Advice for students heading to college campus for the first time

With many students starting on campus for the first time this semester, here are some tips to combat any first day nerves.
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Venturing onto campus for the first time can be intimidating under normal circumstances, and even more so following a year of online college in the middle of a global pandemic. This past year and a half has been filled with unprecedented changes in the university experience. While the reopening of university campuses is a positive development in terms of the pandemic, it’s completely normal for this transition to provoke anxiety. So, I have come up with a range of tips to help ease this transition as you venture onto campus for the first time.

A good routine

Establishing a good routine is key. During the pandemic, one of the first things to go was our routine and daily schedule – what’s the point in getting ready to sit at your laptop for the day? Having to return to a regimen may be a shock to the system, so setting up a solid routine before the semester starts is a good idea. Then, when the semester starts, it sets up a good baseline around which you can build your college experience. Find time to incorporate self-care into your weekly schedule and take proactive steps to maintain your mental wellbeing. This can include simple tasks like getting enough sleep, physical activity and eating healthy. 

Practice Run on Campus

Another tip would be to take a dry run before your official return to university. Visit campus before the semester starts to explore the setup, see the buildings, and get a feel for the college at a quieter and less hectic time. This can help to ease some of the anxiety surrounding the uncertainties of returning to in-person college.  

Pace yourself

It’s completely normal to feel apprehensive about coming onto campus for the first time, particularly, given the online nature of our social interactions over the past year. You may not feel as confident, having lost some of your social skills in lockdown. Anticipate this discomfort but know that everyone is in the same boat and embrace those awkward moments. It will take us all time to reacclimate to social life. Just make sure to be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to adjust. 

‘No’ is a full answer

Don’t feel pressured to do something you don’t feel comfortable with just because everyone else is. It’s normal to be nervous when returning to spaces where there are so many unpredictable variables; not knowing how others will behave with regards to mask-wearing and social distancing. You can say no. Turn down invitations if you don’t feel comfortable with the safety measures in place. This will be a learning process, so find what you’re most comfortable with in the current circumstances and let the people around you know. 

Clubs and Socs

However, it also isn’t helpful to avoid all social situations. There needs to be a balance between pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone while not letting your anxieties isolate you completely. Make connections. It can be challenging having never met most of your classmates outside an online zoom class. Make an effort to attend any events organised for incoming students. Before and after lectures are prime opportunities to connect with people from your course. Check out the clubs and societies available at the college and pick some you might be interested in joining and attend their info sessions. 

Don’t be afraid to ask

Make use of your college’s resources, particularly those which can support your transition onto campus. Many of the universities have expanded their resources as a result of COVID-19.  Contact your universities’ Student Health department or set up a phone/video call counselling appointment. You don’t need to be struggling to talk to a counsellor. Even just having a chat with someone who has that outside perspective can lift a weight from your shoulders. Class Reps or Peer Support Leaders are also great for helping you, if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask, all these resources are there to help you navigate this transition to in-person college.

Give yourself time

Change is never easy and adapting takes time and looks different for everyone. Work towards accepting that your university experience will not be as you once imagined it. There will be significant changes but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of this new university experience and have an exciting semester. 

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