Starting university is undoubtedly daunting, and can feel like being plunged right in at the deep end. If you are anything like me and have a tendency to overthink everything (literally, everything), all of the questions running through your head can be overwhelming.
What if I don’t get on with my flatmates? What if they don’t get on with me? What if I contract salmonella from undercooked chicken? What do all these funny washing symbols on my clothes mean? Do battery powered fairy lights count as an ‘unsafe electrical item’?
Although we all know that worrying rarely solves anything, it can be hard to ignore any concerns that crop up, especially during the long summer holiday before university. So, I am going full-on ‘mum mode’ and attempting to alleviate any worries you may have about university life with my 5 tips to help you settle in at uni…
1) Bring home comforts with you
This one may sound obvious but, unless you are desperate to move away from your family, taking some items from your house that remind you of home and any associated memories, can be of great comfort in the first few weeks or months at uni.
Decorating your room can be a fun opportunity to make the standard university-style room your own personal space to chill out, and unleash the inner interior designer in you. Trinkets from home, from cushions to cuddly toys, can serve as a reminder that no matter how far away you may be geographically from home, there is always a bit of it with you.
My personal favourite thing to do to add a homely feel to my room is putting up lots of photos. They are a great collection of memories plus they look cute.
Talking isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. For me, it’s sometimes easier to articulate myself in writing than speaking face-to-face. The digital era we live in means that our phone often acts as our main means of communication.
But, especially during Freshers' Week, you will find yourself in various situations that require talking verbally to others. Obviously, you’ll be introducing yourself to flatmates and anyone else you may meet, but I would definitely encourage everyone to not just limit verbal communication to small talk. Not only would this be extraordinarily boring – after all, there are exciting realms of conversation out there that extend beyond the weather, what you are cooking for dinner, and saying ‘hello’ to someone – but it also makes it a lot harder to develop good relationships with people.
You never know, you might just learn something interesting when you make a concerted effort to have a proper conversation. Or, in my case, you realise that you aren't the only one out of your flatmates who enjoys a bit of ‘University Challenge’!
3) Push your boundaries
Now, by this, I don’t mean see how many chilli peppers you can eat in sixty seconds, or anything – although, I wouldn't be surprised if people have tried this at university. Linking to tip 2, this one’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone and not shying away from trying new things.
University isn’t just about books and coursework; there is a huge range of Societies to join, drama productions to watch, food places to try, and that’s just on campus! Venturing into the city is sure to reveal a whole other range of things to do, the Christmas Market at Bath is a prime example of a nice day out you could have with your uni friends.
The point is, staying locked away in your room all day, like Rapunzel in her tower (minus dangling your hair out the window, probably), may seem like a safe, effort-free option, but unsurprisingly it won’t do anything to help your social life.
When feeling homesick, it is tempting to wallow in sadness, but you may find that the best way to move past these emotions is to fully immerse yourself in what university has to offer. My flatmates are a great source of support to me when I feel low, but even if you aren’t that close with yours, this is an even greater reason to make new friends outside of the four walls of your flat.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to try your hand at surfing but never had the chance? Or maybe you just love coffee and want to share this passion with other caffeine fanatics? Or, perhaps you want to continue doing something you did at home, but still, meet new people? Well, you can!! You just need to allow yourself that opportunity and have the confidence to believe you are capable of doing it. Even if it is hard for you to come out of your shell, there is nothing wrong with faking it until you make it.
4) Take ‘mindful walks’
This might sound like an odd suggestion, but I credit my flatmate with introducing me to it! Mindful walks don’t necessarily warrant incense and windchimes, just a working pair of feet and a healthy mindset.
It is only natural to have days where everything seems to be going wrong and the world is against you, especially at university when you have the pressure of ‘adulting’ and looking after yourself. Instead of letting negative thoughts fester, taking time out to get some fresh air and appreciate your life can be really therapeutic.
It’s up to you where you go for your walk, but you may be surprised at some of the routes you can take on campus. Bath may not be the biggest uni, but when you have a wander there are a few pathways here and there that you may not have considered before. My personal favourite route for a mindful walk is around the lake.
Although you’ve probably seen it countless times on Bath University prospectuses and posters, it’s not just there to look nice, as you can actually walk around it, and it is especially pretty in the dark.
I have also since discovered various other buildings on campus that I didn’t even know existed, including a Biology and Evolution building with real skulls inside! Sham Castle is also a short walk away on the golf course, situated on the outskirts of campus, with stunning views of the city of Bath from the hilltop. All these were discovered thanks to a few mindful walks. So, get moving!
5) Resist the temptation to visit home too frequently
Obviously, if you are coming to Bath from the other side of the world this may not be a realistic option for you, but weaning yourself away from home gradually is still something I would recommend. Personally, Bath is only a few hours away from where I live, so in theory, I could have gone home every weekend if I wanted. And while it is definitely nice to pop home occasionally for a day or two, I don’t think I would have got over my homesickness if I had relied on it as a secure base too often.
Instead, consider other ways of staying close (but not too close!) to home. Tip number one is applicable here, and similarly a text or phone call home can sometimes be just as effective at cheering you up as an actual visit. I also have to say that watching your family members try and fail to navigate FaceTime is an extremely funny and enjoyable experience!
Just because you are away from home does not mean your family and friends have forgotten about you. In fact, the opposite is probably true, and whenever you do go home you really appreciate the time with them even more, as do they with you.
I guess the overall message of this post is to embrace this exciting new chapter in your life, taking the highs with the lows, and coming out of it a stronger and better person (not to say you aren’t great already!). University is as weird as it is wonderful, but one thing it has taught me is not to hold back. In the words of the legendary Audrey Hepburn, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!”