I recently asked people who had studied at university, ‘What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without or made life easier when you were a university student?’ I even shared this oh so bad (pre-fixed teeth and everything) graduation picture for a laugh and to say thanks.
I told them, for me, apart from a bottle of Spar Valencia white (sorry Mum) it was a wall planner, memory stick and a thick dressing gown that covered my bum on the way to the shower rooms.
The comments I received were things like:
- “Having support when being away from home is a must”
- “I printed lots of pictures of my family and friends and put them in frames/put them on the wall”
- “I put something up that reminded me of why I was at university, many times I thought ‘why am I doing this?”
- “I brought my duvet from home it was very comforting to have something old and homey in all new surroundings”
- “Keeping a good relationship with your professors makes them more likely to be understanding in situations where you might not be able to finish an assignment due to personal problems.”
- “It was and still is talking to my family about everything I did that day.”
I forgot being ready for University is more than just having a car crammed full of stuff
At the same time, I had created a new resource called ‘What to Bring to University: The Ultimate Packing List’ and had fun reminiscing about fairy lights, thermos, laptops and massive launderette bags. But, these comments made me take a step back.
I realised that of course there is a need for practical useful things like Toasted Sandwich Maker’s to make life less stressful (and save money), but I had forgotten about the emotional side of leaving home and starting University. I had forgotten that you will likely be away from your family and friends for three years, where you probably know no-one (a total nightmare for the introverts amongst us), in a new town or city. Even for the ‘toughest’ 18-year-olds, that’s a big change.
Looking out for student’s mental well-being will benefit everyone
Recent tragic news stories have shown us cases where universities have let their students down.
I’m pleased a real debate has started about the responsibilities on places of education for the welfare of their ‘adult’ students. It’s a difficult balance to make but human beings, with all their human-being stuff going on, attending university are more than a list of grades for a league table to be noticed a few hours a week. And anyway, it makes absolute sense that being mindful, and assisting where necessary, the mental well being of your students will help them achieve their academic potential or find their true path along a different route.
If you’re starting, or at, university it is an amazing, unique experience but just remember it’s OK to struggle, it’s OK to find it daunting. But it’s not OK to suffer in silence and fail to reach out and ask someone for help.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts or about your experience starting university in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.