Four Common Concerns Before Starting University - Emily Cockbain

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As a first-generation university student in my family, the thought of starting university caused me some anxiety. I had grown up in a small village, spent a lot of time with my family and was not used to city life. Not to mention, I was worried that higher education would be too difficult. However, after coming to Lancaster I learned that university is not as frightening as it seems and that there are many ways to deal with the following common worries:

Mental and physical health

Starting university can be a stressful and daunting time, particularly if you are not a fan of change. However, there are many ways that you can take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. The counselling and mental health service at Lancaster University provides support in many forms, such as one-off appointments, regular counselling, groups/workshops, the online self-help programme SilverCloud, and weekly lectures with The Wednesday Thing which give advice on coping with a range of issues. There are also other services outside of the university such as Minds Matter – the NHS Lancashire wellbeing service – which the university service may refer you to. For students with disabilities, it is well worth contacting the Disability Service who can provide support such as funding, alternative exam arrangements, and Inclusive Learning Support Plans.

To keep up your general wellbeing, it is a great idea to engage in exercise: the university has an impressive sports centre complete with facilities such as a swimming pool, climbing wall, fitness suite, and outdoor pitches. If you are of a competitive nature, joining a college sports team is a perfect way to keep fit whilst also meeting new people. For a more relaxed form of exercise, the campus has a 2.6-mile-long woodland walk, or you can always hop on the bus to town for a walk around the castle or Williamson Park.

Starting university also means that you will be taking on a bit more responsibility for yourself, including cooking your own meals – we have a Spar and Co-op on campus along with a range of takeaway shops for when you fancy a treat. However, learning to cook a few healthy meals will be beneficial for keeping up your energy – a quick search online will provide you with a range of recipes.

Making friends

This may be one of the most common worries when starting university. What if I don’t make any friends? What if I don’t get along with my flatmates?

At LU we have a student population of over 16,000, meaning you are very likely to find people that you get along with. Being thrown together with people you do not know is understandably quite unnerving, but it is important to remember that everyone is in the same boat and is there to make friends. There are many activities you can engage in with your flatmates to get to know each other better, such as having game nights, going on walks together, going to the cinema, or going the pubs and clubs around town. If you happen to feel uncomfortable with your living arrangements, you can speak to your college staff and request to be moved.

Aside from the people you live with, you can also make friends through your course and through societies where you can meet people with similar interests to you. An important thing to remember is that everyone wants to make friends, meaning there is always a positive atmosphere around campus!

Missing home

This was something I struggled with a lot in first year, particularly having been in a relationship at home and being very close to my family. I found that I would travel home on the train every weekend, and whilst this may work well for some, I would personally not recommend doing so. Travelling so often is very draining, both physically and mentally, and means that you will likely miss out on a lot of events at university. Instead, I would recommend planning ahead for your trip home which will give you something to look forward to. It is also a great idea to video call your family and friends from home for a catch up every so often. As time goes on you will get used to living away from home, and university will begin to feel like a second home in which you live with a second family!

Organising your workload

At university you are given a lot of freedom when it comes to your work, meaning it is helpful to create your own general timetable to stick to each week. You can use this to space out your work over the week and decide which days you will dedicate to tasks such as reading, revision, and assessments. I also like to make to-do lists at the beginning of each week and tick off the tasks as I go along which I find also gives me a sense of achievement. Another way to feel prepared and organised is to complete introductory and background readings when you have some free time over the holidays – these will help you better understand the topics in your course and can be used later in assessments. Furthermore, using both physical folders and organising your digital work into folders is essential for keeping track of your work and staying organised. It is also a great idea to back up your files every so often using a platform such as Google Drive to ensure that you do not lose any work if your computer has issues. Finally, I like to use post-it-note reminders stuck on my wall for things such as deadlines and appointments. It is also important to remember that help is available to you if you need it – the staff in the sociology department are incredibly supportive and can provide support or sometimes give deadline extensions.

Many people experience feelings of worry before starting university and this is completely normal. Big changes in life can be difficult, but what is most important is that you are kind to yourself and remember that you will settle into university life in no time!

Emily Cockbain, Student


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