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.

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)

11 Ways to improve your communication skills

You speak with a wide range of people.  Even if you don’t alter your personality to cover this, I’m sure you change the way you speak.  It only takes a few subtle differences to make you sound like another person.  How you talk to a mate isn’t how you talk to your Mum.

However, the way you communicate should be similar, whoever you talk to.  Here are 11 ways to communicate with clarity:

photo by Torley

photo by Torley

  1. Pay attention – Don’t start thinking about what you’re going to say next when someone is talking to you.
  2. Watch the person – No need to stare, but always try to maintain a good amount of eye contact. If you’re looking around all over the place, you’ll look bored or distracted.
  3. Listen – Communication can break down more easily than you think.  You have more chance of finding common ground with someone if you truly listen to what they have to say.  Even if you don’t agree with the other person, give them a chance to explain their view before you crash in again.  Understanding someone else’s view isn’t a weakness, it should help strengthen (or alter) your position.
  4. Show interest – How much do you take your friends for granted? The more you get used to your mates, the more casually you will become in showing interest.  We tend, almost bizarrely, to hang on every word of someone we’ve just met.  But as a friendship develops, the effort fades even though you’re becoming closer.
  5. Ask questions – Ask when you don’t understand, ask when you need further information, ask when you’d like their opinion, ask when you’ve been doing all the talking, ask when you’re interested.  Enjoy asking questions as much as you enjoy answering them.
  6. Don’t waffle – Make your point, give an example if you need, and perhaps ask a question to finish.  Don’t ramble on for hours unless you’ve been asked to tell a story or you’re up on stage. Don’t give people the chance to switch off.  Do give people more chance to talk themselves.
  7. Respond to the wants of your audience, not yourself – It’s easy to go on a mission and forget that everyone else has moved on.  Don’t get carried away with your own importance.
  8. Respect others – Disagreements are common, no matter how close you are to a person. In fact, those we’re closest to can sometimes get the worst of you.  If you don’t see eye to eye, respect the other person’s opinion.  Unless the matter is purely objective and is problematic until you get an answer, you’re better off letting go.  And if the matter really is that important, actively seek out the information you need before carrying on.
  9. Take a break if the communication has broken down – You can’t always find resolution or compromise or even a natural cut-off point.  If the conversation gets too heated, suggest a rest so you can clear the air a bit.  Without a break, the chances are nobody is listening to others any more.
  10. Treat all communications like a presentation – When faced with a public talk or presentation, we want to make an impression.  Advice on delivering a speech is available all over the place.  Take advantage of these tips when putting your point across in less formal situations.  If you can learn to look good on the stage, why not learn to maintain a good impression at all times?
  11. Use the right platform – Face-to-face, over the phone, through a text, via a tweet…there are many ways of communicating.  Before you pick one at random and before you choose what’s easiest for you, consider how much better you could make the discussion using the right format for the recipient too.

Communication is not just about what you say.  Just as important is how you communicate that information.