At school I was always the kid hiding a furious blush behind a curtain of hair, desperately hoping not to be noticed. Whenever a teacher threw a question out into the room like a knife-edged boomerang, I became painfully aware of the chair jamming into my spine as I attempted to disappear into the plastic. In short, some school days felt like being led to slaughter (in front of a cheering crowd). So not too pleasant, really.
I’m not saying I hated everything about school, I actually liked plenty of things about it. But I did find it extremely difficult to be part of a group and to interact with people I didn’t already know very well. Understandably, when I left college at 18, I did not want to go to university; I took a bit of time out of education to figure things out and, perhaps naively, hoped I would be able to fully overcome these awful feelings.
Fast forward two years and I’m spending my second weekend in my student accommodation at university. I survived Freshers’ Week and my first seven days of lectures, seminars and societies. Not only did I survive the bombardment of newness (people, places, lessons, routines) I actually enjoyed it. Yep, that’s right, the girl I described in the first paragraph of this post is the same human as the one who spent four nights of Freshers’ Week in clubs, tried out a bunch of societies and made friends chatting in the shared kitchen.
This fortnight has been a huge realisation for me. I am not that ‘anxious introvert’ I once saw myself as. Yes, I like spending time alone still (mostly doodling in my bullet journal) and I sometimes get overwhelmed by things. But through putting myself out there time and time again, I have managed to shape myself into a more capable version of me.
Because of such a long history of personal experience, I can still see my current life through the eyes of anxiety, and I think that sharing this perspective could be helpful for people who still struggle in this way once they arrive at university. So here is part one of my tips for freshers who feel more than apprehensive about the whole ‘going to uni’ thing…
Lose yourself to find yourself
New things are scary, and I think most people would agree with that. But there’s a huge advantage to be found in the abundance of new things: a fresh start. The people you’re living and studying with don’t know you. No one has told them how ‘awkward’ you are. This is a chance for you to present yourself in a way you want to be seen. I’m not telling you to be someone you’re not, but during your first few days at university, you can choose to present the bits of yourself you want others to connect with. You have control over some of the ways others will see you; you don’t have to wait for other people to label you in a certain way.
If not now, when?
Don’t hesitate. When you catch yourself standing in the safety of your room with your ear to the door, straining to hear if the shared kitchen is empty or not, stop yourself. Make yourself go out there regardless. This is easier said than done, but honestly so many people have this concern, whether they were anxious at school or not. It’s normal to feel like this. The only way to get through a fear of the unknown is to face it, so take a deep breath and go.
Make cooking a piece of cake
If meal prep is second nature to you, insecurities about the kitchen will be less of an issue. You can focus on overcoming the stress of walking through the door of the ‘unknown’ instead of also constantly doubting your ability to create something edible. Have a list of meals you know how to make to give yourself a confidence boost.
Make your halls a home
Bring plenty of photos and that blanket you love. Get settled in straight away and create your safe haven so that you have somewhere relaxing and familiar to retreat to. This will help you to feel like you rightfully belong at uni.
It’s okay to be alone
If you need moments to recharge your social batteries, that’s totally okay. You won’t ‘lose’ your new friends, or fail to make any by taking an evening off; taking time to care for yourself will give you renewed energy. Treasure the moments you have for yourself, but don’t use this as an excuse to isolate yourself.
So that’s a wrap on the tips for now, there will be a part two though so stay tuned for that 🙂
What advice would you give to freshers feeling anxious about university?
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