Freshers, keep calm and carry on

Photo: HMSO via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to university! You’ve just suffered through your A-Levels or Highers and, seriously, congratulations. They make up the most challenging and stressful year of your education and your teachers have been giving university the hard sell to keep you motivated. The problem is, they normally don’t mention that university, as with all things, is full of ups and downs. The ups are pushed to centre stage, but the downs become a little, well, downplayed. This means that when you find yourself struggling with some aspects of university life, you can feel very alone. It’s like dipping your toe in the water, not expecting to find a few piranhas swimming under the surface. Fear not, here is a basic guide to some of the problems that can crop up and how to solve them without getting your feet bitten.

Crisis 1: Changing subject

What happens when you start the course of your dreams only to find it is more of an academic nightmare? The first thing to consider is that the University of St Andrews gives you only one week to change your modules, meaning that your decision time is limited. Try making a list of all the reasons why you don’t like your course and think about how many of them can be solved without changing your subject. Is it really a total lack of interest or do you just dislike the course content for this particular module? It is also worth talking with your advisor as soon as you start having worries. They know your subject inside out, and can be an immense help in pinpointing the origin of your discontent.

Crisis 2: Homesickness

This is a worry that students generally don’t like to admit to. Through all the ‘getting to know you’ events, you meet people who have attended boarding schools on the other side of the world since they could walk and some who don’t even have English as a first language. If they can cope, why can’t you? This question brings me to my first point – don’t be so hard on yourself! University is meant to be a fun and exciting place, but that’s not to say it doesn’t get tough sometimes too. It happens for a number of reasons, and none are to be dismissed as ‘cowardly.’ Everyone has different solutions to homesickness, so you just need to find out what works for you. For some people, it is surrounding themselves with as many friends as possible. For others, it is about taking some time alone for a few deep breaths. We are all different and that is absolutely fine.

Crisis 3: Finding Friends

This one requires an early reality check: not everyone meets their besties right from the word go. When I first started university I received many emails from friends and relatives. The most comforting one came from my uncle. He wished me all the best, and told me that in his university experience, ‘it is not always the people that you meet at the start that become your friends but those you meet later.’ On reading that email, the pressure to make BFFs in the first week was lifted from my shoulders. I stopped looking for people I felt I had loads in common with and instead I simply spent time chatting with those I enjoyed being around at that moment. Friendships blossomed from there.

Crisis 4: Great Expectations

Were you the star student at school and have arrived at university to find yourself sitting distinctly in the A* for average pile? Your first two years here don’t contribute to your final degree grade for a reason – your tutors are aware that there is a large academic jump to be made. Let yourself adjust slowly to the workload and, to reiterate my earlier point, don’t be so hard on yourself!

The main thing to understand is that what you learn at university covers more than your degree. It extends to all the mistakes you will make and problems you will solve over the course of your time here. It’s called an education.


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