Freshers’ week can be, for many students, the first time away from home and for some that means fun, freedom and parties. However despite the high expectations felt by a majority of students, there are still those who suffer from loneliness and anxiety during Freshers week. This isn’t surprising when research published last year by the National Union of Students suggested that 22% of students suffer mental distress from feelings of homesickness whilst at university.
Zoe from London talked about feeling homesick and the loneliness that came with moving away from home, she said “I did feel pretty lonely during Freshers’ week. I spent my first night locked in my room crying!” She also said however that she was able to make lots of friends at UWE and that the week was a lot of fun towards the end, adding “but I stuck with it and now I am so happy at university and never feel lonely at all.”
To move away from home can be scary, and research published from the Royal College of Psychiatrists demonstrates it’s a common way to feel, with 60% of students suffering from a feeling of homesickness and one in three reporting feeling sadness or depression during the early weeks of term.
Contrary to the popular portrayal of first year students as party animals enjoying their first taste of freedom, the real story can be very different for many. Rhiannon said, “I felt huge peer pressure to be someone I wasn’t. I’ve never been a party person and I felt like a loser. It seemed like the only way people would be interested in making friends with you was if you got completely wasted with them.” This is a common way to feel, with NUS research again showing us that 27% suffer mental distress because of social pressures to fit in with their peers, and University of Bristol Students’ Union research also showed that 17% of students have reported “often” or “always” feeling nervous about attending events on campus.
Moving away from home is often blamed as the cause for loneliness; however for lots of students who already live in Bristol it can still be hard. Marie, a second year Mental Health Nursing Student, told me her story of starting University a second time having had to leave previously. She said, “As Freshers Week closed in I felt really anxious, wondering if I would have the same experience again. I don’t think I would have coped with being rejected twice. I needed to make sure that I didn’t go into class not knowing anyone, but it was really difficult for me to meet people with a young baby.”
Marie and other students set up a social media group for people living at home to meet each other -“the support I got from that group was fantastic, I do not think I would have made it through induction without them.” She also offers some advice for anyone starting university, “my message to anyone worrying about moving to Bristol or making friends, is to realise that everyone feels the same. Starting university is a big deal, but you can get through it and you will make friends!”
A quick internet search on sites like The Student Room forum shows us that things like not having any friends or contacts, adapting to a new way of studying, missing family and pets, and not knowing their way around a new city are a common feature of stress at the start of the year.
For students who come straight from A-levels the shock of starting university can be huge. Rosie offered her tips for surviving Freshers: “something that really helped with my worries was reminding myself although others may not have social anxiety, 99% of freshers are nervous and awkward and anxious. Just try your hardest to put yourself out there and smile/speak to people. Once you get over the initial fear it gets so much easier.”
For more information and support please visit:
If you’d prefer support off campus then there are plenty of places in Bristol which are listed here.
By Will Anderson