Now that summer is here, there will be lots of you prospective students preparing for a life away from home in September...
The idea of this is extremely exciting to most teenagers, but it comes with a price, and it’s a testing time for many young people facing the huge transition.
As someone who had ongoing depression and anxiety problems, I personally faced a huge challenge moving 120 miles away from home to a completely new city, and it’s not just me. The Guardian’s 2017 Student Experience survey found that:
- 87% of freshers find the social or academic aspect of university challenging
- 91% of females and 82% of males said they experienced mental health struggles during freshers
And it’s completely understandable - new university students are often not set up properly for the change in academic pressure that university brings, and people find it hard to talk about struggling with homesickness because it’s just not seen as part of the 'student experience'. That's why I put on a brave face most days...
But now I’m here to try help you. In my first term at university, I had times where I felt so incredibly lonely and to the point where my parents had to convince me to go back after the Christmas holidays but I'm glad they did - it was definitely the best thing! My second term was much better, I settled into a routine and my friendships were strengthened, and now, after completing a year, I almost can’t believe I ever considered dropping out.
But some aspects of my first few weeks at university definitely didn't help my mental health. I had so much anxiety over my course, making friends and generally feeling lonely. The main thing to remember is this - you aren’t alone. It’s one of the most cliché things to say about mental health, but I can guarantee you that loads of people you’ll encounter during freshers will feel exactly the same way and miss home just as much as you do.
However, one thing I would say is don’t go home for long amounts of time in your first term. It seems hard staying away for long, but many of the people I’ve spoken to who went home for longer than 2 or 3 days in their first term found it much harder coming back afterward.
The other thing that I found really helped was going to my university for support. They’re usually really discreet and easy-to-use services, with so many different types of support available. If you don’t feel confident enough for that, you can always reach out to Samaritans - you can call them 24/7 or email, and it’s completely anonymous and they will give you support for as long as you need it. Nothing is too big or small for them and you will never be turned away.
University can truly be a wonderful experience, but it can also be really hard. I urge you to reach out to other people around you, talk about homesickness and academic pressure.
If you’re struggling, please reach out to the university or Samaritans, who will do everything in their power to help you feel more comfortable in your new environment.