The hype of Fresher’s week hums throughout the dorms, library shelves and the university campus the first few days of the term. University is the best years of your life, and Freshers is one week-long party are two phrases that you will be told leading up to the start of term, and although these statements can be proven true, fresher’s week can be one of the toughest times while studying.
The seven-day holiday can be tough for many young people because they may be going to university alone – your friends are at other universities or back at home – and the people surrounding them are practically strangers. It is not surprising that there are some first years’ experiencing social anxiety and loneliness during the first few weeks of Fresher’s and shortly thereafter.
Many students don’t understand that loneliness and homesickness are common during the beginning and young people can feel embarrassed or ashamed to speak of these feelings as signs can be recognised by their new housemates and not just their personal tutor. But outside of that, there are also other ways to deal with any potential mental health issues at university.
Some common signs can be crying, calling or speaking to parents and friends more than usual and travelling (if able to) back home. And although some of these signs can seem normal for students moving to university, if you feel resentment towards your new life then you could be homesick. However, resolving these negative feelings are much simpler than you can imagine, you’ll be able to deal with mental health issues at university easier than you think, there will be a happy ending! You can try talking to people more, from your dorm or class or student union, or trying to go out more socially to enjoy these experiences and not allow them to pass you by. Once you begin expanding your social circle, you will come to realise that a lot of other students feel the same as you do.
It was found that as many as 3 in 5 students feel homesick at university during their time in the first year, 1 in 3 students reported feeling sad or depressed, and 1 in 5 undergraduates were concerned about anxiety. If students have feelings of depression, sadness or anxiety they should seek help, there are all types of support at university and know that being uncomfortable in new surroundings can and will pass once they speak out about it.
University is different to school, sixth form and college and many students find the different atmosphere unexpected, and young individuals can experience a culture shock at first from the changing lifestyle, new people and timetable that appears in front of them.
Anxiety, stress and depression can appear in many forms – not just by breaking down, lashing out or crying – some people can have changes in their sleep patterns; from sleeping too much or not enough, have changes in their mood, and begin to feel nervous in situations that they normally wouldn’t. If students are finding that they are suffering from stress or anxiety they should go and talk to someone. There are many people who are there to help within university staff, from personal tutors, counsellors, lecturers, the student union and even your new housemates can provide a strong shoulder to cry on. Universities have seen this before and you're not alone, if you need help they will have someone on standby to help you, be it a counsellor, a dedicated mental health professional or even a service that they're working with.
Nightline Association is a service which is currently involved with 90 universities and offers a service for students to talk about their problems with students, previous and current who have undergone training and are there to help. They use a technique called active listening which reflects questions back to the students who are calling and help them look at their situation. The service is anonymous, and it is student-to-student which means callers are talking to people who are or have recently gone through experiences they have too. Some Nightline staff will be based at your university, and that means they’ll understand exactly what you’re talking about as well.
It is very important for students to feel they are able to speak to someone and know that there is someone there who is reassuring and listening to their issues and problems. The most vital thing students should know is that they don’t have to take part in social activities that they don’t want to, or situations where they feel uncomfortable. Students don’t have to give into peer pressure.
Those who are feeling isolated due to their negative feelings during the beginning of term can speak to other fresher’s and staff within the University about what to do how to overcome them. There is also the important people back home that you can call on too. Also, as you are attending a new institute, this doesn’t mean you have to move away to university, you can live at home during university, if this makes you feel more comfortable. Fresher’s week can be a time of fun and exciting new experiences but that doesn’t mean you won’t have times of sadness or feeling homesick, and this can alter how you feel about the entire university lifestyle, but reaching out about your anxiety and feelings can help eradicate them.