Is The Worry Worse Than The Reality?

Kay is 19 years old and is in her first year at the University of Suffolk.  Kay decided to get involved with Student Life as she is planning to pursue a career in writing and hopes this article marks the beginning of her prosperous writing career.

As someone who’s lived in the isolated countryside their entire life, the prospect of moving somewhere bigger and busier for university was daunting. Fortunately for me I found that moving wasn’t as frightening as I’d first anticipated. Unlike home, everything is situated close together. Plus, if I’m feeling particularly homesick, a long walk along the quay reminds me of home. 

Moving in was the fun part but I began to get nervous when term time approached and several books remained unread.  I found the time leading up to the start of the semester to be the most nerve-racking, as I had no idea what to expect or what the work load would be. Initially the reading for the course overwhelmed me, but overall, I found that the academic side of university wasn’t the most challenging part; I now had to cook and clean properly for myself!  Luckily, over time, I’ve found that the washing machine will cooperate with me if I’m especially nice to it. There is also something really satisfying about choosing what you want to eat for dinner and preparing it yourself.  I’ve tried loads of new recipes since starting university, but the low point was when I put noodles in a sandwich and called it dinner! 

Luckily, I had already been in contact with most of the people on my course, which minimised some of the stresses and worries that I initially had about making friends. We all met eagerly at the Fresher’s Fair in the Waterfront building at the start of the year and as a small group we went to the numerous stalls and excitedly signed up for societies and clubs that we were interested in. 

I cannot begin to express how much I have grown to enjoy lectures in comparison to sixth-form, and I find it hard to believe that I was once anxious to attend them. I am overjoyed with my first semester at university and am excited for every one yet to come and for my culinary endeavours to continue to grow.

suffolk mind, mental heath charity

Jon Neal, Director of Suffolk Mind…

There are various points in our lives where we experience significant change – whether that’s retirement, having a first child, or leaving home and going to university.

Each of these events can impact on our need for security. We all have to feel that we’ve got a safe environment in which we can get our emotional needs met. Going to live in a new place for the first time can be unnerving.

We naturally use our imagination to predict the future, and we rely on memories and patterns that our brains develop over time to think about getting what we need.

In a new living space the usual norms that we’re used to don’t exist anymore – the patterns our minds are familiar with have gone. For example, we no longer get our laundry done by putting clothes in a certain place, we have to work out where the shops and pubs are, we’ll have different people around us who need to be taken into consideration in communal areas.

Back when we were nomads, hundreds of thousands of years ago, we relied on living in communities for our very survival. By banding together in tribes we could protect ourselves against the leopards and wolves and anything else that might attack us for food were we on our own.

We still have that need for community today. And while we no longer have to protect ourselves from wild animals, we do need to feel part of a ‘tribe’, or a group of people that we have something in common with.

Everyone arriving at university for the first time is in the same position. Everyone is entering a new community and needs to get to know the rules of the tribe.

The good news is that the population of a university is so large, there are many different communities within it. So everyone is able to fit in somewhere.

It’s entirely normal and human to feel anxious when some of our emotional needs – like security and community – are not being met. Or just when we’re worried about how we will meet those needs in a new environment.

What’s important is being aware of what’s going on.

It’s very common for people to find it hard to cope with the changes that going to university brings. If you would like to talk to someone, the university will be able to help, or you can contact Suffolk Mind on 0300 111 6000. You can also find some tips for looking after yourself by signing up to

Friends of Suffolk Mind: www.suffolkmind.org.uk/friends