Thursday 20 September 2018

#DearFresherMe: First Year Expectations vs. Reality

Lucy reflects on her experience at university and describes how the expectations that Freshers face can compare with reality.
- Lucy


If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your first days at university are within close reach or perhaps they have even already begun. Are you feeling excited? That's expected! Are you feeling a little nervous? That's totally normal! Are you absolutely terrified and beginning to feel unsure of your decision? That's also very common too! Hopefully this post can help you realise that you won't be the only one experiencing these mixed emotions.

"University will be the best years of your life" is probably a phrase you’ll have heard over and over again since you received confirmation that you’re going to uni. Whilst this can feel very encouraging, it can also feel incredibly daunting as it creates expectations and pressures that you may end up finding difficult to meet.

For some people, university can actually be the most challenging and difficult years of their life. So, repeatedly hearing this particular phrase can lead them to feel isolated, alone and disappointed in themselves as their experiences don’t seem to be matching the ‘picture-perfect’ experience that university is made out to be.

It's very important to remember that if this is how you feel, you're not alone. Many other students are feeling the exact same way! So, whilst this phrase may turn out true for many students, it’s worth noting it is also far from the truth for many others. Try not to let the pressures and expectations cloud your vision or make you feel bad about the experiences you do have; your university experience is going to be completely personal to you. University isn't always going to be a smooth ride and it's totally normal for it to be a rocky road instead.

It’s okay to be scared. It's okay to miss home. It's okay to feel a little out of your depth.

The first few weeks or even months of University can be very tough for many people. Due to the high expectations of it being nothing but absolute joy and excitement, it can make dealing with the difficult times a lot harder to cope with, especially alone. 

Remember, being away from home for the first time is a big change, and not something anyone expects you to find easy. It’s okay to be scared and to miss home. It's totally normal to feel out of your depth and unsure whether you are even going to stick it out. It’s completely fine to cry and to want to call your parents whenever you want and need to. 

Being open with others about how you feel is probably going to make you feel so much better in the long run. Express your feelings rather than try and push them away because it's completely normal to be feeling the way that you are.

Everyone else around me is having the best time but I'm not feeling it. What's wrong with me?

Nothing! Nothing is wrong with you at all. I can guarantee that you are not the only one who isn't having the best time. If you talk to those around you, there is a high chance that they will be going through the same thing too but feel too nervous to admit it themselves. 

Everyone is trying to live out the high expectations that have been set, that they may fear being open about how they really feel. If you take that first step and be honest with how you are feeling, you may end up helping some other people along the way.

Overall, university is an incredible experience, and one that for me personally was life-changing. However, this doesn't mean that every single aspect of it is going to be an easy ride. The experience will be different for every person, so it's important to focus on your own, without making comparisons to other people around you. Try to make the most of the good times but don't try and hide the hard times. Be open, speak about them and don't be afraid to admit when you're struggling.

You are never alone and there will always be someone who is going through a similar thing.

If you would like more support on starting university, and managing some of the challenges it brings, click here.

Hello! I'm Lucy, a Clinical Psychology Masters student at Anglia Ruskin University! Through studying Psychology and experiencing life as a student, I have become incredibly passionate about mental health and helping to make a positive change. I have been volunteering for Student Minds for the past 2 years as a Peer Support Facilitator at my university and the Editor of the Student Minds blog. I also have my own blog to help spread awareness around mental health -

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