Your first year journey

Your first year journey

Feeling settled is unlikely to happen overnight. It is far more likely that it will be a journey which will have its ups and downs and which will span at least the first year of your time at university. Everyone will have their own experiences of settling at university. However, we hope that these key messages might chime with some of your experiences and provide some useful help and support.

The transition of coming to university – the first weeks

The transition starts before you even arrive on campus. You might be feeling a mixture of anxiety, anticipation and excitement about starting at university. During Welcome Week, there is a buzz of excitement around the University campus, with numerous activities and events going on. For some, this can feel overwhelming when you are trying to find your feet. Welcome Week is there to provide opportunities for all new students to mix and to get involved and there is a strong sense of welcoming from the campus community. The initial sense of freedom which you may feel is often exhilarating but can also be daunting.

Top tips:

  • There are Welcome Week activities to suit every taste and mood. Try a few different activities and remember to give yourself some down-time too.
  • Try not to panic if you don't find friends who you connect with in the first week. Make lots of different connections and keep your options open.
  • If you're going to an activity on your own, remember that it is likely that everyone is nervous to come to a degree, and even those that come along with others, have probably only just met them!

Beyond Welcome Week and into the studies

As the newness of the university culture begins to wear off, it is normal to feel challenged by things which you might not have faced before: independent learning, shared living, managing a budget, cooking and cleaning, organising your time, meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures.

You may be starting to become more self-sufficient, finding out more about who you are, what you like and don't like and what your limits are. Adjusting to academic study at HE level, can lead to a questioning of your knowledge and capabilities. You might be reworking relationships with a partner or old friends, parents or children. At the same time, you are establishing new relationships and this can be very unsettling. The first weeks of university can be a time of positive change, but it is unlikely that it will come without its challenges.

Top tips:

  • Book a place on a library workshop.
  • You may have felt very secure in your learning and you will have had some success in order to be here in the first place. Remember this when you are questioning your talents!
  • Accept that relationships are changing and there will be tensions. Make time for yourself rather than just trying to please everyone around you.

End of term one

As initial adjustments are made, many of you will be looking forward to the holidays. It's likely that you have started to understand what is expected of you academically. You may also have started to establish firmer friendships and some routines in your daily life. You may feel that you have started to successfully settle into university. Your family and friends may also have started to get used to seeing you in your new role of 'university student'. Those of you who are feeling this way, will be getting into the swing of things.

It is also important to acknowledge that not everyone will be feeling this positive. If you are struggling to adjust, check out the settling into you first year advice, if you have not already done so.

Whether or not you have started to feel settled, it is likely that you might feel 'caught between two worlds', once your holiday starts.

Top tips:

  • Build on your early successes. Enjoy your time away from university but plan in some study time as you are likely to have deadlines when you return.
  • Remember that you've made changes and it is likely that the family and friends that you have had for a long while will have made changes too. This may make you feel a bit unsettled but it is a normal part of the transition which you are going through.
  • Try to reflect on what has worked well for you and what you might have done better during the first term. This will help you to build on your successes and to tackle difficulties in preparation for Term Two.

Starting term two

For some students, this can feel like one of the hardest times in the journey of settling in. Coming back into shared accommodation, the challenges and the responsibilities of independent living as well as first deadlines might feel quite stressful. Whether or not you have had a good Christmas break, returning may throw up many questions and doubts. Is higher education right for me? Am I on the right course? The Employability Team might be able to help with these questions. Am I clever enough to do well? Would I be happier somewhere else, doing something else?

Term two can feel a bit like starting over again. It is easy to compare yourself unfavourably to others, who you may perceive as doing better than you both socially and academically.

For those of you who are having these kinds of doubts and are wondering how to move forward, it is really important to share these thoughts and feelings with someone who can help you.

Top tips:

  • The 'January Blues' is a normal feeling for most of us. Remembering this alone can help those of you who feel homesick or unsettled at the start of the new term.
  • Use the academic support that is available to you. Personal and subject tutors, academic support and study skills workshops are some of the resources which can help.
  • Check out all the support available from Student Support Services . NTU offers a wide range of services because we recognise that few students will get the most out of their time at university without using some help and support at one time or another.

Some key messages

  • Expect it to be challenging. Remember that everybody is finding their feet, however confident others may appear. You are surrounded by new people. The one thing that you have in common is that everyone is a stranger to begin with and everyone is trying to fit in, in their own way.
  • It's normal to have anxieties. Most people will not meet their closest friends in the first few weeks of starting at university. It's ok to be a bit discerning rather than to spend the first months shaking off acquaintances which you made in the early weeks, because they're not a good fit for you.
  • Maximise the chances of finding people you get on with. Go to things you know you will enjoy. Do not feel you have to keep in with the crowd at all costs.
  • Try on a 'different you'. Being at university is a great opportunity to explore different interests, experiment with your ideas and opinions, your image and identity and to interact with new and different people. Make the most of it!
  • Don't beat yourself up. Do not worry if you are not always at ease socially, or if you say or do something you later regret. Learn whatever lesson is there for you, then forget about it and move on.
  • Don't bottle up problems. No matter what it is that is concerning you, whether you are experiencing alcohol or drug-related problems, feeling homesick, or struggling with your studies, then please talk to someone. You can talk to a friend, family member, someone in your School or in Student Support Services.
  • Be as organised as you can be. University life demands a higher level of self-organisation than you might be used to. Try to achieve a balance so that you can enjoy your social life and progress with your learning. If you are struggling with this, it's great that you've recognised it; now talk to somebody who can help.