Advice for first years
I’ve finished my first year, and I’m just about to head into the second year of my Linguistics degree. I enjoyed my first year, but if I could do it all again, I would do some parts a little differently.
University is exciting and enjoyable, but it can also be pretty tiring – especially during a pandemic. For me, a year of hard work combined with lockdowns slightly took its toll, and I ended up with burnout once my exams and summer courses finished. The circumstances perhaps created a pretty fertile ground for potential burnout, but I think I could have done more to prevent it. During second year, there are a few things I will do, both to rebuild my energy now and to prevent burnout further down the line – and I’d recommend that any fresher thinks about how to keep healthy during their first year too!
- Make time to rest
At university, you will learn to balance social life with academic life. I learnt to do this fairly quickly, but in the process, I forgot that I might also need to have a break. I wanted to do well in first year, make the most of extra-curricular opportunities, and make friends, but I didn’t make quite enough time to regain energy. By that, I mean reading an easy book, or getting half an hour’s more sleep, or going on a walk. Anything that allows you to recharge and switch off, even momentarily, from the to-do list.
2. Try not to over-commit
I love my degree, and will inevitably be excited about any opportunity to learn more. This means that finding the line between enthusiasm and over-commitment has not always been a strong point of mine. It’s the main thing I aim to work on this year. The thing is, there are so many opportunities at university that you will inevitably have to say no to some of them. It sucks, but for your own wellbeing and energy, there’s no point in trying to do everything – a balance is better!
3. Eat well
When you are living in halls on a student budget, it’s easy to pretty much live off things like Aldi noodles. If I could do first year again, I would definitely change the way I ate.
Firstly, I’d batch cook, so that I wouldn’t have to think about what to cook each evening, and I’d have healthy food ready-made for me.
Secondly, I would ALWAYS cycle to Aldi. In first term, my friend and I couldn’t get the bikes working (I would attribute this to a user fault, to be honest), which meant we couldn’t carry that much. When we eventually got the bikes working, life just got better.
Thirdly, I’d make a snack shelf in my room. There’s not much cupboard space in halls, so you’re going to have to branch out to your room if you actually want enough space for all those biscuits. And when you’re studying hard, you’ll need good fuel!
4. Exercise – but only if you feel up to it
There’s a lot to get used to at university as it is, without excessively worrying about exercising too. But I found that going on walks, riding the bikes and sometimes playing tennis helped a lot, even though there would be weeks where I wouldn’t have enough energy to much exercise at all. And that’s fine. The most important thing is to understand what would be best for you in the moment – whether that’s taking a nap, reading, or running 5K.
Not many people have started university during a pandemic, which has inevitably created some new challenges. I think the main piece of advice I’d give to my first-year self is to focus less on what you think you should be doing – and instead, rest when you need to, remember that you’re doing well, and make wellbeing your number one priority.