First Year: Round One
First year was a whirlwind of lectures, labs, and assignments intertwined with sports, socials, and nights out. Days spent on campus (or sometimes in bed…), evenings taken up by training or that crucial prep for a night out. As I sit here reflecting back to my first year at university, I ask myself the following question: at what point did I feel like I’d actually settled in?
To tell the truth, first year was a struggle of a year for me. I came to uni with a lot of unresolved baggage. Unfortunately, I’m not just referring to the bags that remained unpacked in my room for the majority of the year. I felt overwhelmed by the lack of routine, the pressure to balance social life with so many contact hours and actually getting a decent sleep. All this, plus some unaddressed mental health issues, did result in me taking a Leave of Absence. I returned a year later to try again.
First Year: Round Two
It’s September 2017, and I’m back. A little bit more prepared this time. There were bags in my room that still never achieved a fully unpacked status. However, I felt more aware of what university life entailed and I (hoped) I would learn from my mistakes the previous year.
I threw myself into a new sport – women’s rugby – and I applied to be a course rep. I also signed up to way too many societies at Freshers’ fair which filled up my email inbox. This time I wanted to really make the most of the opportunities York had on offer.
Settling in: the truth
June 2018: Round Two completed. But had I settled in?
My answer was still no. All my flatmates, my course pals, looked as if they had gracefully settled into the university lifestyle. I felt out of place for feeling like I hadn’t.
I’d constantly been told at sixth form ‘university will be the best three years of your life’. While First Year Round Two was a lot more enjoyable than Round One, this wasn’t quite how I’d describe my uni experience yet.
Prior to entering higher education, teachers, friends, and family build up university as this magical place where you can live your best life independently. We should actually be preparing our blissfully ignorant adolescents for a bumpy journey. We should let them know that struggling to balance everything is just part of the learning curve.
That’s not to say I didn’t have some fun in my first couple of years, but I certainly wasn’t as ready for university life as I thought I was, and that’s okay. It took me a long time to accept this. I didn’t reach out for help when I should have. However, now that I have, I’m yielding significantly more from my university experience.
It’s now 2019, and although I’m heading back into second year for another round, I’ve been at York for three years and I can finally say I feel at home here. What I’m trying to say is settling into university takes time. Though it took me a long time, this doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you. If it does, don’t let it get you down. Everyone is on a completely different path, and comparing your milestone timeline against your peers is only going to be unhelpful.
Be present for your settling in period, acknowledge when those unpleasant feelings are becoming overwhelming, and please, ask for help if you’re struggling. York has so much support on offer – YUSU’s advice and support page is a great starting point. I am so grateful for the effort the University put in to make sure I returned.
I’d like to finish on a word of advice to guide you whilst you settle in. Approach every problem with an idealistic optimism that asks ‘I wonder what I will learn from this?’ because your academic education isn’t the only type of education you’ll receive at university.
Read more blogs about settling into uni.