Nicola Dicks is a final year BSc (Hons) Psychology with Criminology student at Birmingham City University.

For many, going off to university is something that many people look forward to; getting away from nagging parents, making new friends, going out clubbing; but is student life all that it’s cracked up to be? For many it can be a challenge to adjust. There’s homesickness, difficulty getting used to the type of work expected at university, and realising that you’re not going to get along with everyone, unfortunately often those that you are living with.

Homesickness affects us all at some point or another, some people are just better at hiding it than others. Prior to being at BCU I was a student at the University of Sheffield. Looking back I wasn’t ready for university at all, and this time I was determined that I was not going to drop out. I found that speaking to other people, such as flatmates made me realise that they all felt the same; they all missed home, but were just going to make the best of their time at university, something that I tried to do also. Going on days/nights out with people are good ways of forgetting about homesickness and making friends, and if clubbing isn’t your sort of thing then look into joining societies at university – something that I wish I had done). Realising that I wasn’t alone and that I had people to talk also helped. Still being in touch with family and friends from back home also helped, knowing they were only a phone call/text away was very reassuring. If I did have a bad week, and needed a break from Birmingham, then I would have a weekend back home; each term can feeling daunting given how long each term is, but there is no shame in going back home for a break.

Of course the main reason for going to university is to get a degree at the end of it. Looking at my timetable for the first semester in first year, I was happy; in university for four days a week, each day for two hours. I didn’t realise how much work that needed to be done aside from these contact hours, independent study is one of the key parts of university learning. I found that it was easier to try and keep on top of the readings over each week, rather than leave it to the last minute and get in a mad panic around assignment time. Rather than working away for hours in my room which could feel very isolating, I preferred to do this in the library where you are surrounded by other people. It really is true what the lecturers say, the information they provide you with is only the starting point for what you need to learn, and you have to do your own research around the subject area.

One of the hardest things about starting university is living with people that you don’t know. Whilst you all seem to get along well at first, sadly that doesn’t always last. Some people like everything clean, tidy and keep on top of their washing up. Others aren’t so bothered about this. Then there is the issue of sharing food/people taking your food. I was the only vegetarian in my flat, so no one was really interested in taking my food, but among other people in the flat this often caused tension. I’d say it’s important to spend a bit of time by yourself every day, if you spend too much time with the same people; it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to start annoying each other. And for those people that you don’t really get along with, you are going to have to live with each other for the next few months, so you have to try and make the best of it. Just because you’re never going to be best friends, doesn’t mean that you can’t be civil to each and not make it awkward for other people that you live with. Moving away from home is all about growing up and putting yourself in a different environment, with different people and learning how to cope and enjoy yourself in these new situations.

Nicola’s top five tips to adjusting to student life

  1. Whenever you are feeling low, do go and talk to someone, it really will help and make you realise you are not alone in the way you feel.
  2. Try and join at least one society doing an activity that interests you, it will be a great way of meeting new people.
  3. Try to get the work/socialising balance right. It is important to stay on top of your work, but also going out and having fun.
  4. Make an effort to get along with everybody that you live with, as no one likes there being any awkwardness or tensions in their home.
  5. University is only a tiny section of your life, so you really should just try and enjoy it; whilst not neglecting your studies, seize any new opportunities that come your way.
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