As a first year, the prospect of university can be incredibly daunting. All at once, it feels as if we are plunged into the deep end without learning how to swim and sometimes it can feel very overwhelming. As a third year (who has somehow managed to survive the first few years!) I hope that by sharing my experiences, you might feel slightly more confident in dealing with your worries as a first year.
For some of us, university can feel incredibly isolating. We are no longer surrounded by our close friends from school and we can’t just go home for a few hours to chat with our family. The best way to battle isolation is to avoid studying alone. Studying alone on a regular basis – although can be more productive than studying with other people – can be a big blow to some people’s mental health. Make sure to study with friends or classmates or even at the library (as opposed to your bedroom). Just feeling the of company others can sometimes help. Make sure to join lots of societies and clubs. Most societies post their events on Facebook, so make sure to keep an eye out for events that you might like. Who knows, you’ll probably have a great time!
Make sure to take regular breaks outside
Another cause for isolation is being glued to your dorm room. During my first year, I spent a lot of time watching Netflix by myself in bed (I know, a big mood right?) and studying by myself. However, this often made me feel trapped and claustrophobic. Therefore, it is important to do things outside of your Rez! Going for a walk up Mont Royal or even taking a browse along St. Catherine can be a positive influence for your mental health. Fresh air always makes us feel better!
Are other people finding it difficult?
Many of my first year friends always ask me whether I found my first year difficult – the answer is yes (and this is true for many of us). Sometimes, the anxieties of a heavy workload, new surroundings, new people, and the prospect of adult life can be incredibly overwhelming and we may think that by looking at our fellow classmates, nobody else feels the same way. However, this is definitely not true! University is a new beginning for all of us; most of us have never moved away from home before and we are suddenly expected to take on a new way of living, socialising and studying. If you feel that you are particularly struggling, make sure to speak to someone – whether it be a friend, a co-worker, a classmate, a family member, most people will be understanding. You will often find that by speaking to other students about their time at university, you will know that you are not the only one who is struggling.
I haven’t found my ‘group of friends’
One thing that I have learnt from my time at university, is that many people feel that they haven't found their friends. But don’t worry if you still feel like you haven’t found your ‘people’ – for me, this took a while. But just keep trying to put yourself out there! I know that university can be a scary place due to the overwhelming amount of people, however, make sure to join as many interesting societies and clubs as possible. This way, you will be meeting people with similar interests! Perhaps one of my biggest mistakes in first year was constantly sitting in my room (feeling sorry for myself) watching Netflix. It's important to really put yourself out there (even though it can be hard!)
My grades are stressing me out!
For many of us, as soon as we arrive at University, we want to get the best grades possible and make a good impression of ourselves and perhaps keep up with our high standards that we had at school. However, this isn’t always possible. University requires us to think in a new and different way from high school so the whole first year is a lot like a learning curve. I often tried to get perfect grades by studying all the time and not making room for a social life. Perhaps my biggest flaw was comparing myself to others. This is possibly the worst thing you can do at university, as we are all at different stages in our lives; we have all experienced different upbringings and different school systems. Don’t ever feel like you are ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ just because a friend or a classmate got a better grade than you. You will find that people excel and struggle in different academic areas – just keep trying your hardest, but don’t over-work yourself. Remember, never compare yourself to others! Only work on yourself and take care of yourself!
Enjoy every moment
Although university can be hard sometimes, it is important to remember to enjoy this experience. Im sure that you worked so hard to get into McGill, so remember to also look after yourself and to make the most of your time at McGill! As much as studying is important, there is always so much going on at McGill, so always take a hold of every opportunity that comes to you! As Queen B says, enjoy your life, it's short!
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