Wednesday 19 September 2018

#DearFresherMe: Making friends, switching courses and missing home

In this blog, Laura shares the advice she'd give her younger self about starting university and managing all the challenges along the way.

When it comes to friends, it’s about quality not quantity.
In the first few weeks everybody talks to everybody, but real friendships stand the test of time. Finding your tribe is a tricky process, so it’s okay if your first friends at university don’t last beyond the first term. It might take a while to meet your people, but at the end of the day true friendships bring out the best in you; a handful of close buddies will get you through far more than a thousand Facebook friends will.

Feeling lonely and homesick is much more common than people will have you believe.
I cannot stress this enough. No matter what people say, everyone will – at some point – miss their home or their mum or their dog or their bed. Going to university rips you out of your comfort zone and throws you in the deep end. It’s absolutely normal to miss your home life.

First year is unlikely to be the best year.
In a twist of fate, my final year was actually the best of them all. I truly loved the city, I knew campus like the back of my hand, and I lived with the most wonderful friends I could ask for. In comparison, my first year was extremely average: I was self-conscious and insecure; I missed my boyfriend from home; I was lonely and homesick; and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone about what I was feeling. Although I did have a lot of fun, and the newfound independence and freedom was exciting, it was also unsettling and for a lot of the time I didn’t feel all that good. This is normal. It takes a while to find your place, so don’t freak out if first year isn’t everything you hoped for.

You can change your mind about your course.
I began studying joint honours but dropped to single honours in my final year. One of my friends actually changed degrees twice. At eighteen, deciding what to study for the next three years, or more, of your life and potentially directing your career, is a big ask and not everyone gets it right the first time. Most universities allow students to change courses within the first few weeks, but if it gets beyond that, and you’re still not happy, talk to your tutors and they will help you. You’re investing a lot of time and money into your degree, so it’s important to study something you love.

Comparison is the thief of joy.
When it comes to social media, people are only putting out what they want you to see. So when it looks like someone is having the absolute time of their life, it’s easy to compare. You might start thinking that you aren’t having enough fun, or you haven’t made enough friends, or you’re the only one in the country who isn’t actually enjoying university, but I can assure you this is not the case. Take everything you see online with a pinch of salt; it’s just a snapshot of a life and things are rarely as hunky dory as they seem.

Look after your mental and physical health.
Above everything, this is the most important thing to remember. Do the really boring stuff like sign up to the GP and make sure you know what emotional support is available if needed. Most universities have counselling services, support groups and mental health advisers whose sole purpose is to support you; never be afraid to ask for help.

My name's Laura and I'm a postgraduate student at Bournemouth University. I'm writing for Student Minds to share my experience of mental health difficulties at university and to encourage others to reach out for support.


  1. I like what you said about changing your course. Focusing on knocking out general education requirements is a fantastic way to prepare for declaring a major if you aren't sure what you want to do yet. The goal is 4 years and done to save cash. :)

  2. Hey Laura, My name is Elise Bancroft I just read your post and it was SO GOOD! I am also a student and could relate to many of your points. I especially liked the last one about familiarizing yourself with your schools help and support options! I did not make use of this at all in university and I think that if I had, I could have been working on my personal wellness journey sooner!! BTW I have a health and wellness movement on FB its for women in University and I;d love for you to become a part of it if you'd like!! We'd love to have you<3 The group is called UFit Ladies