Settling in at university as a fresher

Himieka Jain

Adulting is hard. Being thrown into university life straight from your college bubble can be a difficult transition, especially as we become a lot more independent and gain lots of responsibility- sometimes way more than we think we can handle. If you’re feeling this way, I get you. And you’re not alone, trust me. I faced the same issues back in my first year and even though I haven’t perfected the art of adulting (and I doubt anyone ever does), here is some advice on how you can survive as a fresher:

Everything is a mess

A lot can be going on around you and it can be difficult to catch up with. So start by organizing your tasks and managing your time. The easiest way is to use Google/Outlook calendar and put your lectures/tutorials on it. Then keep adding any events that you plan on going to, any upcoming meetings etc. I’ve found this to be the easiest way of keeping tabs on everything. If it helps, plan your day/week. Note down the things that you want to accomplish in a day but more importantly, keep it realistic. Don’t set high expectations just to not meet your goals and then feel bad. Start small and you can work your way up. 

Friends

The expectation before going to university is that you’ll be surrounded by all these amazing and fun people and you’ll immediately be friends with everyone. In a perfect world that would be true. But in reality, you don’t necessarily have to make connections with people you meet on your first day or during the freshers week. Yes, it’s a good time to try and talk to a range of people, but in no way does it mean that they’re the only people you can befriend. Think about it this way- how can you realistically expect to be besties with someone you’ve known for a week? And you’re at uni for 3-4 years, can the first week really be the only time to meet people? Of course not! I personally did not bond with many people during first year, but I did find friends in second year and am hoping to make more in my final year, so it’s really an ongoing process. 

Reading

Yeah I’m not a fan of this one. I always get overwhelmed with the amount of reading I’m given, but now I’m much better at managing my own expectations. From the very first week, you’ll be given loads to read – primary reading and secondary reading (this one can be especially long). You don’t have to read everything. Try to do at least the primary reading because that’ll form the crux of your topic understanding. As for secondary reading, be picky. Only read the stuff that interests you, if you want. The aim of this is to help you answer tutorial questions, write formatives, and ultimately write essays in exams. 

Support

This is important – please don’t feel that you have to fend for yourself all the time. Make use of the support available. This includes: 

  • Durham Centre for Academic Development- DCAD helps you if you’re stuck with studies- be it finding reading overwhelming, not knowing how to research, write formatives, referencing etc. Just book an appointment.
  • Academic advisor- Everyone gets one, no matter which course or year you are in. Approach them and discuss anything that’s bothering you- they can even provide career advice if you’re looking for guidance.
  • Office hours – Oh so important. All tutors and professors on your course will have office hours (either in person or virtual). Email them and ask where they’re held and you can talk to them if you’re struggling with a particular topic or anything else.
  • College peer mentors – Not all colleges may have this but if they do, it’s worth exploring. You’ll get assigned a mentor who’s been in your shoes so this is an informal way of voicing your concerns and seeking guidance. 
  • Uni’s careers service– Can’t recommend them enough. I’m shocked at how many people never engage with them and the services they provide. They’ll provide 1-1 career guidance, application advice, mock interviews etc. If you’re interested in a career but don’t know where to start, just book an appointment with a careers advisor and they’ll help you figure things out.
  • Counselling service– Super duper essential. If you think you’re way too overwhelmed and it’s affecting your mental health, you can get free counselling sessions. 

Well that was my two pence on how to cope with university. Hopefully this helps someone, I know you’ve got this 😼

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Himieka Jain


Hiya! I'm Himieka, an international undergraduate student from India studying law here at Durham. Apparently, my name means 'made of ice' but some people seem to say I get angry real quick haha. I'm an absolute sucker for Indian and Italian food and love working out too 🙂


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