‘Freshers’ Week ruined my mental health’: Five students on their first term at uni
First term of first year isn’t all fun, games and alcohol…
Freshers’ is meant to be the best time of your life. We often look back at the first week of term with crazy drunken stories, brand new friends we’ve randomly met and tales of mad nights out. But that’s not the full story. The Tab spoke to five different students across different universities about their mental health during Freshers’ Week and first term.
From struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic to the social anxiety that comes with moving away from home, these students shared their first term stories and how they’ve grown from their experiences.
Liza – University of Warwick
Liza, a creative writing student at the University of Warwick, said: “Freshers’ Week completely ruined my mental health”.
She explained how there was overwhelming pressure to make friends with her flatmates, but one of the hardest experiences was when she caught Covid. “I had to isolate with no groceries and I couldn’t do my laundry as I wasn’t allowed outside,” she said.
But Liza found ways to cope during first term by channelling her energy and stress into studying. “I knew I had to settle into my work, the work that I was proud of, otherwise I would fall behind,” she told me.
Liza explained that uni is so much fun but there are always days where we all want to go home: “Suddenly your life is a microcosm where you can’t escape,” she said. “My happy ending is just knowing that I can set my own pace”.
Liza thinks it’s important to respect everyone’s progress, because what seems normal for one person can be very difficult for another. For Liza, third term made it all worth it. “I found the best friends in the whole world,” she said.
Shiam – LSE
Shiam studies actuarial science at LSE. For him, the uncertainty of the pandemic had an impact on his mental health before uni. He was looking forward to the summer holidays after A-Levels, but everything was cancelled. “It was meant to be the best holiday I would have,” he said.
When talking about term one, Shiam told me: “I was panicking a little because I overthink a lot, and I was worried about the friends I would make. Everyone says those friends will be with you throughout your uni life so there was a lot of pressure to find the right people”.
Shiam found that staying in touch with his best friends from home helped him cope with the change. At the same time, Shiam explained: “What’s funny was that talking to people was both the problem and the solution. Talking to people helped me cope with all the stress but at the same time, it was hard to find people to talk to”.
Now that restrictions have eased, Shiam is busy with what feels like a normal university life. He works hard, runs society events and has a great circle of friends!
Sachin – Imperial College London
Sachin is an Imperial student studying aeronautical engineering. A-Levels were a motivational factor that kept him going, but when they were cancelled there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding his work life.
For Sachin, starting term one was stressful because of the anxiety that came with finding new friends and fitting in. He explained that many society events and club nights were cancelled: “My freshers events were literally online Teams calls where we played puzzle games and Minecraft”.
Sachin said that it was difficult to find new friends when there were hardly any in-person events at uni. Instead, he coped by growing closer to his flat. “We had movie nights and birthday parties where we dressed up. Cooking together used to be the highlight of my day,” Sachin told me.
Now, Sachin finds it refreshing to have in-person lectures now. “They make a massive difference. I feel like I’m actually at uni now – going to the library, talking to people in real life, walking around campus.”
Angela – UCL
Angela, a computer science student at UCL, explained that starting university wasn’t too hard on her mental health because she was living at home: “It wasn’t too stressful, just a new life routine. There was no environment change because I never moved out.”
However, Angela told me that she had to meet all her coursemates online through Zoom and Discord instead of in real life, and it was slightly disappointing that she couldn’t make it to many in-person fresher events.
Whilst this was the case, Angela went on to explain how she coped with this change: “I reminded myself that it was okay because I’m more introverted anyway. For the first term of uni, being completely online meant that I could adjust to the workload easier”.
Angela said that most of the people on her course were international students anyway, so they were also all online. That way, she didn’t feel too left out. “We were all in the same position,” she said.
Now, Angela keeps her mental health in check by writing down everything on her mind and creating a list when stressed. “I prioritise the things that I need to do and make my way down until I’m happy,” Angela told me.
Anusha – King’s College London
Anusha studies medicine at Kings College, London. She explained that getting ready to start university in term one was actually a motivational factor for her mental health – despite the pandemic and being stuck indoors.
However, things got hard when term actually started. Anusha is an international student, so it was difficult adjusting to a brand new environment alongside coping with the pandemic. “I was stuck self-isolating in my room in an empty flat at a student accommodation for the first two weeks of not only university but also moving to a completely different country,” she told me.
Anusha explained that things started to look up after she got out of isolation. She said that she appreciated being out so much that the social anxiety aspect of starting uni didn’t hit as hard as she thought it would.
To cope with the isolation during term one, Anusha said that she would try to find time for herself in the form of self-care days. “I distracted myself by cooking, working out and having spa-days,” Anusha said.
She also explained that finding the right group of friends was essential for a good uni life, but that would come naturally once you settled in.
You can contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.