Being at university
It's likely that before going to university, you will have some preconceived notion of what life will be like – whether it's through older friends, the media or what you hear on The Student Room. The reality, however, doesn't always meet our expectation. Whilst we'd hope that the university experience will be exactly what students are hoping for, there can occasionally be a bump in the road – and for these situations it is great to know what to do and where to go for help.
Whilst university is an exciting prospect – the chance to meet new people, move away from home and study something that interests you – it can also be a scary prospect. The first thing to realise is that you're not alone if you feel like you might be struggling at university. According to research in 2013, as many as 29% of students have worries about not fitting in, and 75% of students experienced some kind of psychological distress (for example: stress, homesickness, anxiety or depression.)
The struggles that you might face at university are quite wide ranging as everyone's experience and circumstances are different – but luckily there are also a huge range of resources to help you. There are four main categories that issues might fall under; financial, academic, relationships & sexual health and mental health. Before looking at those specifically, here are some general contacts and people which might prove useful:
• Students' UnionA Students' Union is a representative body for student of that university, and they will have a number of resources that can help you in times of need – whether its representatives, sabbatical officers, or housing advice departments.
• Personal tutorsNot all universities or departments will have a personal tutor scheme, but if yours does, this is someone who you can go to with academic issues, but they will also be able to help with other issues you might face – or they will know who at university can help.
• Peer supportersAgain not all universities will have peer support networks, but if they do it can be helpful to speak to someone who understands what you're going through but without the pressure of it being a friend or family member.
• Friends and familyJust because you might have moved away from home to attend university doesn't mean you can't talk to your friends or family if you need help. Don't forget your friends from university too. Sometimes just talking about a problem can help.
• Other university staff and volunteersWhilst the university experience is wide ranging, the university will have seen many thousands of students and so it will have staff and volunteers to deal with the various problems a student might face – just ask someone at the university you feel comfortable talking too and they can help point you in the right direction.
• NightlineNightline is a service that helps university students, by listening as they talk through the problems on their mind. It is confidential, anonymous, non-judgemental, non-advisory and free. It opens at night, run by trained, caring, fellow student volunteers. You can find out if your university has a nightline here: http://nightline.ac.uk/want-to-talk/...our-nightline/
Financial issues cover everything from student loans to part-time jobs. In this day and age, money can weigh heavily on the average student's mind. Many students find it helpful to work out a budget to figure out what their financial situation will be like at university. There are a number of tools on the internet, and on smart phones, that you can use to do this. Many universities also have hardship funds for those times when something unexpected happens leaving you short on funds.
For further information and help with issues related to finance, check out these options:
• Student Union or University staff
• Student Finance EnglandTel: 0300 100 0607
It's important not to forget the reason why we are all at university – the degree itself! It's certainly not uncommon to find your degree challenging – 65% of students experience stress. Academic difficulties aren't just limited to stress. Some students might think about changing to a different course, or even university. There might also be concerns over specific modules or course elements. Although typically university staff members (such as tutors, department heads etc.) are likely to be most useful for dealing with academic issues, there are also a wealth of other resources:
• Peer mentors
• University careers services
Relationships and sexual health
Just as with any other stage of life, relationships can develop and change whilst at university – including both friendships and romantic relationships. Whether it's dealing with a long-distance relationship to the challenge of making new friends during Fresher's week – or something related to sexual health, such as where you can go to get tested – there is a huge array of people and organisations that you can go to for information and advice.
• LGBT SwitchboardTel: 0300 330 0630
Website: http://www.llgs.org.uk/ • LGBT Societies at your university
• GP/Sexual health clinicsFind a service here: http://www.nhs.uk/service-search •
NightlineFind your Nightline here: http://nightline.ac.uk/want-to-talk/...our-nightline/ •
National Domestic Violence HelplineTel: 0808 2000 247
Mental Health and Addiction
Like many of the other issues here mental health or addiction issues are something that you can experience at any stage of life, but if you are away from home at university you might not know who to turn to. Don't be afraid to seek help if you think you need it.