Fresher Worries

Leaving home for the first time, starting university and fending for yourself - we're here to help you through your first few weeks and months away.

Being Homesick

For many, this may be the first time away from family and old friends. So much is unfamiliar that the feeling quickly creeps in that you'd be better off back home. Homesickness is often marked by a sense of anxiety, but this can deepen into depression if left unchecked.

How to Cope

  • Remind yourself that it's totally natural to miss your old life. It's cosy and familiar, unlike the new place, but it won't be like that forever.
  • Talk to someone about what you're going through, whether it's new friends, family back home, or even your student welfare officer. Just voicing your worries will help you to gain some perspective.
  • Stay in touch with old friends, but keep it in perspective. It's good to hear a familiar voice over the phone sometimes, but if you're heading home every weekend you risk extending the grief.
  • Aim to make the most of your social opportunities. Meeting new people will show that you're not alone in finding it hard to adjust, which can only make the process easier.

Making New Friends

You might be the biggest fish in the pond back home, but on the first day of term every new student is pretty much back to square one. The prospect of forging new friendships might be daunting, but there's no need to deny yourself a social life.

How to Cope

  • Be realistic. You can't be best mates with everyone overnight. Instead, focus on getting to know one or two people who share your interests, then build from there.
  • Aim to be relaxed around others, rather than making a big song and dance. The loudest may attract all the attention, but you're after meaningful friendships - and they can take time to mature.
  • When you meet someone, show an interest in them rather than worrying about how you're coming across. This often boils down to being free and easy with your questions. It's guaranteed to flatter, and buys you thinking time as they respond.

Previous Relationships

At a time when you're finding your feet in a new environment, there's bound to be people you've left behind who continue to take up your time. From doting parents who miss you to boyfriend or girlfriends you've had to leave behind, it can be a wrench for all involved.

How to Cope

  • If you're in a relationship before you start out as a student, be open and honest about what impact it will have. Some long-distance relationships can survive, so long as you're prepared to adapt. Ask yourself how much effort you're prepared to put in and if you trust each other. If the answers are negative it may save a lot of anguish to end things on a mature note now.
  • Should you decide to continue seeing one another, agree to review the situation regularly, so you both know where you stand.
  • Friends and parents who won't leave you alone need clear boundaries. Arrange to speak at pre-arranged times, rather than find yourself constantly answering their calls.
  • The same strategy applies if you're the one who continues to ring home. So long as you know they're just a phone call away, it's often enough to get you through any wobbly patches.

Getting About

If you feel like you're on an alien planet every time you step out of the front door it can quickly bring you down. The sense of disorientation and helplessness can sap at your self-confidence, and even persuade you to stay in more than you'd like.

How to Cope

  • Getting to grips with a new environment takes time. Catching the wrong bus or having to ask for directions is all part of the learning process.
  • Try not to feel intimidated. A new town or city might seem like a threat, but ultimately it's in your mind. The place won't change, after all. It's your attitude towards it that'll soften.
  • Buy a local map and pin it to your wall to help you to get your bearings.
  • Use your feet. A walk is often the best way to familiarise yourself with a new place. Plus the exercise will help to work off any stress you're under.

Managing by Yourself

If it's your first time away, everything can seem like a challenge. From cleaning and cooking for yourself to budgeting, and even being sure you're awake on time for lectures.

That's why you need to take responsibility for yourself before you begin. You're all grown up now, after all, and making a success of this venture means adopting new roles.

How to Cope

  • Consider your cash flow, and make sure you set aside enough for the essentials (food, rent, bills, books). Fresher's Week can be a serious strain on your finances if you let it, so plan ahead.
  • Buy a basic cookery book, or grab some easy recipes from the Internet and print them out. Cooking properly won't just benefit your body but your pocket, too - it's cheaper to rustle up your own meals than buying takeaways constantly.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's no good sinking under bills before the term has even begun, or living in darkness because you're too scared to change the fuse. Phone home, ask a friend or talk to your student welfare officer. Even if you feel like a lemon for asking what must seem obvious to everyone else, it can only help you to get on with making the most of your new student life.