The first few days of uni go by in a blur, alcoholic or otherwise. But then reality and the headache kicks in.
You have got down the cupboard of mum and dad and are having to fend for yourself. Home comforts seem a long way off, everyone else around you is having a ball (they are not but it seems like it) and you might just be feeling a little lonely or isolated. You may also have come down with a cold or the infamous Freshers’ flu and mum is not around to look after you, and Lemsips cost how much?!! And on top of that, you haven’t just found your tribe or new BF while your old BF has moved on.
Then your course might seem challenging, a far cry from school lessons, and just getting from one seminar to the next on time in an unfamiliar environment is nerve wracking. So, you are on edge all of the time and finding it difficult to relax. The easiest thing to do is stay in your room and ring home. Right? No, wrong!
So far, so bad, but it’s not that bad, just normal. You have just got a dose of homesickness and trust me, it will pass in a couple of weeks. But there are things you can do to help. Here are some tips gleaned from my experience and that of students up and down the country who have left home for the first time to be at uni.
- DON’T phone/text/Whatsapp your family or friends at home all the time. It will only remind you of the very things you are missing. Less is more in this case, but don’t shut them out completely either. Arrange a time each week for a good catch-up – this will enable you to get things in perspective too. But DO bring that childhood teddy or other comfort item that will help you feel at home and work through a difficult patch. Think Brideshead Revisited and Aloysius.
- DO eat properly and don’t find comfort in crisps, chocolate and fast food. Explore your local market for some healthy fruit and veg and enjoy the interaction of market traders and customers. Better still, address them by name and build up a rapport. For me it resulted in loads of freebies at the end of the day.
- That sense of belonging is important so DO explore your local area. Get to know where the best places are for a coffee or drink. Then take your laptop and plug in. It’s a far more sociable way to work than shut in your room. And who knows who you might meet in the process. My local café became a second home to me and even resulted in a job.
- DO make the first move. A lot of people will be feeling miserable after the euphoria of the first week has worn off so make things happen. Have an open house for coffee and cake, coke and biscuits and spread the word. Just make sure they bring their own cup or you will end up playing musical mugs.
- DON’T think you have to stick like glue to the first person who is vaguely nice to you. Meet as many people as you can and don’t limit yourself or you could miss out on that friend of a lifetime.
- Still not found your tribe? Well stop feeling sorry for yourself and DO head for the gym. Exercise is a great cure for feeling a little low. At University College Birmingham they are super friendly, there’s a strong club vibe and if nothing else you can watch Netflix as you put the miles behind you. The locker room is pretty cool too. No grotty showers here and all for £95 per year or £55 for 6 months. What are you waiting for?
- DO give yourself a treat. Plan nice things into your day or week and it will boost your sense of wellbeing. Things to try: settling down to watch that film; an indulgent hot chocolate or coffee; a long hot soak in the bath or shower with some nice fragrances; arrange to watch a football match or have lunch with friends; try a pub quiz or challenge your flatmates to a card games night.
- Another great way of feeling better about things is helping others out. So DO volunteer to help run a uni society, cook at a homeless kitchen or help at a food bank. If you are looking for a canine friend then volunteer to walk the dogs at a local shelter.
- If none of this works, and you are still finding things difficult, seek professional help. University College Birmingham has a dedicated health and wellbeing team that can offer interventions, advice and guidance, and signposting or referring to relevant therapeutic, wellbeing or medical services. You can book an appointment on the student portal.
JUST ONE THING... If you have been following my blogs, you may already be practising relaxation techniques using imagery or deep breathing, both advocated by the University’s wellbeing team. But also remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing and can be motivating. It is what gets us up on time in the morning and makes us hand that essay in by the due date. So just try to think about stress as an acceptable emotion, a positive tool rather than a negative one. As TherapistAid.com says, the goal is to manage stress, not eliminate it.