Alys offers a compassionate insight into navigating first-year, by giving helpful tips and highlighting the importance of self-belief.
It's that time of year that brings about fresh starts and big changes with the colouring, and falling, of the leaves. In a sense, this feels like more of a 'new year' than the actual New Year. This weekend, you'll be driving up North to become a university student, in a tiny car bloated with the objects that make up your life.
In one way, it's been a long time coming. You've had two years out of the traditional school system and have already left your teen years behind. You tried a distance learning degree, and even completed the first year, but you knew that wasn't what you wanted to continue doing. So, I think now is the right time. I don't think many people ever feel completely ready to go to university, everyone has their own kinds of struggles, but I think at this point in time you're as ready as you'll ever be.
I really hope anxiety doesn't get too much in the way of you making the most of this. It stopped you from going to university completely last year, so you've come a long way since then. I don't want you to have to just cope with it all though, is it too much for me to hope that you actually enjoy your time there?
Big life changes aren't really that easy to simplify. But I do have a couple of thoughts I'd like you to hold onto as you navigate your way through the first few months of university:
Study hard but try not to overwhelm yourself with pressure.
Studying is not the be-all and end-all of life, and you're going to university for more than just a degree - otherwise you could've just stuck with the distance learning method.
Put effort into putting yourself out there.
Meet new people but don't feel like you have to be someone you're not or put yourself in situations that aren't what you want. Throughout all of your other educational experiences, you never actively sought out friendships, you let them come to you. This is a time to challenge that.
If, not when, you find things hard, persist and fight.
You are wonderfully stubborn, and I know you won't give up easily. You can ask for help, that doesn't make you weak.
But please, if it's all too painful know that it's okay to quit or take a break.
Remember this is not necessarily a bad thing - I don't want you to feel like you're on the verge of leaving all the time but I do think it's important to know that it's okay to change things if you're unhappy. The destruction of your mental health is not worth a degree; there are always other options. You will find a window to climb through, even if every door is locked.
Most importantly, I believe in you.
You've grown a lot, done a lot and been a lot since you left college over two years ago. In the 18 months you've had away from education, you've spent nearly 10 of these abroad, in 18 different countries. You've grown a blog and written all about mental health in ways that hopefully have helped people. You have even kept the plant alive that sits at the end of your bed.
You've had great days and bad days and everything in between. You've laughed until you've cried and shared secrets and politics and plenty of vegan cookies. You've also felt how truly dark emotions can be. You've learnt about the vulnerability of our minds and bodies, and how connected these are; you've learnt the physical pain and mental aggravation of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. You've learnt more about yourself than you ever thought was possible.
Look at how much you have done. I am not pointing this out so that you can brag, I just want you to see how capable you really are and how proud of you I am. You should believe in yourself as you start this new chapter at university.
You can do this.
Hello, I'm Alys, a mental health blogger and sociology student in York. I wanted to write for Student Minds as I have a lot of personal experience with anxiety and I hope that these kinds of open discussions can help other people who are going through similar situations.