A Guide to Starting University (From Someone Who’s Finished)

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Starting university can be a daunting prospect. Living independently without mum and dad, building new friendships, remembering to eat and sleep, it’s a total mine field. With more and more young people reporting mental health issues like anxiety or depression, it’s clear students don’t always adapt to starting university in the right way. So, here’s a short guide to help you kick start the beginning of the rest of your life. (With a couple of gritty truths chucked in for good measure.)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Living away from mum and dad.

This is never going to be easy. It may feel like a 24 hour party and you’re completely invincible, but many people will feel some sort of home sickness. Hell, I still felt it during my third year. Home sickness will affect everyone slightly differently. Some people lock themselves away for hours or days at a time. Some people become depressed, paranoid or irritable. Some people just cry at a moment’s notice. However it may affect you, it’s perfectly okay to ask for help. I honestly cannot emphasise this enough. University is about being out of your comfort zone, and it’s pretty much the same for everyone. Maybe pack a few small tokens from home to keep you feeling connected to your mum and dad or have weekly skype sessions with your family so that you can see the dog. It’s okay to miss home and it’s okay to do something about it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Making friends.

Remember, university is a shared experience. No one really knows what they’re doing, but everything will go much smoother if you have friends on your side. Try not to make sure you’re not accidentally alienating people early on (no-one actually likes the ‘phantom flatmate’ who never leaves their room).  Give them a chance to get to know you before any judgements are made. Especially in halls. You have to live with them for at least a year, so you’re going to see a lot of them. Including in embarrassing or compromising situations. But then again, they might find you like that too. Either way, it’s easier if you get along with the people you have to interact with on a daily basis.

It might be worth organising a form of meet and greet to get to know your flat mates in the first few weeks of term, after the rush of Freshers Week. Here are some suggestions from someone who’s survived all the awkward “Hi, my name is…” before:

  • House meetings
  • Group cooking
  • Host a Party
  • House night on the town
  • Movie night/Game night

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Course mates.

These will be some of the most useful people to know on campus. Especially on courses with small numbers of students. These will be the people you spend most of your time on campus with. Whether you’re in a lecture or seminar, in the library, or having a pint at the students union, they’ll be at the centre of your university life. You will also find at some point on your course you will have to participate in a group project, which, let’s be honest, no one wants to do, but will be much more bearable if you’re friendly with the people you’re with. Don’t be the pretentious one who thinks they know more than every other student, but also don’t rebel against engaging with your course. You’re all there because you like the same subjects, so it’s a level playing field.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Societies and sports teams.

Honestly, join one. Something that will get you out of the house and socialise. Whether you’re a chess champion or a rugby protégé (or both, we’re not judging), your university has something for everyone. It will give you new skills and friendships that will last you a life time. You may even end up in competition with other universities, giving you the chance to travel and experience even more. Take the leap of faith out of your comfort zone and you’ll thank me for it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Nights out.

You’re independent now, so no one can make decisions for you. You want to go drinking? Fine. Want to do it on a Tuesday, even though you know you should probably go to that 9am lecture on Wednesday? By all means. But know your limits. Forget everything you knew about drinking before you started, because university is a different ball game. The game has changed. And everyone has a different set of rules. So find yours. It may take a few weeks into term, but you will quickly learn what you can and can’t drink, how much you can tolerate, and how much it will affect your behaviour. Another beautiful fact to remember? You don’t actually have to drink if you don’t want to. Starting university can make you feel like you have to be just like everyone else, but I’m here to tell you, you don’t. Be fun on a night out and that’s all your friends are fussed about.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And finally, actual work.

Whilst university is a truly amazing experience, you do actually have to do some work. This may take the form of essays, research, practical classes in labs etc. Take it seriously but enjoy your down time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Essentially, university is about learning, experiencing new things and finding yourself. And the start of it can be a scary time. But that is totally normal, and you are not different, weird or doing uni wrong if you get nervous, homesick or sad. The most important thing is to find a healthy balance between work and play. Apart from that, we’re all just making it up as we go![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Fraser Wilson, Salford University Graduate. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Mental Health Awareness Week: Looking at Stress.

Today we’re going to be talking about stress and mental health. Yes, that’s right. The thing people don’t usually talk about – we’re talking about it. 

In honour of Mental Health Awareness week we’ll be focusing in on stress and what we can do about it; as we find that stress is a key component of mental health issues within our sector. Why, we hear you ask? 82% of students suffer from stress and anxiety. Social workers are becoming physically ill because they’re overwhelmed. Mind have found that 88% of primary care workers find their job stressful. With such a high number of our society noting that stress affects their lives, it’s no doubt mental health needs an awareness week. As a community we all need to start talking more openly about mental health, what causes it and how we can help those suffering.

If you think you’re part of these statistics or want to know your colleagues, friends or family are suffering from stress, carry on reading.

What is stress, and how might it affect us?

Stress is a physical response. When you feel stressed, your body thinks it’s under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, which leads to the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to prepare the body for physical action, leading to several reactions, from exacerbating heart problems to digestive issues. Sound familiar? If this happens too often our body can no longer respond to stress and we start to feel extremely fatigued.

So, what causes stress?

Stress is hugely noticeable in students. Despite the fun image we often have of student life, for most people, university isn’t all fun and games. The main causes of stress among university students are keeping up to date with assignments, homesickness and financial problems. Many people say university are the ‘best years of your life, giving students a high expectation of having a great stress free time. Sadly, this is the case and students go to university not knowing what to expect.

Once you enter the professional world, unfortunately stress does not go away. Given the situations social workers deal with when working, there is an unavoidable level of stress attached to their daily life. Stress can come from worrying about a particular situation, outcome or person – so social workers could be worrying about families they work with, a person in crisis or ensuring they are staying on top of their workloads. Care professionals have similar experiences, being anxious about providing the best care to those who need it. Care workers are sometimes having to keep track of numerous medications and care requirements – and all this is before we consider any stress coming from their personal lives!

It seems no matter what stage in life you’re at, stress is unavoidable and so with that comes the risk for mental health issues.

Are you suffering from stress? Student or professional – here are some tips to deal with stress.

Managing your time – one of the best ways of dealing with stress is by making the best use of your time. A good way of doing this is to create a timetable for yourself that includes everything you need to do for the day/week. There are many online sites such as Calendarpedia that provide timetable templates if you struggle to make your own. Just remember it’s important not to have unrealistic expectations, some days you may not want to do anything at all and take a break – this is completely fine.

Exercising – You may not be a fitness fanatic or get up at 6am and go for a jog type of person but it is known that there is a strong link between mental health and good health. Most universities offer free/cheap gym memberships, some offer classes for activities such as Zumba! If you don’t like the idea of going to a gym, you could always exercise for free, by going for a walk or jog. This is a great way to unwind after a stressful day!

Mindfulness – We’ve written in the past about the benefits of a mindful way of life, so we definitely recommend looking into yoga, meditation or mindful colouring books as a way to unwind in your free time.

Here are some quick tips for whenever you’re feeling stressed. They may not take all your stress away like magic, but will alleviate some of your anxiety and make you feel a little better. 

  • Have a drink to keep you hydrated and maintain your wellbeing, maybe a cup of tea or coffee?
  • Take a break – often we get so caught up in our daily lives we forget to take time out for the sake of our own mental health. Whether it be 15 minutes or a few hours – whatever works for you.
  • Talk to somebody – talking to a friend or family member may help alleviate some of your stress, as it’s not just in your head anymore. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Treat yourself – Finally got that difficult assignment out of the way? Treat yourself! Celebrate! 

 

Please remember – do not be scared if you are affected by mental illness. Although it doesn’t feel like it, it’s not a reflection on you personally, but on your current situation. It will get better. There is help available.

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek