With the everyday toil of college—the drone of countless lectures, early mornings and later nights, the novelty of moving out of your parents’ house—most students disregard the importance of our mental and emotional health. Looking back at the first six months of college, I now realize how incredibly difficult settling in and acclimating to a new environment truly was. Students tend to bury any feelings of inhibition, concern, or anxiety by investing in new social events, clubs, and societies or decorating our new rooms and planning our courses. The added workload and pressures also exacerbate the issue. Some of us even have to grapple with the added burdens of understanding a new language or coming to terms with culture shock. When we refuse to acknowledge our problems or compartmentalize them, we become overwhelmed and vulnerable to breakdowns. Here's what you should know to avoid getting to this point.
Time management and personal limits
One of the most important lessons I learned my first semester was efficient time management—the hard way, I might add. I involved myself with way too many clubs and commitments to a point where I couldn’t balance any of them. They began clashing and disrupting my schedule to the point where I spent most of my time apologizing to my teammates and captains and avoiding people. The overwork and fatigue took a toll on my health and some of my relationships. Toward the end of the semester, I found a way to halve my extracurriculars and focus on the ones that I was truly passionate about and brought me the most satisfaction.
The threat of peer pressure
At the beginning of first semester, many of us hope to reinvent ourselves and make the most of our liberation from our former high school selves. Despite the fact that college is the perfect environment to venture out of your comfort zone and try different activities and hobbies, it’s essential that you still make decisions for yourself. You shouldn’t have to compromise your ideals to appease someone else. Try to refrain from joining a club, society, or group simply because a majority of your friends are doing it (unless you are genuinely interested, of course).
Your changing ideals
Before we start college, we spend an inordinate amount of time envisioning a perfect semester or experience as we’re bogged down by our own expectations. When these are challenged, we often begin to have doubts and regrets. In a matter of few months, it’s impossible to completely remodel yourself and your outlook on life. You’re bound to grow and mature, but it’s unlikely that you’ll completely be able to eliminate those weaknesses, insecurities, and inhibitions. My first semester tested my idealism more than anything else as I came to understand different people and accordingly adapted and responded to specific situations. Before your first year or the beginning of your upcoming semester, try to prevent yourself from having these expectations. In this way, you’ll prepare yourself for obstacles and grow to be more resilient in the face of any new challenges you may experience in the process.
The importance of self-care
Scheduling in some "me time" is essential in college so you have time to reflect and think. Believe it or not, you won’t have as much time to yourself as you’d expect with all your classes and commitments. But it’s still important to prioritize yourself and your needs. During a busy schedule especially, a quick walk or bike ride can really help you clear your head and gain a better perspective on tricky situations. For me personally, I find writing particularly therapeutic; I even started a personal blog to catalog my day.
The benefits of your campus environment
Usually it’s the company you keep that impacts you most of all. Talk to your friend group and seek comfort in their company, as you’re all in the same boat and struggling with the same problems and concerns. At times, the strangest and most unusual things could form the foundation for a great and wholesome friendship. At the same time, ensure that you use the resources your university provides such as on-campus general practitioners, counselors, psychoanalysts, or psychologists. It’s important to update them about any problems and even medications you may need. You should also be sure to have information about other facilities on and off campus should you need them.
Your first semester at college is bound to be challenging given how much larger your world is now. Your environment will be alien to you initially, but you’ll soon come to a stage of appreciation as you understand the culture, value, and beauty of your new social setting. That’s why it’s crucial to give yourself the time and patience to tackle any challenges you face step-by-step.
For more advice on how to have a great freshman year, check out our Student Life section.