Here are some amazing students talking about their own experiences dealing with anxiety when moving to Cardiff for uni. If you can relate, we hope you can find comfort in their words…
The idea of college has been so widely painted by movies and TV shows that, much like most things in life, we have a deluded idea of the dream world awaiting us. Unfortunately, entering college may not be as magical as you were convinced it would be and sometimes you find yourself sitting alone in your room on a Saturday night, scrolling through Snapchat stories of friends having the time of their lives.
Excuse the cynicism.
College is amazing. You learn everything about yourself that your sheltered room in your parent’s house couldn’t teach you. You learn how to crack an egg and know exactly when your food is done. It doesn’t have to be crazy, filled with blurry nights you can’t remember; it doesn’t have to be anything other than what you choose it to be.
During my first days here, with the loud shouts of nearby Freshers events, I was barely managing to mumble quietly amongst other students. When everyone found themselves someone to sit with at the restaurant, I sat alone and ate my food while listening to a podcast about Russian spy missions. I have been alone for the first time in my life and in the one week I’ve been here, I’ve realised that it’s ok. It’s ok to be alone, it’s ok if you miss your parents and it’s ok if you don’t know how to wash your clothes (seriously can someone please help me).
At my Personal Tutor meeting, I made a joke about how far apart the taps in the bathroom are (why?). The harmonious sounds of people laughing around me finally made my stomach stop churning. I spoke more comfortably and shopped for a hoodie with a new-found friend from the other side of the world. I took a step further, opened myself up a little more. I now put my head up when I walk, smile at strangers, wait for a second after a lecture to talk to someone new, and have finally realised that I was never alone.
College is a newly-minted blank journal, fill it up with whatever you choose.
When heading to university to start my first year I was engulfed with fear and anxiety towards being away from home for the first time. Whilst the prospect of finally leaving the dead-end town that I had spent 19 years living in was thrilling, truly being alone for the first time in my life was all I could think about, to the point where I felt a constant sickness in the pit of my stomach. When moving day rolled around I came to realise I was the first to arrive which did not help my fear of being alone. Despite this my fears and anxieties slowly began to fade away over the course of the year.
First, it’s important to know that not instantly clicking with your flatmates is perfectly normal, you are all in the same boat after all and finding common ground to talk about can take some time over the course of living together. While the first few months of halls were rocky for me, by the end of the year I became very good friends with a few of my flatmates and I spent many evenings cry-laughing in the kitchen with them. I also confided in a few of them with my anxieties and they were incredibly understanding of my struggles and were there for comfort when I needed them. While I am not living with them in my second year of university, we are still in touch.
Another fear of mine was fitting in when I’m not much of a drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I love a drink just as much as the next person, but I have no desire to get drunk. I was scared after reading so many freshers drinking experiences and had this overwhelming fear of being thought of as lame or odd for not wanting to be wasted when out. After coming to university, I realised that people genuinely do not care what you do as long as you will participate, plus it’s fun to be the friend who reminds everyone of their drunken mistakes.
As someone who is doing Freshers all over again as a newly-arrived post-grad, there is so much that I wish I had known when I was a first-time fresher at 18, so here’s just some of that advice. Firstly, don’t worry about what other people think about you. It’s easier said than done, but with hindsight, if I had spent as much time enjoying my first year, including my studies (as crazy as that may initially sound!), as I had spent worrying about how I was being perceived, I would have had the most incredible year. By not focusing on how you are being perceived and seeking such reassurance, you can channel that energy into pursuing whatever you like. Maybe that’s your studies, but it could be whatever society you want to join or another opportunity, because often trying different social groups helps you build a patchwork of friends.
Sometimes being brave is walking into a room full of strangers and saying hello to a couple of them, because as simple as it sounds, that’s how you meet new people and it’s a useful skill to add to your armoury for the future, because no matter what path you follow, you’ll need it in some respect. It also opens new opportunities – not just friendships or “connections” if you want to be stark about it – that you should embrace when the moment arises, because looking back and thinking “what if” is not fun. Instead flip that notion and think about what might happen if you take that chance. You never know what opportunities will arise from taking a risk however small and joining that society, signing up to volunteer or pursuing that internship whether you have friends to do it alongside or not. You’ll find people along the way who become friends, beyond your housemates and course mates. Realising that now puts you at the forefront of your journey, because you won’t get a second chance to build your freshers experience in your memory, so put yourself at the centre of it, don’t settle for the periphery.
New uni, new home, new me, right? Isn’t that how it works? That’s exactly the mindset that I had on the the first day that I moved to Cardiff, ready to start my University journey. Fresh faced and full of ambitions, I dragged my suitcases that I had brought from the Czech Republic into my student house, ready to start my ‘new life’. I was going to be disciplined, make loads of friends and be on top of everything. Or rather, I thought that I was. What I didn’t expect was all the tears and emotions that would come with living alone, and let me tell you, I was in for a shock.
One of the hardest things that freshers face when moving out is homesickness. For someone who had never lived away from their family, but had spent plenty of time alone, I thought that it would be a piece of cake. The difference was that even if I was used to being alone, not falling asleep in a house that I was familiar with, and waking up to a flat full of strangers was extremely hard on me. I cried through my first week at Uni, and it took me ages to combat my homesickness. My best recommendation for new freshers is to try not to isolate yourself when you feel sad or homesick, because facing it alone will only make it worse. Try and surround yourself with friends who will lift up your mood, because trust me, it will help immensely. Another tip is to try and plan out a schedule with your family, to make sure that both of you have time each week, every day, etc. to properly chat to each other. There’s nothing worse than a rushed phone call, so avoiding that can make a huge difference. My final tip would be that if you ever need anyone to talk to, pop by Student Advice on the 2ndfloor of the Student’s Union. They’re always there to chat, and go over any issues that you may have.
Just remember, you’re not alone, and every other person moving away from home for the first time is experiencing the same anxieties, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
The myth of University was fast becoming reality. As it drew nearer a flurry of expectations had been built up through the myriad stories one hears from friends and the Frankenstein’s monster of it one constructs from too much time on social-media: it’s a hive of parties and indulgent folly, self-development through intense learning, fulfilling and rewarding new friendships with people from across the globe. A clean slate awaits you, away from the one besmirched and thickened with pre-existing friendships and embedded perceptions back home, an opportunity for self-reinvention.
Excitement and apprehension, that clichéd duo of emotions, were coursing through me in equal measure upon arrival at the famous ‘halls’. The primary concern for myself was to, as rapidly as possible, become friends with people, any people, and of course, those that I might perceive (and foolishly so) as ‘cooler’ were ideal. Regardless, I thrust myself into a pre-drinks which, providence be praised, my now very good friend and housemate, whom I stumbled upon in the hallway in the initial moments of my entrance, invited me to. Using all my might to forgo any social anxieties I may have lugged with me from home, and utilising that delightful social lubricant that is alcohol, I laid a few social foundations – many of which are still here and stronger as I commence 2nd year.
The point of this seemingly inconsequential anecdote about my first evening at University, one that will be identical to others’, is to try and illustrate that University is best approached with an unabashed vigour to engage with the myriad avenues that it will provide; the myth that social media, or even yourself, may purport about University, should not discolour any experience you may have: they are all valuable and will build a more-rounded self, even if they are as mundane as the one I’ve laid out; freshers’ anxiety is a necessary ugliness to the overall beauty that university can be.
When I first moved into my halls here at Cardiff University, I had many fears and anxieties about becoming a fresher. I don’t drink very much, in part due to my physical disability and limitations, and therefore I also don’t like going out to clubs or partying late into the night. I did worry that I wouldn’t fit into the normal fresher assumption. I have no enjoyment in going out to drink or clubbing so I feared that I would be known as the anti-social one in the flat who never wanted to go out after a certain time in the evening.
I also had concerns that I would struggle to make friends because I prefer to be at home, however, I have been reassured that there are plenty of other ways for me to make friends without going out and clubbing or drinking every night. My worry about making friends had come from my struggle to make friends during my previous school years. But I have met a number of people and my flatmates are all on the same wavelength as me, so we all get along really well.
My other concern was, naturally, about getting to places, since I need my car with me. The team have been very good at making sure I know that there is somewhere I can easily park my car without any concerns that I would be towed or ticketed. I was also worried about budgeting and making sure that I didn’t buy too much food as if I was buying for my whole family rather than just me. I have quickly learnt how to budget, so I only go shopping when I run out of something so that I don’t overstock my cupboard and have a lot of stuff go out of date before I have used it.
Overall, I feel like I had many normal fresher worries, all of which have been quickly solved by the team here at Cardiff University.
My first ever dilemma I faced coming to university was extremely trivial. Do I venture out into the hallways and pathetically knock on people’s doors until someone takes pity and we awkwardly make small talk for a few minutes, or do I just sit on my bed and frantically scan Overheard In Cardiff looking for societies or sports clubs I could decide to go to… but then obviously abort last minute. There is so much pressure on freshers to make their first week the best week of their uni lifetime, and for the majority that won’t be the case.
Not to dampen your enthusiasm, I’m sure a lot of you will absolutely thrive, but to those who don’t have the same experience please don’t admit defeat so quickly. Put yourself out there and establish who you want to be. Leave out all of the fretting over whether or not the foam party at the SU will leave you with a fat heap of soapy laundry when you still can’t figure out how to work Circuit and if you should go to that event at Tiger Tiger (you really shouldn’t…). Enjoy yourself however you see fit and don’t be so hard on yourself if you opt to have a night in to yourself with Gossip Girl on loop and an empty pack of Lidl’s own tortilla chips crumbled up in the corner. All of us need some me time amidst the stress of fresher’s week.
Anxieties about not finding your people or desperately missing your friends from home is completely normal. Also, don’t think that because you don’t fancy being a live love lax girl you won’t have any fun on sports night at the SU, you definitely will. University will genuinely be some of the best years of your life so if you get to week 2 and you feel deflated and fear the magical unicorn that is university fun hasn’t graced you with its presence yet, it really will and when it does you will thank the mythical UCAS gods that it sent you to Cardiff.
Here’s a beautiful picture of Bute Park in Cardiff, one of the many reasons to love this city.