Stress at university

Ode to a fresher – Beth Kynman

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My first term at university ended with me having a breakdown in my room. My parents drove down from home to see me, and when I talked to them after about it afterwards, they said that they believed they were coming to pick me up and take me away from university forever. It was a scary moment. I had worked very hard to get into university, maybe too hard given the state of my social life through GCSEs and college, and had dreamt about the day when I would be a university student. Yet I came really close to that dream being over.

I ended up in that position as for too long I had neglected my own health and wellbeing to fully embrace the university lifestyle. As a maths and physics fresher, I had pretty much 9-5 lectures and far too many assignments from the second day of term. It felt like being tossed into the ocean with only armbands to keep me afloat. While I was going out as much as possible with my flatmates, I was also having to grapple with a new way of learning and hitting lots of targets. Granted, most of these targets I put on myself, but at the time it felt like these targets were necessary. It was hard and ultimately unsustainable.

To be honest, I don’t regret the experience. Looking back, it taught me some valuable lessons about healthy boundaries and self-care, but I do wish that someone had sat me down beforehand and told me what university was really like. Yes, there is lots of information in the shiny prospectuses and university websites, but reading about university is nothing compared to experiencing it.

I ended up in that position as for too long I had neglected my own health and wellbeing to fully embrace the university lifestyle.

University is a place where you learn, of course, but it can often feel intense and highly competitive, to the point of not being able to keep up with the pace. I wish someone had told me that having earnt your place you completely deserve to be here. That you have the capabilities to succeed and flourish even on days where you would rather stay in bed and binge watch Friends. University brings together thousands of the best students in the world, and at times it seemed to me that everyone else was dealing with the pressure a lot better that I was.

I wish that someone had told me that everyone struggles sometimes, especially in the first few weeks. Coming back to university after the Christmas break, I spoke to my course mates and flatmates and explained how I had been feeling during term one. Everyone replied with sympathy and confessed to having experienced similar feelings. None of us had spoken of it before as we believed we were the only ones.

I wish that someone had told me that everyone struggles sometimes, especially in the first few weeks.

Despite the inevitable difficulties, university is a pretty amazing experience. Undoubtedly, throwing myself into societies helped me deal with the pressures of my course, and would be something I would recommend to every fresher heading to university this autumn. My main advice to incoming freshers is this: say yes to new adventures – you may never get the same opportunities again- but know that it is also okay to say no and take some time out for yourself if you need to. Believe in yourself, and remember, you’ve got this.

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