Now, firstly I am not stating I am an expert and neither am I saying this is exactly how you will feel or should feel. I am also not saying that the options to withdraw or take a break are not worthwhile and valid to think about. I did, however, want to reassure people that their feelings are normal and ok in the hopes to provide some comfort.
I’ve recently been speaking to some of my friends at University and have found that a consensus of nerves and doubts has been sparked over the Christmas break. I myself am nervous but have noticed a distinct sense of calm as opposed to how I felt at this time last year when it was my initial time at University (studying a foundation year).
Last year I remember googling it to see if others had felt this way and subtly trying to find out if my friends were feeling the same way but to no luck and it dawned on me that people often paint a pretty picture of university without being entirely truthful. Since that time I’ve been more and more honest with my friends, especially those in years above me in the education system, and have learnt that nearly every single person also found the period after Christmas in first year the absolute hardest. So please take it from me you really aren’t alone.
Generally, come January you’re getting ready to return to university after having a magical time back in the comfort of your hometown surrounded by the support system you already had in place. ( I do, however, want to acknowledge that some people do not have a pleasant experience when returning home and I want to extend my love to you all). If like me, you are returning straight to exams your stress levels will be dramatically heightened – even if you can not notice it yourself – and this will be making everything a lot harder. But just remember that these will be over soon and the weight of them will be lifted.
One of the general consensus’ that seems to have been sparked is the idea of questioning everything. Questioning the course itself – there is suddenly such a huge weight on the course as it’s (likely) based on the career you will enter so what if you end up disliking it? – you’re suddenly being taught in a different way and it might be off-putting? – it’s likely you’re looking at different aspects of the course, perhaps it’s like psychology where you’re studying whole new topics and perhaps there are some you just really dislike? Questioning the university, perhaps even if university itself is suitable for you – this is something so new and an experience like no other so naturally, you will be perturbed. and this is all so NORMAL. So many of my friends have explained that it just is not possible to adore all aspects of a course you are studying and that isn’t an issue – as you progress through your 3 years you will be able to select modules and topics which appeal to you more clearly.
Also… have faith in yourself. You may not know your end goal but you spent months applying for this subject at university and dedicating your time to choosing it – and there will be a reason for this! So trust that even in your current state of un-surety that it was not always there and it will likely disappear. (NOTE: many universities also offer the opportunity to change the subject in second years so if you really feel like another subject is your calling remember that there are plenty of people you can speak to about approaching this).
When I felt this way last year I was well in the process of leaving university for good however after speaking to everyone they encouraged me to at least finish this year. And this is some of the advice I give to you. There is very little point (unless your physical or mental health is severely suffering) to leave midyear from University after already working so hard. So persevere. Talk to people around you, look at your options for the following year be that with leaving university or continuing and just do the best you can. It gives you time to get at least part of a qualification and the chance to try out different things to ensure you make the best choice at the end of the year.
Other advice I would give you is to remind yourself of the things you love whether that’s the people you’ve, the location, the staff, the subject, a coffee shop nearby, a walking path, a society available or even the atmosphere. Second semester can also be viewed as a fresh start so should the first not have gone to plan you have the most wonderful opportunity to change this.
And lastly, talk about how you’re feeling. Check the resources at University, there is usually support teams and counselling which can be really helpful in such an unsettling time. And please do feel free to message me at any point.
You will likely feel better once you are back and settled into the swing of university life once more. Lots of love and well wishes.