Wednesday 20 September 2017

6 Ways to Prepare for University

Becky writes about preparing for University 
- Becky Reed

Results day has been and gone, and perhaps things are starting to become a bit more real. If you’re reading this, it is likely that in a few weeks you will move away from home and begin the next chapter of your life at University. Firstly, congratulations! It’s not easy gaining a place at University, and you have probably gone through a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get this far. So, well done!

I wanted to write this blog for those of you who are struggling with the prospect of moving to University. If your experience is anything like mine, everyone you speak to is excited about moving away from home, starting a new chapter, and preparing for the ‘best years of their life.’ But, for some of us, the thought of all this change can be overwhelming. And that’s ok.

For as long as I can remember anxiety has been part of my life. It, however, had been manageable until 6 months before moving to University. I suffered a traumatic event, and from that moment, things began to spiral out of control rapidly. I was diagnosed with PTSD, generalised anxiety, and depression. I took all the help available – talking to close friends and family, attending psychotherapy, and taking anti-depressants. Yet, I still struggled. I questioned if I could cope away from the support I desperately needed. I searched for advice from people who had moved to University with a mental illness. There is a lot of information of what to do if you suffer with your mental illness while at University, but less on what to do in preparation.  Now that I am going into my final year, and have learnt to thrive with my mental illness, I want to tell you some things that helped me.

Take a day trip to where you’re moving to. 
Whether you have or haven’t already visited, a visit may help answer some questions. You could find the local supermarket, check out bus routes, or find the local GP.

Get in contact with the Universities student support services. 
You will be able to gain support from mental health & disability advisors, counsellors, mentors etc. Contacting them before means you know where help is from day one. They may also be able to provide some extra information or advice before you make the move. This is also the place to ask about Disability Student Allowance (DSA). The DSA can provide funding for resources that may help your emotional wellbeing. 

Register with a GP. 
This is especially important if you are on medication. Even if you aren’t, it can relieve some anxiety, as you know where help is should you need it. 

Have a plan for when you experience a mental health day. 
Know what works for you and how you can implement it in your new environment. Personally, when I had a bad day I needed to get on my bike. So, I made sure I could take my bike with me, and knew how to store it. It can be easy to get swept away with University, especially during fresher’s week, but just remember what you need to do to stay well. 

Prepare to make your room your own. 
Moving into halls is great, but if you don’t make it your own it could just feel like you’re staying in someone else’s room for a year. Print off photos; buy some cushions– whatever will make it feel like yours. 

Consider the drinking culture of university. 
This was a massive contributing factor to my anxiety levels pre-moving. Due to the medication I was on, I was not allowed to drink. I feared people would think I was boring, and thought it would see me left out of many things. Since moving to University I have seen that people generally respect your attitude to drinking. I would not have believed that at the height of a MH crisis. It’s a good idea to have a plan for what to say when someone asks you if you’d like a drink. Thanks for reading! Be kind to yourself over the next few weeks. It’s natural to be nervous, but if you feel you are struggling, make sure you get the help you need, perhaps talk this through with someone you trust to come up with a plan that will work for you.

Most importantly, good luck! Have a brilliant time at University.

Hey, I’m Becky. I’m a final year student studying Sport and Social Sciences at the University of Bath. I have been living with generalised anxiety for a number of years, and have, more recently, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and episodes of severe depression. I wanted to write for Student Minds to show there’s light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it seems. Thank you for reading - I hope it has helped you.

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