What to do if you’re struggling with your first year of uni

University isn’t all pub crawls, making pals and getting Firsts.

It’s the night before Freshers’ week. You’ve been waiting all summer for tomorrow, and even though you’re petrified, you’re excited. Going to uni is all about making your friends for life, going out every night and exploring a brand new place. The next three years are going to be the best of your life, aren’t they?

Just over a year ago I found myself in exactly the same position. But in reality, university can be really hard, and that can be difficult to accept when your expectations have been set so high by your older friends’ stories and TV shows that make it look like you’ll easily be going out drinking every night, acing your course and just happen to be living across the hall from your new best mate. A lot of you really will have the time of your life, but for a few, the change will be a challenge. Looking after yourself and having people who look after you will never be more important as when you are going through such a big life change.

Just know from the outset that the hundreds of nights out you scrolling through on Snapchat and all your friends’ new ‘bezzie mates foreva’ aren’t an accurate reflection of how many others out there are feeling just like you. It’s social media – nobody puts up snaps of them crying drunk in their room at 3am eating ice cream. When you’re in a new place surrounded by new faces, most people will be feeling unsettled and anxious. My most challenging period at university began about six months into the year- after the buzz of Fresher’s and living in London had died down.  Here are some of the things that I wish I had done and which will help ease the changes you’re about to face.

Get out of the student bubble.

Going for a walk can be out of the quickest ways to get out of your head. Plus, if you’ve got into a habit of isolating yourself just getting out of bed can be the hardest part. After you’ve done that, you might feel far more up to messaging that course friend you’ve been meaning to go out for a drink with. Now I know you’ll probably be a little resistant to my next piece of advice but getting a part-time job really can work wonders for your self esteem. Spending money you’ve earned yourself and not feeling constantly guilty about your ever expanding overdraft limit definitely makes you feel more like you have yourself together, and it also opens up a whole new group of people from outside of your university. It’s always good to have some variety.

Stay close to home.

Not physically of course. However, it can be a bit of a shock walking into your new room in halls. Bare walls, brown furniture and weird-tasting water can definitely make you feel that extra bit unsettled. So make your room a little slice of home. Put up pictures of your friends and family, string up lots of fairy lights and get some cosy bedding. Doing this will help lift your mood on your most homesick days. That said, MESSAGE YOUR FRIENDS FROM HOME. I was lucky enough to have a really tight-knit friendship group back home and having their consistent support was invaluable when things were hard. Plus, when all your new mates are annoying, having an outsider to vent to will be essential.

Push yourself.

Freshers’ week can feel like a blur. Remember that you may not find your friends here. So push yourself to ask out your course friends or join societies. Basically, the more you’re involved with the more people you will meet. It’s about quality over quantity though, so having two friends you can rely on is worth more than ten flakey ones.

However, don’t panic if you don’t feel like you’ve found people you completely click with straight away. It took me years to find my best friends at home so give yourself time and trust that your beautiful personality will just shine through. Whilst making an effort with people is important, also remember that you do not need to be friends with people you don’t feel comfortable with or who make you feel inferior. You have a whole student body to choose from and good things come to those who wait.

It’s all very well and good following these steps for some, but for others, feelings of anxiety and sadness can be more persistent. Last year I know a lot of people suffered in silence because nobody felt comfortable reaching out to one another. Big mistake. So be a good friend and check up on people around you because there really is more to life than nights out.

If uni is becoming unbearable talk to you advisor, friends or parents. It’s important to remember that you have every right to feel happy during your university years. Changing course, location or even just taking a break are all valid decisions. Knowing what makes you happy and being brave enough to make a change shows a massive level of maturity.

So stay safe, don’t drink too much, and keep yourself healthy and happy.

If you’d feel happier talking to someone outside of your university about how you’re feeling, Off the Record hold weekly drop-in sessions. If you need immediate help or would prefer to talk over the phone, call The Samaritans on 116 123 for free.

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