Starting University and Mental Health

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I thought I should start this blog post by introducing myself. My name is Georgia, I’m a 22 year-old Media and Marketing graduate from the University of Leicester. I can’t believe my time at University is over, and as much as I loved my time at Leicester, university life did not come without its tough times. One of the main reasons I was really proud of myself for completing university was because in January 2018, I nearly dropped out due to my deteriorating mental health.

To put it simply, I did not have the easiest start to university and I got to a breaking point after the first semester.

Let’s start with a bit of background information on my own situation. I took a gap year before I went to university, so I’d spent the year working before going travelling around South East Asia. Upon my return to England, I had just three weeks until I was moving to University! The past year, I had seen so many snapchats, Instagram pictures and Facebook posts of all my friends having the best year of their life at University. Social media, alongside conversations with my friends, contributed to my very high expectations of what my first year of uni was supposed to be like and this isn’t really how it turned out.

In the beginning, I moved into halls and freshers began. Unfortunately for me, I was in a flat with people that I did not become the best of friends with and this sort of situation never really crossed my mind as I just thought that everyone always became best friends with their flat mates. So when I was put in the situation of being in a flat with people I wasn’t really good friends with, I was like ok – so what now? Freshers week was a bit of a blur and to be honest, I just felt a bit lost. I didn’t really feel comfortable drinking all the time and it just was not what I expected it to be. And then lectures began, and then I got a part-time job and then the loneliness really began to set in.

Loneliness is a topic that very few people talk about when it comes to University and it can be really hard to deal with. You may be surrounded by the most people you ever will in your life, but still feel like you’re by yourself and that is exactly how I felt. I made really good friends with the flat across from me and joined cheerleading society but this still did very little to improve this feeling of being alone. It was made even worse because I bottled it up. The main reason I bottled it up was because my social media was filled with all my friends having the best time at university and I felt like the odd one out. I didn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t want to burden them because I saw how much they were loving university and I just wasn’t so I didn’t want to bring them down with my issues. Before uni, I would describe myself as quite outgoing, enthusiastic and happy and there was definitely a makeable change in me from when I moved.

This loneliness then began to take a big toll on my mental health to the point where I had a meeting with my personal tutor in January 2018 about dropping out of University. I would call my mom at least once a week crying. I became very isolated and was not myself. When I met my personal tutor, she was beyond helpful, she talked me through how I was feeling and talked me through my options – including leaving university. I came away from that meeting and had a proper think to myself of what to do moving forward.

Even just talking to someone about how I felt made me feel so much better, almost as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I then spoke to my Mom and she reassured me that everything was going to be ok so I stuck with it and I am beyond glad that I did. I want people reading this to know that feeling like you’re alone at University does not make you the odd one out. If you’re struggling then I urge you to talk to someone as this was really important in my own journey with my mental health. In first semester, I was really low and if I’d had just spoken to someone sooner instead of bottling it up, I could’ve dealt with it much better.

 

So, first year was not what I expected it to be but second and third year were some of the best years of my life. Yes they still had their hiccups in terms of my mental health but I found that I grew from my experience in first year and learnt from it too. I thought I’d share a few tips on how to deal with loneliness.

  • Keep in contact with your friends and family

They want to know how you’re doing, even though social media may make it look like your friends are having the best time, this does not mean they do not have the time to talk to you! People will always be there to listen to you so make sure you keep regular contact and don’t isolate yourself!

  • Join a sports club or a society.

Easily the best decision I made at University was to join a sports club, I joined cheerleading in first year and although it took me a while to find my feet – it became an integral part of my university experience. I met some of my closest friends at cheer and it gives you a constant social interaction to look forward to every week.

  • Get out your room!

Even if this is just for a walk, do not let your room become a place where you isolate yourself off from the rest of the world. Use the facilities available to you at uni like the library or the SU to do your work so that you don’t become couped up in your room all the time.

  • Know you’re not alone

This is the most important thing to remember! You are not alone, a lot of people suffer from loneliness in the first semester of university. You will come into your own and things will get better, please do not keep how you’re feeling to yourself.

 

It is time to crush the stigma surrounding mental health and to remind students that it is normal to struggle. My story is not too dissimilar to many others and I didn’t realise that until I started to share my experience. Just remember it will be ok, you are not alone and you never will be! The university is there to support you no matter what so my best bit of advice would be to reach out for help if you need it.

 

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