University: shock to the system

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Moving away from their families and starting university is the largest transition that first-year students may have ever faced. With more freedom than they have ever known, many students flourish, immersing themselves in their new environment with new experiences. But not all students make the same smooth transition into their new life.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Residence Life counsellor Heather Landells meets with first-year students living in residence to talk about issues such as anxiety, depression, problematic relationships and suicidal ideation.

“Especially at the beginning of September and October, students often are adjusting to living away from home for the first time, overwhelmed with all of these people that they are living with,” she said.

According to Landells, there are many things first year students can keep in mind as they try to adjust to university life.

Develop a routine

The freedom of living on their own can leave students feeling lost. Many have come from a fairly scheduled life, both at school and at home, so the flexibility and freedom they now face can be overwhelming.

“There isn’t a parent looking over their shoulder, if that’s what they’re used to,” Landells noted.

Creating a schedule and structuring time can help students stay on track while also enjoying their newfound freedom.

“The important thing is to study at the time of day that you are most alert and to make sure that you spend time having fun too,” Landells said.

“Sometimes students say that they don’t have time to have fun and I think, ‘You have to make that time to have fun.’ ”

Find a balanced support system

One of the biggest challenges many new university students face is trying to strike a balance between maintaining the relationships they have back home and creating new ones at school.

Many first-year students remain extremely close to their high school friends and spend much of their time trying to hang on to these relationships.

“I think oftentimes students forget and they lose the perspective of how long it took to form those close friendships that they had in high school,” said Landells.

“It is going to take a little while to develop close friendships,” she continued.

“That doesn’t happen overnight and that’s okay.”

On the other hand, some students become so absorbed in university life that they forget about the support that they have back home.

In the end, it’s best to find a balance between the two worlds.

“My advice would be work on staying here for a little bit of time; maybe plan some time to go home, but don’t have it always going back and forth,” said Landells.

Don’t get overwhelmed by academics

Being surrounded by other equally talented students makes many students question their own abilities, especially if they are having a difficult time adjusting to the challenges of university academics.

”This is not like high school,” said Landells.

“This learning is a different way, and there are lots of support on campus if they are having some challenges.”

Services that Laurier offers such as Accessible Learning and the Writing Centre are great resources for students who are struggling with academics.

Stay healthy

Most students going into their first year at university have been warned about making healthy choices and avoiding the infamous “freshman 15.” What many students don’t consider is how healthy habits contribute to good mental health.

Landells emphasized the importance of staying active to students’ success.

“I think that there’s a connection between exercise and the feel good endorphins that are released with exercise,” she said.

“Exercise for the sake of having a break … and having more oxygen getting to your brain, so you feel more energized to go back to studying.”

While it may be tempting to spend hours on end snacking and watching Netflix, exercising and eating well will leave you happier in the long run.

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