One of the biggest transitions a young person can make is to go from high school to tertiary education. It's supposed to be fun, filled with new friends, parties and setting you up for a bright career ahead. But battling everything from homesickness to anxiety and depression can make it anything but.
Whether you are a shy person or not moving from a small high school to a large university can make you feel lost in a sea of faces. In your first term or year you could find yourself depressed, exasperated, over-stressed, and unsure of the future. But don’t worry - This is completely normal; starting at a new university means you’ve been transplanted from your home and all its safety and continuity, and put into a new environment that your high school most likely didn't adequately prepare you for; classes are harder than expected; the new opportunities and social clubs are overwhelming, you may suddenly be reliant on cafeteria food, takeaways or cooking for yourself for the first time, plus you have the added financial (scholarships and loans) worries and stresses, and the pressure to make new friends. In the U.S. there is a term called ‘freshman blues’ which refers to the homesickness and displacement that many young people experience during their first year of university. Research by the University of Johannesburg revealed that students who performed well in their first year were more likely to stay in university and graduate. However the challenges are usually too many for the average student so programmes that encourage integration and encouragement in an environment which is not always welcoming as it should be. The academic, social and financial problems that many students face are key contributor to first year dropouts.
While nothing can quite prepare you for university; it is high-paced environment that can cause even the strongest student to stumble there are ways to make it through your first year happy and ready for your second year. If you are struggling with loneliness or making friends try joining extra-curricular clubs where you can meet new people. Make sure to take time out for yourself and to surround yourself with positive individuals who want to help you succeed instead of bring you down. It is also a good idea to spend time with older students, such as tutors or mentors, who can encourage you during your difficult moments. They can also give you advice and tips as to how they dealt with the first year struggles and give you practical solutions in order to transition comfortably into the lifestyle of a university student.