How To Cope If University Gets You Down

Starting university is a daunting prospect for most of us.

Will I fit in? Will I be clever enough? Will I miss home? It’s a gigantic step forward from the world of A Levels and for many students it’s their first time living away from home and the family and friends they have relied on over the years.

 For most freshers everything goes to plan, though most will have moments when they worry whether everyone else is having a better time than them. For some first years the transition to university will be more tricky, possibly for one of the following reasons:

  • feeling lonely
  • not finding the right friendships immediately
  • missing family, friends and pets
  • missing a boyfriend/girlfriend and worrying about how the relationship will work at a distance
  • feeling shy or under-confident in relation to fellow students who make it look like a breeze
  • managing money
  • feeling overwhelmed by the size of the organisation and the systems which run it
  • understanding what tutors expect
  • feeling like you chose the wrong course or the wrong university
  • doing group work with strangers
  • not doing well in an assignment
  • finding the work challenging
  • not getting on with people you live with
  • feeling overwhelmed by the change
  • comparing yourself to others and worrying that you don’t match up

 

If one or more of these things start to get on top of you, the most important thing is that you do not suffer in silence. Starting to worry alone, becoming anxious and feeling like we’re the only one struggling is a an awful feeling. Anyone in this situation needs to remember a few things:

  • you are trying your best
  • you’re not the only one feeling daunted
  • you will find friends you gel with over time
  • you can step up to the work (you got the grades and will be able to cope once you get your head round how the new system works)
  • you deserve to be supported through difficult moments
  • your family and friends would hate to know you were glum and didn’t tell them – they will want to help
  • your Course Leader, tutors and Student Support Officers do care and can help – we help people every year and know it’s a big transition

Once you’ve given yourself a break, there are some things to do to make things easier:

  • tell your family how you feel – mums and dads always to prefer to know the truth so that they get the chance to help, it would really cut them up if they knew you were struggling alone
  • go home if you need to, as often as you need to, until the homesickness/loneliness fades and your new life gets easier
  • join clubs or find a volunteering opportunity (go to the Student Volunteer Center in your university) to fill your spare time and meet like-minded people
  • drop in or make an appointment to see the Student Support Officer for your course – they know how to help and do it for a living
  • talk to your Course Leader or any of the tutors on your course (at the beginning/end of a lecture or as you pass them in the corridor), they can guide you through the academic side of things and will want to know if you’re finding things difficult
  • if you’re nervous about talking to your Course Leader or tutor send them a direct email to ask questions or arrange to have a chat (if they don’t reply, send the email again the next day – if they’re busy they might not reply quickly enough, the second email will remind them that they haven’t done it yet)
  • if you’re a dog-lover and would like to go for a walk or share some four-legged company, sign up for BorrowMyDoggy.com and see if your canine pal can bring a smile back to your face for a few hours
  • if you’ve tried some of the above (or don’t feel like you can) and things haven’t improved, go to the University Counselling Service and make an appointment – the Counsellors understand just how tricky a new life can be

Remember – we all have our difficult moments, sometimes they feel overwhelming, we all deserve a helping hand when it’s tough and talking about our worries will help. We haven’t failed and we’re not weak if we accept the help of others – but we do need to let them know that big changes we’re living through are tough.

 

Anne Lindley-French

Founder of the Garden Gate Program, Counsellor, Associate Lecturer in Counselling

anne@gardengate.org.uk www.gardengate.org.uk