It’s September. The month of the year most often associated with academia. Back to school, back to college, back to university. Chances are, if you’re heading into any one of these situations, you’re feeling pretty nervous. And starting university presents more challenges, adjustments and anxieties than any other new beginning in an academic journey.
Many older students who have been in your shoes will tell you it’s okay to be nervous, that you’ll get through it and emerge on the other side of freshers’ as ‘the’ uni student: loving your degree, good friends, great social life. And it’s true. But it can be hard to believe when all you can think about is leaving your hometown and the comfort of school behind, and embarking on a journey that seems overwhelmingly alien. Here are our thoughts, tips and tricks to crack those pre-university worries, and ensure you can make the most of your first few weeks.
1. Acknowledge your nerves: everyone is in the same boat.
When you arrive at university and begin to meet other people in your halls, on your course, or at social events, it can appear as though many people have this innate confidence, as if they are un-phased by all the change. But in reality, they’re just as nervous as you, and they’re likely faking confidence in order to actually develop it!
Try to find comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one moving to a new town or city, and learning something new. The great thing about university is, though individual situations vary, everyone is experiencing a whole host of new things. Enjoy navigating the new together.
2. Freshers’ week exists for a reason - make the most of it!
One of the best things about university is the freedom it presents. With a flexible schedule and far more free time than in school or college, you can try so many new things, and get involved with as much as you want to. You probably won’t get a time in your life again where you have the opportunity to dedicate your energy to such a range of cool things.
Your university’s welcome or freshers’ fair is a brilliant way to find out what interests you, and start to shape your own life and identity for the next few years. The clubs and societies will all be providing information about what they do and how to get involved at these events, and having them all in one space for a few days is the prime opportunity to scope out what’s on offer. Join as much as you want to!
I signed up to a bunch of societies during my freshers’ fair: many of them I tried out and decided weren’t for me. A handful were the right fit, and I’ve stayed involved with them ever since. Don’t feel like your degree should restrict you either: societies can be a great way to pursue other interests outside of academics.
Jack Street, Founder of The Demographica Network and former student at the University of Portsmouth, shared his thoughts on making the most of those initial weeks:
"The most important thing to remember when starting university is that everyone is in the same boat, every new student has the same nervous energy and anxiety when starting their course, and the best bit of advice I can give is throw yourself into everything during the first few weeks. It’s always easier to reduce what you’re doing as the year goes on, and you never know who you’ll meet or what hobbies you’ll pick up”
3. Look after yourself - it’s okay not to be okay.
University is a crazy adjustment for everyone, and there is an immense amount of pressure on freshers and students in general to view university as ‘the best years of our lives’. But you might struggle to adjust to the demands of your course. You might not gel with the people in your halls or flat. You might not find your best friends in the first few weeks. Honestly, it’d be quite strange if you did.
Trusting in your own ability to adapt to and embrace change and remembering that new things take time is easier said than done. But you have three (or often more) years to shape your university experience, so don’t base it all on the first few weeks.
"Starting university is daunting, and you probably will feel nervous. So, embrace it."
Take time for your mental health. I found that journaling everyday or every couple of days really helped me with moving away from home and adjusting to university life. I found it validating to write down on paper how I was feeling, what I was experiencing, and what was good or positive about my day. Celebrate the small wins: the best cup of coffee you’ve had since being in your new city, a smile from a stranger, a particularly interesting class or lecture, or speaking to somebody new. Reflecting like this is a great way to maintain a positive mindset amidst such huge life changes.
Starting university is daunting, and you probably will feel nervous. So, embrace it. Remember how many people are feeling exactly the same. Spend your first few weeks throwing yourself into anything and everything. You’ll soon look back and realise that you smashed it, and find you adapted far quicker than you expected.
Evie is an English Literature undergraduate at UCL, and an avid reader and book-worm. Alongside her work in Holocaust Education, she loves to write about books as a way into better understanding current affairs and contemporary issues. She is currently serving as Publications Manager at Yet Again, and President of Pi Media, UCL’s student publication.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.