Friday 6 September 2019

Social Anxiety and Fresher Pressure

Laura writes about managing society's expectations of Fresher's Week, and making sure you do Fresher's your own way.
-Laura Watchman 


How does that word make you feel?

Take a minute.

Does it make you feel like a shaken bottle of champagne, eager to burst into the world? Does it make you fondly reminisce or twinge with regret? Does it churn in your stomach, the dreaded thought of it almost as uncomfortable as someone saying, moist on a loop?

I knew how I was supposed to feel, how society expected me to feel at least. I should've been ecstatic! After the long summer, anticipation needing to explode in fantastical revelry, amongst jubilant strangers, night after night after night. The wait was over; the start of the best years of your life! Newfound freedom and independence beckoning like music spilling out of club doors. A chance to drink and dance till the sun comes up, and all of New York was invited. No rules. A chance to reinvent yourself and start things off with a bang!

The absolute horror of it.

Don't get me wrong, I was definitely excited for it. But, alcohol? Didn't know her. Clubbing? Definitely didn't exist in my world. I was bat-poop scared and it had started to eat me alive. I was disoriented in a new city, a new situation, sharing a flat with new people; all alone. But I'll let you in on a secret. The best piece of advice I found, even more important than those lists of what to bring to university is: "Everyone's in the same boat." Every single person around you is going through this new experience, all at the same time as you. Everyone is that new kid at school, everyone's unsure and lost, everyone's scared to speak first - no matter how confident they seem.

On the plus side, that's a great thing! Freshers is the weirdest week ever, and all those unsettling feelings make people more open to meeting new people and chatting. Don't feel afraid to initiate that conversation, if it helps prepare a little script to get you through that awkward initial small talk. I did this myself and I found that people really appreciate it when you initiate a conversation. You'll find a lot of people are more comfortable having another person to experience freshers with than going to events by themselves. That feeling definitely continues into the months after.

A simple way to start is with your flatmates, it's great to have an initial group to get through freshers with. Plus having shared experiences helps to maintain good relationships throughout your time sharing space. If your flat just isn't that type of group, that's cool. I would like to say though, if you are uncomfortable with your flatmates for whatever reason, let your RES life, accomodation manager or similar service know ASAP! It lets them know you need more help during this time and if need be, for them to find you a different room during this time.

The ultimate takeaway? It's a time where anything goes really. Your experience is whatever you want to make of it; there is no right or wrong way. Don't let society's expectations dictate your Fresher's Week, or even your university experience as a whole. I know it can all feel a bit daunting and overwhelming, but you'll get through it. And remember, even if you feel like you're on the Titanic sometimes, everyone is in the same boat.

For more information, see Student Minds' tips on managing anxiety and starting university.

Laura has her own personal experience with mental illness. She advocates for but tries to prioritise her own mental health. 

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