It was just recently Mental Health Awareness Week, which brought with it the hope that we can all strive to be aware of this vital aspect of human condition all year round. Another fast approaching week which will require plenty of mental strength and agility for many the pie-eyed university newbie is that infamous phenomenon, the one and only, Freshers' week!
As with any major life change there is a lot of pressure on freshers, much of which is self-inflicted, to adapt seamlessly and immediately to the demands of student life. Quite apart from the particulars of getting to grips with your chosen course, there’s an overload of events, fairs, societies, and those awkward initial encounters with flatmates and colleagues. For many it is their first time living away from their home and a family who may well have been inadvertently ramping up pressure on their golden boy or girl, all summer long with that expectant cliché - ‘best time of your life!’
It can be easy to get overwhelmed and surprisingly hard to keep things in a healthy perspective. A little bit of psychological priming before the chaos of freshers’ will go a long way. There are some important points to consider as you mentally process your new circumstances. Firstly, don’t get caught up in feeling you have to make lifelong friends right away. The accommodation process is pot luck, if you end up living in close proximity to the next Charles Mansion, you are not honour bound to conjure up some fake and yet enduring rapport. If you really don’t get on with your neighbours, you can always move a bit later on in the term.
Use social media as a filter; find all the niches and societies, campus is not the be all and end all either, get to know the city. Also don’t be fooled by an excess of brash bravados at fresher events or be fazed at being a wandering nomad amongst hastily formed cliques. You are not alone, social anxiety and homesickness are extremely common part of the transition, try to resist the temptation to visit home too early, let a few weekends pass; break up what can often be a relatively lonely first term by arranging for old friends to come stay. Make your room a conducive environment for studying, but also homely, with some choice familiar items including photographs of your loved ones.
If you find yourself struggling to cope, make use of the university’s counselling services, there can be administration and/or a waiting period involved, so register ahead of time. There are plenty of external resources to draw upon aswell, for example you can contact Student Minds, a national charity exclusively dedicated to the mental health of students; another leading mental health charity Mind, have recently introduced an app - Emoodji - designed to help with mental health while at university.
Above all else, be patient before making any rash decisions. On occasion your choice of course or institution just isn’t right for who you are and what you aspire to be. In such cases, go through the proper channels, meet with tutors, discuss all the options, have an insurance plan. University is a great opportunity to learn, progress into a lucrative career, meet new people from different walks of life and better yourself. It is an opportunity however, that never needs to be at the detriment of your wellbeing. If you have an existing mental health disorder, take stock that you will be attending a place of education where understanding is the highest aim, help is always at hand.