Talking mental health: Adjusting to university

There’s a lot of pressure for Orientation Week to be “the best week of your life.” For many, this O-Week expectation -albeit a myth- falls short and students are left feeling alone or disconnected.

For some, these feelings of loneliness and apprehension are quickly reduced as students adapt to their new environment. For others, it takes longer for these feelings to dissipate and homesickness or extended feelings of loneliness may result.

Feeling nostalgic for familiar surroundings and family and friends is common when you first move away to university as this is the first time you have been away from home for such an extended period.

School routines are not yet developed and students often ask themselves, ‘How can I feel so lonely around all of these people?’ This is accompanied by a painful longing for how things used to be.

Homesickness is common among WLU students, and most experience it to some degree. Unfortunately, the majority of students don’t talk about it. They look at others who are laughing and socializing and by comparison, they feel even more alone and that nobody can relate.

Students do a great job of putting on social masks, but looks can be deceiving. Everyone copes differently; some try desperately to keep busy while others find they can’t get out of bed.

Feelings of anxiety, sadness or wanting to withdraw from others can all be signs that homesickness is starting to affect your ability to manage.

Although the reality of academic life can be frightening, many students find that once the routine of classes start, they begin to feel better. Having a schedule to follow and establishing a personal routine can make a significant difference for many students.

Some students may take longer to adjust, and end up really questioning whether being away at university is the best decision for them.

It’s a tough decision to make and one that we encourage you to discuss with the supportive people in your life.

If you are feeling too overwhelmed to make this decision, talking to a therapist at counselling services may help bring about some clarity.

There is no doubt that the transition to university is huge. Students are now responsible for managing their time, their own money, planning their meals, cleaning their rooms and balancing school, work, friends and family.

There are new social decisions to make, not to mention the adjustment to academic demands.

This momentous transition is an opportunity for personal growth and to challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible.

To make this transition more manageable there are a variety of tactics students can try to better adjust. The first is to become familiar with the campus and find that place that feels calm so you can read or study and relax in your own space.

It is also very important to develop a self-care routine in which your sleeping, eating and exercising can be masterfully planned out.

In terms of academia, reading your course outlines carefully and keeping a calendar to keep track of your assignments will keep you organized.

Beyond the structure of university, it is often the social aspect which leaves people most afraid. It is important to talk to people in your residence, on the bus or in your class.The more people who are familiar to you, the more comfortable you will feel.

Making at least one acquaintance per class can help you feel more comfortable and can come in handy for future studying or note borrowing.

The more you talk to people about your struggles the more you may realize there are plenty of people the things you are; most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

By familiarizing yourself with the resources on campus that are there to support you, you will feel more comfortable seeking that help if you need it.

For more information on homesickness and transition tune into Talking Mental Health on Radio Laurier. This program can be heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11: 45 a.m..

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