Anxious/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Feeling anxious in your first year at university

It was my first day at university, and my stomach was in knots. I’m a worrier on an ordinary day, but this was a different kind of anxiety. I was terrified. I managed the journey, my parents’ car filled to the brim, and I smiled through my fear when collecting my student ID and the key to my new room.

The next hour is a blur. The campus seemed strange, bigger than I remembered, and flooded with unfamiliar people – excited freshers, nervous parents, and Warwick students in yellow shirts who seemed far more confident than I ever thought I would be. I couldn’t believe that this would be my home for the next year.

After my parents left, it hit me. I was alone. I sat in my room for a little while, unsure what to do with myself. Do I sit in the kitchen and wait for someone to appear? Do I knock on my neighbour’s door? My flat seemed curiously quiet. I checked the kitchen a few times but it was empty, so I tiptoed back to my room. The quietness lasted five minutes, maybe ten, but it felt like hours. That was the first time I felt homesick.

It’s taken me two years, and plenty of laughs with my flatmates about how awkward we were on our first day, to realise that everyone was just as anxious as I was

It wasn’t long before I heard my flatmates through the door and I built up the courage to introduce myself. Soon enough, I was too busy trying to learn their names to feel nervous. Everyone was as lovely as I’d hoped and we got on well from the start.

It’s taken me two years, and plenty of laughs with my flatmates about how awkward we were on our first day, to realise that everyone was just as anxious as I was. If you do feel worried about starting university, that’s perfectly normal. Some people are better at hiding their nerves than others, but everyone wants to make a good first impression.

The following weeks were impossibly busy. Meetings and socials, sports and society fairs, lectures and nights out meant that I was constantly on-the-go, and I loved it. I was excited about my course, and was enjoying the independence of university life.

Of course, I still felt anxious at times, and you might feel anxious too. There are society events that I missed out on because I was afraid to go on my own. I felt nervous about meeting my course mates for the first time, and I wasn’t always brave enough to strike up a conversation with the people standing outside the lecture hall. Whilst socialising with new people is fantastic, it’s also exhausting. Know that it’s okay to take some time to yourself – spend a night watching your favourite movie, call your family or go on a walk and explore campus.

The busyness of the first few weeks passes fairly quickly, and you soon fall into a routine. Societies have fewer socials, and, as your workload gets heavier, you’ll probably go on fewer nights out.

Know that it’s okay to take some time to yourself – spend a night watching your favourite movie, call your family or go on a walk and explore campus

You might find that this is when university feels the most stressful, amid a never-ending stream of coursework and reading lists. I was determined to stay on top of my reading in first year and worried about keeping up with course content. I loved my course, and I wanted to do well – I still do – but I did not need to read everything. Taking shortcuts and falling behind is inevitable at university. That’s something I learnt the hard way.

If you are feeling anxious about any aspect of university, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. I bottled up any worries I had, but I know now that my friends were all feeling exactly the same way and they probably could have benefited from me opening up to them too.

Your personal tutor and the wellbeing services are another fantastic point of contact. There is plenty of support available if you ask for it, and you’re most definitely not alone if you ever feel overwhelmed by university, because it can be a challenging time.

Yet, it’s also an exciting time. Whilst I had anxieties in my first year (and sometimes in my second year too), I have incredible memories and my confidence has grown enormously. I’m hugely jealous of every new Warwick student who is yet to begin their university journey. It seems like no time at all since I was that anxious fresher, waiting awkwardly in my room until I heard my flatmates through the door. Soon enough, you’ll be just like me: a (nearly) final year student, wishing that you never had to leave.

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