Evie shares her advice on how to deal with the emotional pressures of being fresher.
The university marks the transition between youth and adulthood. It is a time of great change – moving away from home, leaving friends and family, learning for the first time to clean money, cook, and manage. There is enormous pressure associated with this change. In particular, the pressure on the university to be “the best time of your life”. This puts further pressure on:
- Flood your social media with pictures and videos having a great time (which is compounded by your friends back home doing the exact same thing).
- Form stronger friendships than the ones you have at home.
- Be popular when you haven’t been to school.
- Maintain your popularity even after you’ve been to school.
- Drinking or taking drugs just to fit in.
This often leads to internal conflicts where you are caught between your excitement (fueled by the anecdotes and expectations of others) and your fear (fueled by the great life transition you’re about to begin). There’s no shame in admitting that the pressures can get overwhelming. Of course, there are many positives that come with starting college and it will most likely bring you many of your best memories. However, it’s okay to take those rose-tinted glasses off from time to time and admit that there are certain places where you are likely to feel down and anxious. What you’re doing right now is nerve wracking.
You can also be homesick. It is difficult to put into words what homesickness feels like as it is such a unique emotion. It could hit you right away, it could hit you once the novelty from Freshers wears off, or if you’re lucky, it might not hit you at all. However, if you have that feeling of sickness that cannot be explained by a hangover, it is homesickness!
There is also often a lot of pressure to drink or go to parties / clubs. I think it’s important to remember that drinking doesn’t have to be your thing. You do. If you don’t want to, you can say no. Even if that is your roommate’s business, it’s okay to say no. There are nearly 8 billion people in the world and probably a few thousand at your university. It’s normal for your five roommates to have different interests. Do not give up. Talk to people in other homes, people in your course, or people in societies that interest you. You will find your people.
“You do you” applies not only to those who violate the social norm – you shouldn’t feel guilty when you say no, but you shouldn’t feel guilty when you drink and have fun either. Of course, being yourself is important, but don’t be hard on yourself when adjusting your personality. This is not said enough – but it is normal and okay to adjust if you want to. I think we’d be lying if we said that we didn’t adapt our personalities to the environment or the company we were in. It is an integral part of being human. A big part of the university experience is figuring out who you are. There is a stigma that you have to be the same person you have been all your life or that you have to keep a social role. You do not do that. Change isn’t always a bad thing. Be who you want to be.
Each individual’s university experience will be different. There is no single guide to the best time. However, there are a few things that can maximize your enjoyment and combat homesickness.
- Talk to others. I can almost guarantee someone else will feel just like you. They’re just waiting for someone else to say it so they don’t feel so alone. Be that “someone else”.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends back home. You have more to offer than just the university you go to. You have a home, family and friends, an existing support network. Use it.
- Distraction is the key. When anxiety or sadness strikes you, distract yourself. Make plans. Join societies. Go to the gym.
- BUT … have that to take away too. Got that scream. Escape home for the weekend if you have to. Spend that day in bed doing nothing but watching Netflix and hugging the hangover fear. There is no “right” way to go to university. Do what is best for your sanity. The Instagram posts and drunk stories definitely play a role, but it’s also about personal growth and self-care. The important thing is to remember that while this is the best experience of your life, more than just your college experience will define you. It will be overwhelming at times. But you have that.
I’m Evie, a young psychologist working in the mental health field. I want to share the advice I would have liked to have been fresher. My main message to everyone is not to be afraid to be you, no matter who you are.