Don’t Worry, First Year Is The Hardest

University is a big step and it can feel like a very stressful time. For many, it’s the first time they’ll have lived away from home. Combine this with navigating a challenging course, an unfamiliar place and making new friends, it is easy to see why first year can feel so overwhelming at times.

By Lily Cannon


One of the things that I found most difficult about starting university was the pressure to always be having a good time. If I chose to have a night off from going out, I could hear my flatmates in the common room pre-drinking and listening to music, which made me feel boring for not joining in. If I forced myself to go out I would spend most of the time feeling awkward and wishing that I could go home. Seeing my friends’ from home posting on social media about the amazing time they were having at their universities made me feel even more lonely and wonder what was so different for me. I felt like I should be having the most amazing time of my life like everyone else seemed to be, but I wasn’t.


Comparing yourself to others

Everyone told me “first year is amazing!” “You’re going to love it, I had the best time in my first year of university” and “first year was definitely my favourite.” And while I know they were only trying to comfort and encourage me, I actually found this made me feel worse. If everyone else loved their first year of university so much, why wasn’t I having a good time? I had lovely flatmates who all seemed to be enjoying themselves, I loved my course and I liked the city I was in. What was wrong with me?

First and foremost my biggest mistake was constantly comparing myself to everyone around me. Realising that everyone’s university experience is difference and that it’s ok to not want to do the same thing as everyone else all the time was a huge step for me. I started to relax a bit more and not beat myself up for wanting a night in to myself or some alone time. Taking the time to look after yourself and doing something that makes you feel good, like cooking yourself a healthy and delicious meal or getting out of halls and exploring the city, can make a huge difference.


Another huge worry for many people is that if they haven’t found a core group of friends by first year, they won’t have a chance to after that. This could not be further from the truth. You will constantly meet new people throughout university as you join different societies, take different modules, become friends with different people and get to know their flatmates etc. I made some of my closest friends in my final year of university.

Another thing to remember is that university is a process that gets easier over time, and while it may seem that everyone else is loving their first year, the truth is that many people struggle with feelings of loneliness. It’s all part of the experience, and talking about this with others will help immensely. Over time university will begin to feel like a much less daunting place. You will know your subject better, feel more comfortable being at and finding your way around university, and feel more at home in the city.  You will also have built up better coping mechanisms, so that when you’re having a bad day you’ll know what to do to make yourself feel better. Relationships with the people you meet will strengthen over time, and you will begin to feel more relaxed in their presence, like old friends you have known for a long time.

Whilst first year was a hard time for me emotionally I am incredibly glad that I stuck it out. However, I know that university isn’t right for everyone and that for some, the best decision they can make for themselves is to drop out. Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ method to coping with university, it is all about listening to yourself and what you need at that moment in time and knowing that things will get better.

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