, but despite tossing and turning about dropping out, I stuck it through and am now enjoying it so much more. It wasn't easy though, and with the advice I've mentioned, I feel like my First Year would have been a lot better, so hopefully it can help you!
✧ Remember to tune into yourself ✧
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