Talking Mental Health: Transition

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IMG_9283With O-Week and a couple of weeks’ classes behind you, it is a good time to take audit of how you are coping with adjusting to university life. This transition is likely the biggest one you have ever made. Not only are you adjusting to the academic expectations of post-secondary education, but you are also socially adjusting to living away from home. Developmentally, you are on your way to becoming an independent adult.

There are many realities that start to set in during mid-September. Academically, the assignments, readings and exams on your class syllabi can feel overwhelming. You may wonder how you will get through it.

Socially, you are adjusting to having roommates, perhaps neighbours who stay up late and large lectures where you may know absolutely no one. You may find yourself asking, “How can I be lonely among so many people?”                 Thoughts may turn to home and a sense of nostalgia sets in for home, family and hometown friends.         Homesickness is quite common, though most students don’t talk about it as they see other students laughing and socializing. They feel like no one can relate so they withdraw, and feel even lonelier.

Feelings of loneliness and homesickness are common among WLU students. Even upper-year students who are returning from four months of living at home can experience these feelings often inaccurately believed to be solely experienced by first year students.

Everyone copes differently with these feelings. 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 affecting your ability to manage. If this is the case, talking to others can help. The more you talk about your struggles, the more you will see that you are not alone.

Along with the academic expectations, it is often the social aspect of university life that can be daunting for many students. As I walk through the campus I notice how many students are “plugged into” their technology.

Although texting your friends and family back home may provide you with comfort, ask yourself if this is keeping you from making new connections. If I listen to music on the bus, am I missing out striking up a conversation with the person next to me? Could this stranger become a friend? Every friendship begins with a conversation and that stranger on the bus could be just as nervous as you about initiating the conversation.

Like any change, it takes time, patience and some effort on your part. Building strong connections does not happen quickly. This is sometimes forgotten when we are clouded by the sadness of feeling lonely.

If you find that these feelings of homesickness and loneliness are overwhelming you may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor at WLU Counselling Services. For further information about this service, please go to www.mylaurier.ca/counselling.

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