Autism awareness week - tips to settle into university

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James is a second year Molecular and Cellular Biology student who below shares some of his tips about joining university as an Autistic student.

I have a diagnosis of Autism so naturally can find elements of university challenging.  Over my two years at the university I have learnt some great tips and have found some strategies to help me out.  One of the biggest challenges for me was moving to a new environment, so the thought of coming to university was quite daunting.  Now I am in my second year I have learnt a lot about myself and some good advice along the way.  Here are some of my tips to help you out when you are planning to come to university:

  • Starting university can be daunting but let people know about your disability as there is a huge amount of support available that you may be entitled to which can make your life much easier.
  • When choosing halls don’t forget there are options to choose quiet or alcohol free accommodation.
  • On that note don’t be put off by the perceived drinking culture, actually more and more students are choosing not to drink.
  • Don’t feel pressured to socialise initially. Remember all students are in the same boat and trying to make friends, so you will likely find people to be friends with.
  • A great way to make friends is by joining student groups and getting involved.  There are so many to choose from you will be able to find something you like which will help you meet people with the same interests.
  • One group I joined was an Autism social group which was a great way to meet like minded people and overcome those initial nerves.
  • Another benefit of disclosing was that I was able to get a campus buddy who was an older student that can help you settle in and provide support. It was so good that I became one in my second year.
  • Talk to the Disability Service to see what support is available and what you might be entitled to. The support I have received has been invaluable including specialist software, mentoring, study skills support and advice on completing coursework.
  • Finally, don't forget to look after your overall health; eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise.  I feel like I have been able to improve my health since starting.

I hope they help and give you a bit of an insight into university life and some simple tips that can help you to settle in.  It's not as scary as I first thought and there is much more help available than you might think.  So my biggest tip is to make use of it.

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