Adjustment to university life can be tough, without the added extra of newly found freedom, homesickness and having to establish new friendships. It is a known fact that change isn’t easy, especially when those changes are not just subtle ones. Going to university is a big change and one that takes a lot of courage to do. At some point throughout your time away, you will probably encounter the pressures of living alone, whether it be: how long to cook your boiled egg for, how to empty a hoover, how to register for a doctor or how to clean a cooker! You will be full of ‘how to’ questions and google will probably be the biggest help it has ever been. Trust me, you don’t realise what your parents do for you until you leave home.
My first year at university was an absolute whirlwind. One minute I was on top of the world, the next I was buried under. I couldn’t help but feel happy and content one day but overwhelmed and upset just hours later. I was a wreck 92% of the time. I found adjusting to university life and living on my own uneasy. At first it was difficult to make friends because I couldn’t find enough energy or time in my extremely busy schedule to be social. It took me over 10 weeks to figure this out but I did, in the end and eventually the balance between working and partying was easier. This meant that university gradually became a far more enjoyable experience than it was initially.
Adjusting to university is a process, that often goes a bit like this:
- University life appears to be an absolute dream – at this stage uni is great. A newly found freedom makes you feel like you can take on the world, achieve anything you want and eat pizza 24/7 without your Mum giving you a lecture. Freshers week is so crammed with events, activities, meetings and faces that excitement overrides nerves.
- University is suddenly a humungous culture shock – at this stage university is full of challenges and people struggling to find their feet. The lectures and classes have probably began and the reading list released. Halls are perhaps being a hinderance rather than an absolute ball, as people play music past 11pm and no one cleans the cooker top after using it. Sleep deprivation is real, big time. Your subject area is made up of people from all walks of life, you may have everything or nothing in common with them but never-the-less you still drag them along to the campus social every Friday.
- University life is a ‘piece of cake’ and you’ve definitely got this – at this stage university life is much easier as you have had time to settle in, get used to the amount of work, overcome the issue of finding a doctor, dentist and the nearest Aldi. Basically, this is the moment where you get to do a classic ‘Breakfast Club’ fist pump. For the first time in weeks, you are able to relax and spend your Sunday’s watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix instead of stressing for no reason.
- University life vs. Home – you feel like you have just about adjusted to life without your Nan’s home cooking and then BOOM the Christmas holidays arrive. This stage is full of crossroads, doubts, questions and feeling torn between two places. Although, university is not home, neither does ‘home’ feel as comforting as it once did. Friends that you may have known for years have moved on and found their own freedom since moving away. After being away for some time, returning home often comes with a sense of extreme homesickness and the thought of going back to university is daunting!
- University life feels more connected and real – the return back to your studies after the holidays feels less scary than you imagined. By this stage you have probably made new friends and gotten to know your surroundings. University life is better than it has ever been. All of a sudden you feel connected and as if you belong, at last.
This is certainly the sort of thing that I experienced throughout my first year, just as I thought I was starting to enjoy my time, the holidays would come along and interrupt that flow. I guess it is normal to feel displaced and homesick at times. However, getting used to living alone is definitely the toughest part of moving away. Even halls can be challenging and lonely at times. Here are a few tips to help you adjust to being alone and away from familiar home comforts:
- Don’t shut yourself away – open your curtains and door. Welcome people in rather than pushing them away. This was my biggest problem when I first started university, I never really gave anyone the opportunity to be my friend or invite me to events with them. But once I started going to the pub at 4pm for tequila shots on a Friday, grabbing a coffee from Starbucks (despite hating coffee myself) or even walking to lectures with different people, I quickly made friends. If you are struggling to make friends, then check out my icebreakers post here.
- Have a routine – this was something else that I struggled with. My newly discovered freedom meant that I was napping at 4pm but staying up until 4am, in turn making my settling in all muddled and confused. Routines are great and so is organisation. Be organised, stay focused and have fun. That is what university is for right? Oh and the degree part too, obviously.
- Try something new – join a society, write for your uni’s newspaper, start a new hobby, take part in a sporting activity or go along to a local event.
- Talk to someone – talking to people about worries or concerns really helps. The person who helped me the most was my Academic Advisor, she was always understanding and full of useful advise to keep me going.
- Call or visit home – this helped me massively. Okay, I probably did call home too much in my first year but once my Mum starts talking there is no stopping her! If you are able to, then visit home occasionally. I went home twice a term for a weekend, so around once every three weeks I would make the 8 hour long coach trip down to Cornwall from London just to see my family and friends. This overall made my homesickness a lot less and gave me something to look forward to when I was having ‘down days’.
- Take time out – this seems a bit random, especially when it is loneliness that you are wanting to avoid. But chill time away from studying is great and it also gives you an opportunity to reflect on busier times.
University life is challenging, tiring and it is often hard to find your feet. But remember, everyone is in the same position and everyone is as nervous as you!
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