Uni and mental health: Adi's story

Adi finished her first year of university during the coronavirus pandemic. She wants to share with you what it was like to be at uni during the outbreak and talk about what things have helped her to cope.  

Written August 2020.

One more month up until my "official first year" of university begins and never did I think that my initial two years would end and start off throughout a pandemic. Everyone has gone through the pandemic in different ways and my way was reflecting on the past year.

Freshers’ week 

Honestly, when I think back to my first few weeks of uni, let’s just say it was a jumble of every emotion in the world. You ultimately come into uni thrilled to make friends and be independent. Freshers’ just seems like a whirlwind of events and society socials that you attempt to fit into your already hectic schedule. Freshers’ flies by and lectures commence! 

Group chats 

The best decision I made when starting uni was to join as many group chats as I could! As well as enlisting onto course chats, I also formed an Indian students group chat to build a community that I could be a part of away from home. Luckily, I met several friends through this and ended up meeting my best friend!  

I would absolutely say that if there was a community that you were part of back home that you wanted to bring to uni, then seek out the opportunity to join or start these groups. 

Booze and uni 

Now let's talk about the one factor that is thought of when people mention Freshers’; booze!! I won't lie to you; it is one of the major parts of Freshers’. Peer pressure is undeniably something that I got pulled into and over time I learned to figure out what my kind of nights were and what additional opportunities were offered on campus itself.  

Studying and workload 

Ok I will confess lectures are somewhat overwhelming at the beginning and it will certainly take time to get used to them. One hugeeee piece of advice I will give is KEEP UP WITH WORK! Keeping up with lectures, seminars, labs etc. will save you sooo much time further on and more importantly, it'll provide you with much more time to spend with friends and to do activities that you enjoy.  

One more thing that I would recommend, is to think about what ways of studying works best for you and what types of environments help you to focus. I had always thought I worked well in quiet areas, but quiet noise is defo the one for me!  

One extra big tip that I think works for most courses is to get to know the people on your course, then if you do fail to attend any classes, you know you’re saved by your friends' notes (obvs make sure you look back at the lecture if it's recorded). 

Finances and jobs 

I haven't exactly moved out for university so I'm not going to be much help in terms of finances that comprise of managing rent, food etc. As I commute, the majority of my finance troubles are typically transport and food! This year I've handled my finances pretty well as I managed to accumulate quite a few small part time jobs. I definitely suggest utilising excel to layout the spreadsheet in a way that accounts for all your expenses. I'll do a separate blog post for this so keep an eye out!! 

If you are looking for jobs that are generally good to get around your studies, I would recommend looking at your uni job page for any vacancies.  

Spreadsheet your financials worries and take up jobs that can be flexible around your studies. 

Online learning  

If you told me 6 months ago that I would be praying to go back to university, I would be on the floor laughing, but at this point, I would do anything to be back! The second semester saw campus progressively clearing and the rapid shift from face to face learning to remote learning all thanks to the pandemic!  

Although online learning meant students were able to study at their own pace, set their own schedules, and work in a stress-free environment, many students would still have taken the face to face route. I realised that although I was still learning online, not getting the support of my lecturers for an entire period had me baffled on a lot of the coursework. Several lecturers also no longer had office hours and it made it so much more complicated for students to access help with both their work as well as asking for personal advice.  

I missed being on campus with my friends and no longer having the physical contact with them that we were so used to.  

Find balance 

As someone who was commuting to university, I was accustomed to seeing my family and friends every day, so the swift change of me staying at home constantly didn't do any favours to my mental health. This meant that I was forced to find a new way to keep myself happy, sociable and entertained. My friends and I video called at least once a day during the first few weeks with online games etc. so I still kept sociable; just not in the way I was used to. I also picked up a lot of new skills such as cooking and writing which kept me distracted from thinking about the negatives.  

Take breaks from screen-time!!! Balance out studying times with time with your friends and time to yourself!!! 

Mental health  

Discussing mental health is always a challenging thing because it affects everyone in different ways. I think one big thing I wish I told myself in my first year was to prioritise myself over my studies. Going into university is a huge transition and, in a way, I don't think anyone can be fully prepared for what is thrown at you.  

University is one thing that will throw you into the deep end and now I reflect back on it I'm proud that I dealt with it in the best way I could and got through it!!  

The top three things that I did to care for my wellbeing were to: 

  • Talk to family and friends: I was always one to rant to my best friend! The best thing to make me feel better and get advice was to talk about my wellbeing with someone who listened.  
  • Write: reflecting on everything and writing about your own feelings gets the whole lot out of your system and it's one of the many ways to let it out. 
  • Take a break: YEP! It's that simple! I would just stop working for a day and unwind. One of the best things was to take a walk on the beach or even around campus. My favourite place to have some alone time was one of the smaller cafes.  

Where to get help? 

  • Family / friends or someone you trust: Of course, this would be my first point of call for any issues I had at uni 
  • Personal tutor / academic advisor: I found my academic advisor to be very useful when it came to academic pressures 
  • GP: Make sure you register with your local GP at the uni as they'll always be there to give you the next route if you're feeling worried 
  • Counselling Services: You can find these through your academic advisors or Students Union. There may be internal services as well as external ones.  

Helplines and online resources 

  • Samaritans: free, over the phone support by calling 116 123  
  • Student Minds: have peer support groups online you can join  
  • The Mix: have a helpline, online chat or text service 

In crisis? 

If you yourself are feeling like ending your life, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress.  

Hope this was helpful for everyone going to university this year, good luck and have fun!!! 

Signing off  

Keep up to date with my time at uni by following my blog

Adi x