Keeping Your Head Up: Self Care Advice For Freshers

Izzy Rodney

As someone who is now entering their final year of university, I can honestly tell you that university has had its ups and downs, but overall my past two years have been great. This piece won’t sugar coat the truth surrounding pre-university nerves but instead will be a realistic account on how to maximise your potential during freshers week, and that whilst you may have some blips along the way, this is completely normal!

I will often remind myself that attending university is such a privilege and life-changing experience that many do not and will never have access to. University should be an exciting and thrilling time – not something you dread and spend hours crying about until it’s your moving-out day. And trust me, I know the latter all too well.

I was scared of being alone and always found change extremely difficult

I started university in the year 2020. I came to university only knowing a few people from my sixth form and even then we had never been close in school. This was the first time I would be going somewhere where I didn’t really know anyone. It was an opportunity to start afresh.

As someone who has suffered from anxiety since a little girl, going to university was never going to be an easy experience. Leaving my family behind, my dogs and all my friends (who were in universities all over the country) was something I struggled to get my head around. Not because I wasn’t excited to start university but because truthfully: I was scared of being alone and I’ve always found change extremely difficult.

Most people just want to make friends, have a good university experience and get good grades

However, now being in third year with different friends all over Nottingham, I can say that there really is nothing to be scared of. I know it’s easier said than done but I promise you, once you realise that most people just want to make friends, have a good university experience and get good grades, it becomes so much easier.

I will not lie and say that you will never miss home whilst at university. There will be days where you may not be feeling so great and you just want to go back home and snuggle up under your covers and never resurface. Or days where you just need a parental hug or a sibling to just get on your nerves to distract you from how you’re feeling. But that’s okay – you’re allowed to feel this way and miss home. You’re human.

This idea of ‘making friends’ in the first couple of weeks does not define you

Some things that helped me battle homesickness were: facetiming my mum every few days whenever I missed her face; organising my life in my phone calendar and arranging dates with my friends from London as something to look forward to and distract me from heavy workloads; having printed pictures all over my accommodation walls; surprising my parents with weekend home-visits when I had the chance. Doing all these things not only helped eliminate my homesickness but also allowed me to become less anxious, take control of my life as well as help me enjoy my own company.

So how to maximise your potential during Freshers?

Well, it’s important to remember that this idea of ‘making friends’ in the first couple of weeks does not define you. You will meet so many people over the next couple of weeks, months and years (depending on how long your course is!) whether that be in your halls, societies, or your course and you will definitely not remember or keep in touch with all of them. I can almost promise you that the top three questions when you meet someone during freshers will be: 1) What’s your name? 2) What are you studying? 3) Where are you staying?.

Everyone around you will feel just as nervous as you and may just be really good at masking

Outwardly, I’ve been told I appear as a very sociable, confident and talkative person, however internally I can tell you that I am very shy and anxious – and sometimes quite awkward. I often talk a lot to fill the silence otherwise I know it will be a very awkward interaction or I just won’t say anything at all. But if you are feeling nervous or shy to talk to anyone, a piece of advice that my sister gave – which I found extremely helpful – was when meeting someone new for the first time, make sure to smile and give them a compliment. (Obviously don’t do a Regina George and give a fake compliment) but this will help to open or start up a conversation. Furthermore, I can assure you that everyone around you will feel just as nervous as you and may just be really good at masking so please do not fret about any anxieties you may have!

Another top tip is joining as many group chats for your accommodation, specifically your flat, for your course or for any societies that you join. Not only will this help you meet new people, but you will also get all the details on different events taking place and any deadlines in the future (which I know has been a life-saver for many!) I remember I found the English Course group chat link on Facebook and found a girl who was not only on my course but also at my accommodation. After getting in touch with her, we ended up going to campus and then I was invited back to her flat where I ended up meeting my future housemate.

If you hate it, at least you can say ‘I tried!’

It is crucial to remember that whilst making friends is important, you will meet so many people over the next three, four or however many years and some people may come and go. But that’s a part of life. The group you befriend in Week 1, may not be your group in Year 3. However, it is important to put yourself out there. Take risks. You only have one shot in life (that we know of) so you might as well make the most of it. If someone invites you out, don’t let your anxieties ruin a potential opportunity – go and try and make the most of it. If you hate it, at least you can say ‘I tried!’.

Also please do not think that just because you have met some people from different accommodations that you will not stay friends. My friendship group now consists of people that I didn’t even meet until the end of first year!

And lastly, the most important: your mental health.

Looking after yourself at university is the most important thing. You must not sacrifice your mental health over friends, workloads, finances or any other external stressor. University can be tough but you must take it easy. It can be very hard to keep on top of everything, especially around people you barely know. But it’s important that you create a support system so that you are not alone and know where to look for help if you are ever feeling down. Whether that be in a friend, a family member, course buddy, mentor, a lecturer, or GP. There are many support services at university if you are feeling down and please don’t ever feel scared to talk about how you’re feeling!

As Mandy Hale says: Change can be scary. But you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving and progressing.

Nottingham University Counselling Service: 0115951369

Nottingham Nightline: 0115 9514 985

Samaritans: 116 123


Izzy Rodney

Featured image courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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