Going to university, for most people, is the first time living away from home. Before going to university, you don’t fully realise the change ahead and how different it is living away. First of all you are no longer living with your family, you're living with strangers (at first at least). You have to cope with different habits in your household and looking after yourself and not having your family to depend on all the time.
Coping with Leaving Home
Leaving home is daunting and can be very nerve racking. However, it shouldn’t be, as it is a really good experience. It allows you to be more independent and to develop more on your own. However, at first this can be lonely. You don’t have all your family or friends surrounding you like you do at home as you are in a new city for your university. If you keep to yourself, you can become isolated which can affect your mental health. You can become depressed due to the lack of contact with people which can lead to having more anxiety to meet new people and build new connections. However, this shouldn’t be the case as there are lots of things to do to avoid all these stresses and to make your mental health stay healthy.
The main and most important thing I’d say is to keep yourself busy and get out your accommodation. Whether it's taking a walk, meeting your friends for coffee or even going to the library to do some work. All these things make you feel more productive and give you the little bit of serotonin you need to keep up your mental health. Secondly, making your room feel homely makes a huge difference. University hall rooms can often feel unwelcoming at first. However, once you decorate and put all your things in the room you will feel a lot more at home and comfy. Also bring things that you had in your room before so it can be a home away from home. Thirdly, I’d say make sure you keep in touch with home but don’t over do it. If you talk too much you will feel as though you want to be at home and end up missing your friends and family a lot. You should keep in contact but only a healthy amount so you can enjoy your independence at university.
Living with New People
At first you are essentially living with strangers when you start university. You can become quite anxious about the thought of living with new people and whether you will get along with them and what they’ll be like and some habits that you may not be used to with living at home. A survey of 60,000 UK students and 70% of second year and above students said living with friends was important to their overall wellbeing. This makes sense as if you don’t get on with them and constantly having to see them can have an effect on your mental health. This is why it is important that you make an effort to get on with your flatmates even if they aren’t your closest friends. To help with this, although it may seem obvious, is to talk to them. Make an effort by asking what they did today and making general conversation and build a relationship with them early on. They most likely be the first people you meet at university and the people you will probably see most so talking to them is essential even if you are anxious to do so.
Most of the time the other people are just as nervous to talk to you as you are to them so it would be a big relief for them as well as you to break the ice and have a conversation. Another thing to do to avoid arguments is create some sort of rota for bins and general tidying so it doesn’t start to annoy others and become a bigger deal than it is. If it is left for too long the place can start to get messy and too big of a job for a singular person to do it which can cause arguments. It can also affect your mental health if you are living in a dirty accommodation.
Another couple of important things to keep in mind is not to compare. Firstly, not to compare your university experience to other peoples. Whether its your home friends experience or your new university friends experience. Everyone’s is different and it doesn’t mean that anyone’s is better or worse than yours. Also, a lot of what you see on social media is often only a glimpse of their life at university so you shouldn’t compare as you can find yourself wishing for more. Another point is not to compare your home friends to your new university friends. Often your home friends are ones you have known for years and have built strong lifetime connections to whereas, university friends you will have known for a lot less time. if you compare it can leave you thinking that you haven’t found the right group of people when really you have you just haven’t had time to build as much of a connection as your friends from home. Your new friends won’t be your friends from home and therefore will be different so there is just no point comparing your different friendships.
Overall, living away from home for the first time at university does have its many challenges which can affect your mental health. However, there are so many ways to have a good time and prevent it having negative effects. University is such a fun and exciting opportunity so you should make the most out of it and get involved as much as possible.