Saturday, 14 July 2018

Recognising behaviours caused by my personality, not depression

When in a state of depression, I was confused about why I felt how I did. Until I discovered that I had been neglecting certain aspects of my personality, causing me to feel depressed.
- Ethan

Starting University was, as it is for everyone, a significant shock to the system for me, as well as a far greater learning curve than I had ever expected it to be so early on. With no-one to keep an eye on you and little accountability for not attending lectures, it quickly becomes very easy to hide yourself away in your room, with only your thoughts for company.

After what I thought to be a great start to University, seemed to end very abruptly as hiding away in my room became my daily experience of University. Behaviours and mindsets that would come and go throughout Sixth Form quickly returned in what felt like a far less temporary state of being.

When this state continued, feeling as though it would never leave, and hope rapidly faded away, I concluded that I must have depression. Looking back on it now, I don't retract that I was indeed in a state of depression, though I now disagree that I was at all clinically depressed. This is easy to see now. However, at the time, I struggled to find justification for this. Admittedly, I did have reason to be upset following what had happened in my first term, but why I battled to get out of bed each morning and instead continued to sleep throughout the day repeatedly over an extended period of time was a mystery. I felt guilty for the feelings I had; selfish and ungrateful. And ashamed of the way I was; lazy and wasting my potential.

Throughout the time I kept to myself, I had an abundance of time to look within, reflecting on my life and where it was headed. With a negative cloud tainting my thoughts, it was difficult to draw any conclusions for myself. It was then I remembered the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Personality Test that my flatmates and I had messed around with towards the start of University. Having taken the test twice at this time, I never looked too much into it, as the results I had received didn't seem to reflect my personality at all; although it had seemed far more accurate for my flatmates.

In the dark months of winter in the early hours of the morning, I decided to give the test another try. This time I really thought about my answers, being as true to myself as I could, and not answering the questions based on the person I wanted and pretended to be as I had done so before.

My personality type came through as INFJ, the rarest personality type, making up less than 1% of the world’s population. The deeply comprehensive breakdown of my personality revealed why I struggled to open up to and connect with others, why I was sensitive to criticism and overly analytical of myself, and why I have a tendency to suppress emotions, lashing-out unexpectedly. Through neglecting certain aspects of my personality that I had put down to being caused by depression, it became clear that I had instead caused myself to become depressed.

Discovering my personality type did not, of course, instantly solve my depressive state, but being aware of certain behaviours of my personality meant I could better cope with and prevent them. The more positive aspects of my personality were also made clear to me, meaning I could better find a path to help me feel more fulfilled throughout my life. I strongly recommend anyone struggling with their identity to take the MBTI Test in order to aid them in their journey towards living more truly to yourself.


Hey, I'm Ethan! Having not found the past few years a breeze, as few people do, and struggling along the journey to know myself and where I'd like for my life to take me, I thought I'd share my experiences and the lessons I've learnt from for others going through similar struggles, in hope that you also get a better idea of how you want to experience life. 
I'm currently studying Philosophy and Politics at UEA

Friday, 13 July 2018

Men’s Mental Health: Difficulties Opening up about Mental Health in Relationships

Ethan shares his difficulties of opening up about mental health when in a relationship, due to the expectations society places on men.
- Ethan

As a student, it is clear to see that our generation are spearheading the effort to create a more equal and accepting society for ourselves, and recognising and combating issues with the way that we treat each other as humans. Coming to University, I feel that this appreciation for each other and our differences is more prominent than anywhere else, and it is becoming much easier for individuals to express themselves however they please.
Of course, society is not perfect, and gender roles still prove to be instilled in the minds of even young people, such as ourselves and can be hard to let go of. At University, where sex becomes a priority for many people for the first times, women can feel that it is expected of them to be elegantly feminine and men, aggressively masculine.

While there is clearly an issue with the expectations that society places on women, it is the pressures that men are held under which I would like to discuss. In societies of the not-so-distant past, men were expected to be the breadwinner of the family; going out to work, providing for and protecting his family, and never making a fuss about it. This has recognisably changed, and women more than ever are building successful careers of their own. Domestic life is also changing, and women are no longer expected to assume complete responsibility of household tasks as well as raising children by herself.

Having been in two relationships myself, I am more than happy to take responsibility of previously ‘womanly’ tasks, and take pride in supporting my partner in their individual achievements and career advancements; solely because I see no reason why I should be any superior, or my partner inferior, within a relationship.

Despite my efforts to avoid excessively typical gender expectations within my relationships, it is hard to battle the expectation I place on myself to protect and remain strong for my partner. It is not through doubt that my partner can’t take care of herself, but instinctively I feel the need to always be on the lookout, ready to protect her at all times.

To convince myself and my partner of this strength, I also feel the need to shelter certain emotions, or signs of instability or unpredictability. Having struggled with mental health difficulties in the past, and these experiences having been so formative of my character, I have discussed this past with my partners. However, I feel the need to keep it as just that, my past. If I ever feel a turbulence striking up again, I concern myself that I would worry my partner, that they would no longer see me as the stable rock that they need to support them when facing their own struggles.

For this reason, I feel it can be very difficult for men to feel comfortable when opening up about struggles that they are facing, through fear of showing cracks in the continually strong persona that we attempt to represent ourselves as. Despite this, the reality is that many women do want a partner that isn’t afraid to show these cracks, and that in some ways is conveying a courage of its own. I myself attempt in little ways to share my feelings in comfortable bursts, as it is important to remind ourselves that our partners and our friends really do care about us and want us to recognise struggles that we’re facing, in order to help ourselves and to help them help us.



Hey, I'm Ethan! Having not found the past few years a breeze, as few people do, and struggling along the journey to know myself and where I'd like for my life to take me, I thought I'd share my experiences and the lessons I've learnt from for others going through similar struggles, in hope that you also get a better idea of how you want to experience life. 
I'm currently studying Philosophy and Politics at UEA

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Impostor Syndrome and Me

Will shares his experiences and the things that he does to deal with negative thoughts during his PhD.
- Will


“You’re no good at this.” “If everyone knew how awful you were, they would all hate you.” “What if I don’t know anything? What if everyone finds out?” – just a few of the things that my raging impostor syndrome has repeatedly dictated to my consciousness during my PhD. Today I’m going to share my experiences and things I do to deal with these kinds of negative thoughts.

For a long time it didn’t even have a name. I only became aware of the phrase towards the end of the first year of my PhD. A quick Google search brings up ‘impostor syndrome PhD’ as the second suggestion. Second! I don't know why it happens to me, and I don't know if I actually have it worse than others, or whether it's just that I'm prepared to talk about it more. But having a problem isn't important, it is how you deal with it that matters:

So what do I do?

1. “You don’t know anything” - Write everything down and take stock

I don’t have much experience with swords, but apparently a pen is mightier than one. A few months ago, I decided to write down everything I knew about my project in an effort to combat my impostor syndrome. I realised that I knew perhaps more than I thought I did after about 10 sides of A4.
Without sounding horribly self-absorbed, I also find that it helps to write down all the things I've done that would make me 'successful': conference prizes won, solving problems that had been on me for months, making discoveries, raising mental health awareness, and so on. Downplaying your own successes is part of this syndrome, so switch off your filter for 10 minutes and just write about how great you are!

2. “You’re no good at this” - Be kind to yourself

I think one of the things I struggled with most with moving to postgraduate from undergraduate studies was the complete lack of structure. Assessments are common during undergraduate, so it's easier to track progress and to benchmark how much work you're doing. Doing a PhD, it's rare that you'll be told that you're doing enough, and there's almost no assessments. It's very easy to fall in to the mindset of "I'm not doing enough, I'm not good enough". In addition, perfectionism and impossibly high standards are common among us impostors. When we don't or can't reach our own standards, this compounds the "you're no good at this" problem – a damaging circle of negative thoughts and feeling low.

This is a lot easier said than done, but you need to be kind to yourself. Comparing yourself to other students is a toxic mentality that will only make you feel far worse – it is also completely irrelevant because everyone is doing different things. Everyone – and I mean everyone – makes mistakes during their PhD. Of all of the things I've done during mine, it's the times when I haven't met my own standards through making a mistake that I've really learned something. What is a PhD if not an opportunity to learn new things?

3. “What if everyone finds out you’re a fraud?” – Talk

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: As a PhD student, I work alongside people who are either going through the same process – or have done very recently. These are the best people to talk to! If the statistics are correct, then between 5 and 6 of my 8 colleagues also have impostor syndrome. Just have an honest, open and unfiltered conversation about what's going on – though I understand that this isn't easy! Even if they can't help you, just to know that you're not on your own in feeling like this may well make you feel a bit better.

Conclusion

My experience so far suggests that this will probably be a never-ending battle, but I still believe that I will win in the end. Just like with a PhD, it's probably going to be a series of little victories that culminate in the end product. So here's my summary on what helps me to combat my impostor syndrome:

Write down everything you know.
Write down all of your successes or good things in your life – no matter how big or small.
Write a plan for your thesis – you'll realise there's more there than you think.
Talk to your friends, colleagues and supervisors about how you're feeling.
Don't be so hard on yourself – you are human! Let the mistakes happen – they're what you really learn from.
Know that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling.


I'm Will and I'm a final year PhD student. I've been dealing with anxiety since I was 14, and depression since I was 23. I found that writing and talking about my own experiences of mental health as a postgraduate student were hugely helpful to my recovery (and stress levels). I'm now working on improving student wellbeing at all levels and raising awareness of mental health.


Thursday, 5 July 2018

The effect of animals on our Mental Health

Ben shares his experience of having animals, and how they have benefitted his mental health. 
- Ben 

Since the day I was born, I have had an animal in my life, bar a short period at the end of 2015, and the love for an animal is never something I have taken for granted. Up until 2016, I had always had cats, guinea pigs, hamsters and even a caterpillar as a pet. Since 2016, we have had our beautiful ex-racing greyhound called Courtney, and these animals have a funny and instinctive way of cheering you up. They just seem to know when you’re feeling down and they seem to pop up and demand a cuddle.

As I’ve previously mentioned in other posts, Mental Health is something I’ve suffered with for a long time and I firmly believe that the pets I have had, have got me through the rough times. Whether that is when Sid, our beloved cat would just lie on my lap and meow until he got fuss, or even when he played on the fact my cousin was scared of him and he ran her ragged at family functions, much to all of our amusement. Sid in short was a SOD. The best kind of sod going, one to always keep us on our toes.

In 2016, when we had Courtney, I was a very aggressive person, constantly angry, feeling down and always shouting whenever I got the slightest bit frustrated. But suddenly, it changed. Courtney hated shouting and arguments. She would hide in her cage or on the bed and not even look at me because she was scared of me. This way, that dog has changed me to the calm, assured and more loving person I am today.

When I come home from work after a stressful day, her little face wanting to lick me and play with me, and the wagging little tail, seems to make all my worries and stresses fly away. She just wants a cuddle and wants to show that she loves me, and that feeling is unquestionably the best in the world. My family have a saying of, “Courtney makes a bad day, good, and a good day, amazing.” No doubt that saying is true. Not just of my pet but of the unconditional love animals show to the ones they love, which happens all over the world.

All of my pets have improved my life and made me the person I am today. Admittedly when I move out, I will miss not having my pup pup, but I know when I return home, she will make me feel better again.

Until next time,

Thankyou as always for reading,

Ben


I am an aspiring Primary School Teacher based in Shropshire, England. I was diagnosed with Autism in 2014 at 19 years of age and since then my journey to being a teacher started. I am a huge sports fan and a firm believer in exercise helping mental health and improving self esteem. I am passionate about everyone recognising their own individual talents.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Facing Fears: Taking on Mental Health as a Postgraduate

So, you’ve started your PhD without any issues with your mental health. But what happens if, like me, your mental health starts to suffer during your PhD? I’m going to offer some points of advice based on my own experiences of dealing with anxiety and depression during my PhD.
-Will


1. find your ‘person’
As a PhD student, I’m surrounded by academics, research associates and other PhD students who all know what it is like to have done (or be doing) a PhD. Among these people is my ‘person’ – someone who I could trust with anything, and who I could tell anything to.

In short, there is no way I could have made it through my mental health problems without my person. I’m extremely fortunate to have him as a mentor, friend, brother. He always listens to me, gives out hugs, and is generally brilliant at getting me back on track when I have a wobble. Find your person and tell them what’s happening.

2. talk
When my mental health problems were starting to affect my work, I knew that I needed to tell my supervisor what was going on. I worked myself up and worried about the conversation I was going to have for days. I was stressed about being stressed, but I knew I needed to have the talk.

Talking is easy but trying to articulate what you’re feeling can be really difficult – it was for me! It was difficult – I won’t deny it – but I felt so much better knowing that what I was thinking and feeling was no longer confined to my own head. My supervisor was wonderfully supportive and sympathetic, and the conversation was everything I hoped it would be. It was also the first step to getting the support I needed. They want to see you do well and be happy in what you’re doing.

3. get to know what works for you
Everyone has their own way of dealing with their mental health. Maybe it’s mindfulness, exercise, meditation, counselling, socialising and recreation – there are loads of things that work for different people to help them relax, de-stress, and improve their moods.

After trying loads of things to help my mental health, my go-to thing now is to find a cafĂ© somewhere (anywhere) and read a book by one of my favourite authors. I also find that going for a run after work helps too. The important thing is to find what works for you – this might take some time, but, just like with a PhD, it is important not to give up.

4. know that you aren’t on your own
I’m not sure what percentage of the Earth’s population are currently studying at a postgraduate level, but everyone has led different lives, and had different experiences. However different we might feel though, know that you are not on your own. You aren’t the first person whose mental health has been affected during a PhD (there are loads of papers on it too) and in all likelihood you aren’t the only person to have gone through the things that have happened to you.

I thought for a long time that I was on my own with how I was feeling. It was only when a friend (and fellow PhD student) told me about what was happening to them that I realised – I wasn’t. When I looked into this a bit more, I found that there were loads of students like me whose mental health issues had first cropped up during their PhD. I wasn’t alone, and neither are you.

5. take time away
If you feel like you need to get away from your studies to deal with your mental health, that is absolutely fine. Your university should have a way that you can take ‘leave of absence’ where you can take extended time away without affecting the time on your PhD. Use this if you think it might be helpful for you!

It’s also important to take guilt-free time for yourself every day: take holidays, have lunch away from your desk, have 15 minutes in the afternoon for a cup of tea and to read a book, leave early one day. Just make sure you look after yourself!

to finish…
‘Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it’ said Professor Dumbledore. I am pleased to say that this phrase extends to us Muggles too. Help and support are always there in a variety of forms, but it can only be given if people know that it is required.

Identifying a problem is the easy part, doing something about it is the hard part. It usually all starts with a conversation.



I'm Will and I'm a final year PhD student. I've been dealing with anxiety since I was 14, and depression since I was 23. I found that writing and talking about my own experiences of mental health as a postgraduate student were hugely helpful to my recovery (and stress levels). I'm now working on improving student wellbeing at all levels and raising awareness of mental health.


Monday, 18 June 2018

Tips for Chinese Students coming to UK

This blog is written by a Chinese student who would like to share their experience with other Chinese students about coming to the UK to study.
-Ethan

In recent years, the number of Chinese students coming to the UK for Masters study has increased dramatically. I, as a Chinese student have been studying at the University of Edinburgh for 4 years, want to share my experiences with the incoming Chinese students regarding keeping your mental health in good condition while studying in the UK.

A year abroad is an experience that seems to end as quickly as it started. But for this whole year, you will be away from your family and friends, which may be tough. Therefore, it is important that you understand the social situation and living atmosphere while you are choosing the university, so you can come to the UK physically and mentally prepared.

Here are some tips which might be useful for keeping your mental health in good condition while studying in the UK:

1. Choose accommodation wisely

The first thing to think about before you come to the UK is to find an appropriate accommodation for yourself. Most universities in the UK provide accommodation for the first year Masters students and as far as I am concerned, it is the best choice for most of the students, especially for the Chinese students who are studying abroad for the first time.

If you do plan to rent a flat outside of the university, make sure you go through the process from credible authority. It is always recommended to live with one or two flatmates as you can help each other out in your life abroad.

2. Understand the living skill

The education system in UK universities are quite different from the Chinese ones. In the UK, you need to learn the skill of studying as well as taking care of yourself in your daily life. So, it is important that you learn some basic living skills before you come to study here, such as cooking.
A good study and living habit will also help you keep your mental health in good condition.


3. Find a good balance for your study life

It is always important to work hard during your time here, but it is also important to keep yourself away from feeling too much pressure from your studying. Although it is very normal to get stressed over exams or deadlines, it's not good to let the study pressure take over your life. Your mental health is much more important than getting a good grade. Therefore, you need to focus on getting yourself well, happy, and in the right emotional state to continue working while studying abroad.


4. Always look for help

It can be very easy to get stressed due to work or study while you’re abroad, and as a result you may feel very lonely. It is always better if you can to try and talk to someone else, such as your friends or family members when you are feeling in bad mood.
You can even visit the mental health website or call the night line for a bit of support too. You are definitely not alone, and I am sure there are so many people that are very willing to help you out.



Hi, I'm Ethan. I'm currently a PhD student study engineering in University of Edinburgh and wanted to share some my own experience and give some tips to Chinese student who are coming to study in UK regarding how to keep mental health in good condition when they study abroad.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Stigmas of Autism

Ben shares his experience of the stigma surrounding Autism and suggests ways he thinks this can be prevented. 
- Ben

So, the way society is at times, sadly creates a stigma on mental health and disabilities. So many people are afraid to be open about them, whether that be depression, anxiety, autism, Asperger’s, or bipolar disorder, just to name a few. Why is this the case though? Is this an okay thing to happen? Just 2 questions which need to be answered.

Sadly, when I was first diagnosed with Autism, someone who I thought was a friend, called me numerous things, such as “Retard”, “Mental” and “Freak”. Those comments are NOT OKAY! They are simply disgusting and ignorant and it’s fair to say, I no longer have contact with that person.

The issue is, that I am not the only one who has gone through times such as those. Society allows people to think like that because of the lack of education around mental health difficulties and illnesses. Admittedly, mental health programmes looking at conditions similar to those mentioned above, are becoming more prominent. However, is a TV programme really enough to educate and inform people? Probably not.

In my opinion, topics such as these need to be taught in secondary education. By informing children about mental health, these stigmas which are constant with every generation could be reduced. If children understood the issues, when they go into adulthood they would have a better understanding of what they entail. I personally believe that as a result of this, society would become stronger, more knowledgeable and ultimately, more respectful.

Why do these stigmas exist?

These stigmas exist due to a lack of awareness, lack of education and ultimately, old fashioned views. People need to look into those 3 reasons and see how things can change. Admittedly everyone is entitled to an opinion, but there is having an opinion and being a horrible person.

Is it okay to happen? 

In short, NO! People need to change and support those who are struggling because you never know when you will need that support yourself.

Admittedly this post is rather opinionated and passionate, but I’m a passionate person and truly believe in working hard to reduce mental health difficulties and illnesses being seen as a taboo subject.

Once again, Thank you for reading.

Until next time,

Ben


I am an aspiring Primary School Teacher based in Shropshire, England. I was diagnosed with Autism in 2014 at 19 years of age and since then my journey to being a teacher started. I am a huge sports fan and a firm believer in exercise helping mental health and improving self esteem. I am passionate about everyone recognising their own individual talents.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Importance of Self-Care as a Student Nurse

Jess shares her experience of being a second year student nurse while juggling self-care and trying to find a healthy work-life balance.
- Jess

As a student nurse you're taught from day one about the importance of compassion, care and empathy towards patients, and reminded to look after yourself as well. However, in reality fitting self-care into a busy routine can be very difficult.

As a mature student I already had a well-established job, my own home and a long-term relationship under my belt. I'd established my foundations but felt that it was time for me to do my nurse training. When I started my course however, I became increasingly anxious; I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious and was thinking too far ahead into the future.

I'm an inward thinker but my thoughts started to keep me awake at night. The constant overthinking began to have a negative impact on myself, so I decided that because my nursing means so much to me, that I couldn't let my anxiety take control and I started seeing a counsellor.

Initially I kept things to myself, I'd never been great at talking about my feelings and because I've always managed to appear composed, I felt like I could continue in that way. I'd stay composed when I needed to and then try and deal with the fallout in private, alone.

I felt like I was living two separate lives. I had the professional, hardworking side that was exceeding my own and other’s expectations. Then this other side of me that behind closed doors, had never cried so much, worried as excessively, or felt as deeply unhappy.

Counselling helped me gradually with being able to gain some control back. It took a long time as progress was slow but eventually it became less intense. However, I couldn't see that as the anxiety lessened because I'd subtly gone into overdrive. Alongside clinical placements and studying, I was working part time, and my relationship reached its conclusion; I had no time to see friends or take time out and I wasn't looking after myself. The worst part is that I didn't care either.

My appetite disappeared, I couldn't muster the brainpower to make simple decisions like what to eat. I was managing on very little sleep and eventually I was running on empty, and unsurprisingly my mood plummeted. I heard people saying I looked unwell, but I didn't listen, not until it became more frequent and I decided that whilst counselling was helping, I needed to see my GP and admit that I'd become depressed.

I didn't want to start medication, but I needed to. Thankfully I had a positive experience with my GP. He listened attentively, empathised with me and acknowledged that I was genuinely at a low point and struggling.

Slowly I started to open up to people around me, don't get me wrong I didn't start shouting it from the rooftops but I did talk to people I trust, and admitting I was struggling started to lift some of the shame and guilt I felt.

Looking back, it's as though I had to learn the hard way to recognise the importance of taking care of my own mental and physical health. I can't effectively care for others if I'm not taking the time to be compassionate towards myself.

I know there'll be times when I struggle in the future, but I've gained invaluable coping skills from counselling. I have a stable base with medication and know now that it's ok for me to say when I'm struggling and that it doesn't mean I won't become a good nurse. If anything it allows me to be more empathetic towards those that I will look after throughout my career.


My name is Jess and I'm currently studying Adult Nursing at the University of Bradford. I wanted to share my experience because it's difficult to admit you're struggling with your mental health when your chosen profession focuses so much on looking after others, making self-care very difficult at times. Hopefully this will help other nursing students to look after themselves throughout their training

Friday, 15 June 2018

Unfortunately

- Michael Rigby

Many of us know the word, “unfortunately”. It’s a word that tends to mean rejection. For example, when applying for that job, we wait days/weeks for a reply from the company we think we would like to work for and the unaccountable amount of times majority of applicants who will or have received the word “unfortunately” can have a major impact on someone’s own belief within themselves.

Meaning, when receiving that rejection email/letter can sometimes make you feel like you’re not good enough. I can say that it had an effect on myself, I’ve applied for that opportunity which I feel would be a perfect fit for me. However, I wasn’t picked. Yes, I became very depressed etc.. because I wasn’t given the opportunity. For a while, I wondered what I had to be doing so I could be picked next time.

Despite, all of that. I’ve realised that I shouldn’t wait for those people to pick me. We have the time to work on ourselves and improve our abilities which would make those companies want to pick us. 

The word, “unfortunately”. It’s not a meaning of failure. It means we all have the chance to make ourselves stronger and smarter. I’ve experienced rejection, I did get depressed about it but it’s made me stronger. I now know what I actually want to pursue in life because of those set-backs. 

Therefore, never let yourself get depressed about not being chosen. Use the opportunity to build something for yourself. Whatever, it may be. Doesn’t matter who you are, we have the chance in our hands already. Take that risk.

That opportunity that, “unfortunately” you weren’t accepted for could actually be a blessing in disguise. 

Keep going and never give up.

Hi, I'm Michael Rigby and I study Sports Business and Broadcasting at UCFB Wembley. I have experienced mental illness, including depression and social anxiety since the age of 14.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

What I wish I’d known starting University

Emily shares what she wish she had known starting university. 
- Emily Maybanks

Starting University is a big step in life. It can be easy to forget that even getting into University in the first place is a real achievement in itself. I am at the end of my Undergraduate degree at University and looking back to when I was preparing to head off to University as an anxious Fresher way back in 2013, there is so much that I wish I’d known then that I’ve learnt over the past 5 years.

To briefly introduce myself, I’m Emily. I’ve been studying Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting at Swansea University (we have a beach opposite campus – it’s lovely in this part of the world) and it’s taken me 5 years to finish my course. My 4-year degree programme included a year abroad, and then an extra year out. From this, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt is that everyone’s experiences of University is unique to them and that it’s definitely not a good idea to compare your journey to someone else’s. There’s that quote that goes “don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 14. Follow your own path; write your own life story and never give up on yourself.” As cheesy as it sounds, it is true. There’s a lot of pressure to make University “the best years of your life” – it doesn’t have to be the best time of your life, and honestly, it won’t be the best time all of time. There will be moments of amazing highs and there will be moments when you wonder why you even started University. I can genuinely say that while I was disappointed and upset to have taken an additional year to finish my course, it’s also turned out to be a real positive in the sense that I’ve spent my final year getting involved with as much as I can alongside my studies because it is important to make the most of your time at University, both in lectures and outside of lectures!

What I definitely wish that I had known when I started University is just how vital a skill time management is. What threw me a lot was going from a very rigid routine throughout my A Levels in Sixth Form where I’d get up early each day, get the bus, spend hours in school, come home, do my homework, have dinner, relax, and go to bed, to being on my own at University and having lectures at random times throughout the day. I suddenly had to learn to manage my time in a different way to what I’d been used to. I think that once you manage the art of time management, it definitely becomes a lot easier – get into a routine as quickly and as smoothly as you can.

Another thing that I wish I’d known is that it is perfectly okay to not enjoy nights out in town and clubbing as well as the drinking culture that it is often viewed as “typical” at University. I was worried ahead of starting University because I was 19 and I had never stepped foot in a club (they are my idea of a nightmare) and I had also never been drunk. I was worried that I’d be judged right from the beginning. However, I’ve been lucky that I’ve met people along my University journey who have never held this against me. There’s always something to do at University that doesn’t involve drinking or going out. One of my most memorable moments in my first year was a game of “hide and seek” at my friends’ flat. In my later years at University, it’s been nice to meet people who are more than happy to spend an evening watching films, walking on the beach or playing games.

There’s a lot to get involved in at University right from the very beginning of your first year. Go to the Fresher’s Fair and join at least one society that interests you. Joining a society or a sports club is a fantastic way to get involved with student life. My closest friends at University have come from joining the Hogwarts society in my first year. They put on lots of fun events such as a Yule Ball at the end of the first semester, a trip to the Studio Tours and several quiz and film nights. In my final year, I’ve been a part of my students’ newspaper and the wider Student Media community. If your University has any media opportunities, be it a students’ newspaper, or a radio station, I would recommend getting involved as it’s another way to meet new people but also to learn new skills and gain a unique, worthwhile experience. One of my regrets from University is not getting involved with the students’ newspaper at Swansea earlier on during my degree.

Finally, you learn a lot about yourself at University. Looking back to the beginning of my first year, I had no idea that I’m more resilient than I think I am, for example. University has certainly helped to shape me into who I am now. Everything that I’ve been through over the past 5 years (positive and negative) has developed me. I am proud to say that I am leaving University a more confident, more open and much more willing individual.

Some final words of advice about starting University and the adventure that lies ahead:

  • Look after yourself; take time to focus on you and only you, doing what you enjoy,
  • Say “yes” to as many exciting opportunities as you can, but also know when to say “no” too,
  • People will come and go during your Uni years, just as they come and go in life itself. The right people will stick around; 
  • Cook yourself a really nice meal every once in a while;
  • Remember that it is YOUR journey and YOUR life – do what makes YOU happy. 

Check out Student Mind's resources on transitioning from school to university.



My name is Emily (Em). I am currently in my final year at Swansea University. I wanted to blog because I have experienced depression and anxiety as well as other health issues, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.