Worried about starting uni this year? Here are some tips!
Starting university is both incredibly exciting and fun and at the same time, a little anxiety-inducing. Will I make friends? Will I like my course? What will I do in my spare time? Will I miss home etc? Although they may not admit it, I don’t think you’ll ever meet a student who hasn’t asked themselves these kinds of questions or worried about these things before coming to university. This upcoming academic year in particular though, many of you incoming freshers must have so many questions that no one really has any satisfying answers to. Although I probably don’t have the answers myself either, I have been at university three years now so I have some advice to give that you will hopefully find useful. For me, a big part of enjoying your time at university to the fullest comes down to mindset and your approach to things, especially during uncertain and different times like these. Here are tips that have worked well for me and that I will be sure to apply this year as well:
- It is what you make of it
Let’s start it off with a bang! This is my single biggest, most important piece of advice I can give you and one I truly try to live by myself. I really believe and have learned from experience that YOU are the one in control of shaping almost every aspect of your university experience. By this, I mean that you have to play an active role in seeking out the endless amount of opportunities on campus and beyond, from making friends and joining societies to going to see the right professor for assistance in your studies. You have to want to make things work out and persevere a little when they don’t. Don’t settle for anything less than what you really enjoy. Yes your university experience is supposed to be one of the most fun times of your life, but it can only live up to that expectation if you actively shape it into what you want it to be (and not what others think it should be). Real-Life Example (RLE): Last year, my Data Protection module was unexpectedly canceled, after already having had three weeks of class. Instead, I was placed on one of the only remaining available modules, The Legal Issues of Brexit. As an international student with little pre-existing knowledge of the UK political system, my initial reaction was that the module would be a disaster. I quickly decided that hating a module for which I had to write a 4’000 word essay on the topic of my choice was counterproductive. Instead, I tried my best to see the essay as an opportunity to learn and write about something I was actually interested in and enjoyed. I’m glad to report back that this approach worked, having scored a first on my essay on “EU-UK research collaboration and student mobility post-Brexit”.
- Be adaptable and go with the flow
Things in life rarely work out exactly as you had imagined or planned them in your head, and this is equally true of your time at university. From small things like social plans changing suddenly or missing a bus to campus to bigger things like needing a make an unexpected financial investment or you know, a global pandemic gracing the world with its unwanted presence! Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and to be equally ok with an alternative relieves a lot of tension and pressure from unexpected situations. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy! On the contrary, letting go and going with the flow doesn’t come naturally to me but I have noticed a real difference in my stress levels when I do. Especially now with Covid, I think that being adaptable and easy-going will be very useful!
- No expectations, no dissapointments
This year university is likely to be quite different from the previous ones or from the stories you have heard your friends tell. But that does not mean it’ll be worse. No one has experienced socially distanced classes before or even completely virtual teaching. All I know is that a lot of people are putting in a lot of energy to make this year a success for everyone, despite the circumstances. So, along the same lines as the previous tip, instead of setting high expectations or expect the worst, I have personally decided to just see how it goes and adapt to anything unexpected if need be.
- Live in the now
With so much uncertainty and rules and regulations constantly changing, it is very difficult and maybe even pointless to plan far ahead. Instead, try your best to focus on the “right here, right now”. Yes, globally, the world sucks a little at the moment but I have found it be really helpful to live in the moment as much as possible and focus not on what you can’t control but on what is happening around you right now. RLE: As I was on the Law with French Law degree program, I was supposed to go on a year abroad to Paris in September 2020. Because of Covid-19, I could no longer go to Paris and instead decided to switch to a three year, straight law degree, graduate a year earlier than planned, and had to find accommodation in Leamington Spa last minute. Yes, I was sad and disappointed about missing out on what I had imagined studying in Paris to be like. But, right this second, I am helping my sister move into her uni room in London and having an amazing time with her. So although I imagine I would have been having fun in Paris, I am having as much (if not more) fun somewhere else and I want to be open to fully enjoying it!
- It’s ok not to be ok
All of the above is easier said than done. Changing your approach to situations by trying to stay positive and trying to turn things around in your head requires energy, strength, and resilience but most of all, it requires practice. And it’s ok to not always manage to – that’s exactly what practice is for. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best, whatever that may look like on a given day. In any case, know that it’s ok to be worried, sad, anxious, low on energy, etc. Allow yourself to recognize those feelings, feel them completely, and only then, take action to make yourself feel better. As always, please feel free to ask me any questions; I’d be more than happy to answer them! Until next time.