Worries that don’t go away…and how to make them go away

How different is it to be a student now compared to five years ago? Ten years? Twenty years?

The world continues to change. Your experiences are shaped by advances in technology. What you take for granted today may not have existed when you were born.

But how different are your worries compared to previous years?

Feeling anxious? (photo by jαγ △)

Feeling anxious? (photo by jαγ △)

A YouthInsight poll of more than 1,500 students has asked current students and this year’s uni applicants about their anxieties about campus life. Times Higher Education reports on the top five concerns as:

  1. Money (63%)
  2. Difficulties settling in (50%)
  3. Trouble making friends (48%)
  4. Getting on with flatmates (44%)
  5. Too much partying/drinking (22%)

There is nothing new in this list. And it’s understandable that you’d be worried about these things. For many, stepping on campus for the first time is also the first time away from the family home. The first time you’re fending for yourself in a major way.

If any of these matters are causing you anxiety, check out these links from the archives…


Settling In

Making Friends

Getting Along


Many of your worries may be similar to others around you. The cliché goes that you’re all in the same boat when you start university. Cliché or not, that means you’re all trying to make sense of what’s new. And that’s not always easy.

Remember, you’re not getting it wrong. You’re exploring and discovering. The awesomeness can take time.

It’s worth the wait. 🙂

“If You’re a Fresher…Calm It!”

A student at Oxford Brookes has started a YouTube vlog called “University JibberJabber“.

Maxine Agyemang got in touch with me to say that she’s put together a load of tips on applying to uni, getting to know uni, studying, and making the most of your student life.

As a Fresher, Maxine has only just got to experience this herself, so these tips are fresh in her mind.

What’s university like really? “It’s pretty damn normal”, says Maxine. She doesn’t mean it’s not awesome, but the initial fun will quickly move away as you settle in.

And that’s fine. If you’re happy with things, the sense of ‘normal’ may not be normal to anyone but yourself, but it’s a sign that you’re comfortable with where you are.

So be comfortable, just don’t sit in your comfort zone. They’re different things. The solution? Strive to do amazing things comfortably!

Maxine says that she wanted to make the video she wishes she had before she started at university. It would have helped her feel less stressed for a start. Maxine says, “If you’re a Fresher…Calm it! They’re expecting you to get things wrong“.

They really are. Tutors, staff, everyone involved knows you’ve got a lot to get used to and a lot to learn when you first step foot on campus. Three years (or more) is a long time. If you think you’ve got it sussed from day one, you’re either missing out on sooooo much, or you’re doing something wrong!

So grab a drink and — if you’re anything like me — lots of snacks, and watch Maxine share with you what’s worked for her in her first few months at university.

How to Ensure Living With Others Doesn’t Resemble Fresh Meat

Have you been watching Fresh Meat on Channel 4? How does it compare with your university experience?

The show follows a bunch of Freshers who are stuck together in a house off campus because there isn’t enough room in the halls of residence for everyone.

Joe Thomas plays Kingsley in Fresh Meat (photo by damo1977)

Joe Thomas plays Kingsley in Fresh Meat (photo by damo1977)

After the first episode, I thought the Telegraph summed things up best:

“Fresh Meat has two types of joke. One, somebody says or does something embarrassing; two, somebody says or does something cruel. And that’s more or less all you get, again and again, for a drainingly bleak hour.”

That’s not to say the show isn’t any good. It’s just consistently excruciating. You’ll no doubt squirm and cover your eyes when you watch it. Or, if you’re hard like me, you’ll just stare open-mouthed and wide-eyed at the insanity of it all. 😉

But Fresh Meat doesn’t portray living together with others as you might experience it:

  • It’s too isolated;
  • The coincidences are too forced to be realistic;
  • Everything happens too quickly;
  • There’s no let up from the awkwardness;
  • The truths and stereotypical situations are exaggerated for filmic effect.

Living with others isn’t always easy, even if it’s not usually as uncomfortable as Fresh Meat portrays. So how do you live together with others and survive to tell the tale?

HackCollege explains how easy it is to establish house routines early. In a new academic year, everything changes, even if you’ve already spent a year living with the same people in the same house. That situation is easier to deal with, certainly, but new timetables and different working circumstances introduce a new dynamic. Don’t think you’re home and dry, whatever you’re doing this year!

Wherever you are and whoever you’re living with, it helps to sort the housekeeping, rotas, admin, bills, and so on, as early as possible. Here are five quick tips (or 4 + 20 tips…) to make sure your experience doesn’t resemble one off Fresh Meat:

  1. Respect requests – You may not agree to every last wish of a housemate, but communicate with them and be reasonable. Try to find a compromise. If you can’t do that, look at other ways to handle the problem, even if it won’t result in your housemate getting closer to what they want. It may only take a friendly ear and you resisting the temptation to raise your voice in exasperation.
  2. Have regular meetings and LISTEN! – People see issues from many perspectives. Before you start thinking your other housemates are crazy, find out how they see the situation. The reason for regular meetings is not so much about formality, but more about continued communication. Keep talking and keep listening, because communication breakdown doesn’t help anyone.
  3. Keep notes, rules, rotas, and all important information up to date and close to hand – Avoid last minute scrambles to find crucial documents. Ensure everyone is fully aware of what’s expected and required. Commit to five minutes of admin once every week or two so you don’t have to timetable several hours later on when you’re busy doing more important things.
  4. Consider your housemates at all times – You want to feel at home in your own accommodation. And so does everyone else! Remember you’re not living alone. Flip things the other way… When you come home late at night, making huge amounts of noise, would you be happy if one of your housemates did the same thing when you were trying to get some sleep?
  5. Read my 20 hints for living with others – Loads more information to help you tidy, pay bills, and party with ease.

Make Contact, Make Friends!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Fresher or a third year. Your university life is likely to involve a lot of socialising.

There is no perfect way to blossom as a social butterfly, but there is plenty you can do when getting to know new people at uni. Here are a few things to remember for getting friendly with new people in a new academic year:

  • You’re in the same boat – You’re equal and you’re looking for new people to talk to. So go forth and talk. Can you be sure they want to find new people to speak with? In most cases, yes Yes YES!
    Fresher or third year, remember? Every new academic year brings new opportunities. Returning students are welcome to re-Fresh.
  • Take easy opportunities – When you’re standing in queues to register for things, don’t look down at your phone or dig your face in all your reading material. Strike up a conversation with others in the queue around you! If you’re sitting down for an induction talk or similar, say hi to those sitting next to you. These are easy opportunities because you aren’t making a determined move toward anyone, you’re staying just where you are.
    And while lots of things can be done online and in the comfort of your own digs, there’s a lot to be said for plonking yourself on campus and showing your face a bit.
  • Listen, listen and listen – People like to talk about themselves. It’s easy. Ask questions and let the answers flow. If you’re asked a question, great! Just don’t go nuts. Let them have another turn. Not only do people like talking, they like to be listened to.
  • Friends come in all different shapes and sizes – Don’t expect to find your best friend on the moment you hit campus. Don’t expect to stay bosom buddies with the first people you spark up a conversation with. Even the people you hooked up with in advance via Facebook won’t necessarily end up being the people you get closest to.
  • So be bold! – Your job is to get out there and enjoy the new experiences at your fingertips. Make the effort to speak to more people and you’ll reap the benefits. The world thrives on communication and, believe it or not, others generally like to help. A casual conversation may offer up all sorts of invitations, suggestions, introductions, and so on. Be bold and let your conversations take you places!
  • Wear a thicker skin – The first couple of weeks in a new academic year provides the biggest and easiest opportunities to randomly walk up to people and say hello. Most of the contact you make will be welcomed by others. On the odd occasion when you’re hit with a rejection, think of how many in-roads you’re making with all the other successful approaches you’ve made. I quoted a Paul McKenna story back in 2007and his story is worth quoting again:
    • “Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. I know. Procrastinators aren’t lazy. They’re scared.” He tells me about a guy he used to envy. “He wasn’t particularly handsome, but he dated more girls than anyone else. I studied him for a while and I figured out that because he was thick-skinned, he asked more girls out than anyone else. And I thought if I up the number of girls I ask out, the down side is that I might be told to F-off more, but the upside is that I might meet the person of my dreams.”

    As a fresher, the situation is less daunting, since most others are looking for new connections too. So grab a thicker skin for a while and tell yourself not to take these small rejections personally. A new year means there’s no baggage and no major cliques yet. There’s no better time to get involved and meet new people.

  • Offer people doughnuts – Looking for a prop to break the ice? Doughnuts are like a cheap round and are appreciated most of the time. Since supermarket doughnuts are usually a pound for 10, you won’t lose much in the process, but you may gain some attention! 🙂

What will you do to get socialising this year?

Doughnuts: a good prop (photo by Stéfan)
Doughnuts: a good prop (photo by Stéfan)