Moving away from home and mental health

Francesca moved away from home to go to university, she was scared about making friends, finding support and what her university experience would be. She discusses how mentally preparing helped, as well as pushing herself out of her comfort zone. She also shares how she was able to receive support at university for her mental health.

Francesca found moving to university a daunting experience, she discusses the things that helped her to adjust and finding support for her mental health.

Video transcript

Hi. My name is Francesca and I'm in my third year of my law degree at Leeds Trinity University. Going to university, I was scared. I was scared I wouldn't make any friends. I was scared I couldn't handle being away from home. I was scared my mental health wouldn't be supported. Most of all, I was scared that I wasn't going to enjoy my time at university. As my second year came to a close, I can safely say I had the best year of my life whilst being at uni. I realised that my anxieties were just that. Anxiety. And the actuality of the experience was fun and new and granted, at times, a bit scary. But mostly I experienced happiness.

Moving away from home to go to university is an increasingly common occurrence. However, this doesn't make the experience any less scary. Prior to my acceptance at uni, I had never lived away from home. I'd never lived in a town that wasn't my home town and I'd never lived in a big multicultural city like Leeds. Frankly, I was terrified to move away from home and from my comforts but I took that leap of faith and wanted to conquer my fears. Moving away from home is scary for everyone, even those who claim it's not because we are creatures of habit and comfort and being thrust into a brand new environment is inevitably going to be a nerve wracking experience. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give for moving to a new city is to be prepared. And I don't mean getting all your IKEA kitchen equipment bought, I mean be ready to make new friends. Be ready to go to new places, whether it's a trendy bar or a park that students frequently have picnics in. Just be prepared to try a lot of new things and fast. Remember that everyone gets homesick and visiting home could be a good way to maintain an element of comfort in an otherwise fun but chaotic university environment. If an entire home visit is unavailable FaceTime is the saviour any uni student who is missing home. Even a quick 10-15 minute call to anyone back home could help soothe those feelings of homesickness.

With all that said, university may be scary, but for me, taking that leap of faith, it was something I just had to do and I think it was worth it. For me, making new friends was one of the most daunting aspects of the university experience. I was terrified that I wouldn't form any authentic friendships as a result of my anxiety. Thankfully, I met my best friend on my uni course and we now also share a house together. We met by simply striking up a conversation about one of our common interests. This simple action of starting a conversation can often be one of the hardest parts for most people. Myself included. However, I guarantee you, that everyone is in the exact same boat. Everybody, regardless of if it's their first year at uni. If they're from their home town or they're just naturally really charismatic. Everyone has the fear they're not going to make new friends. Looking at it from this perspective can actually be comforting as this means that everybody wants to make friends, or at least most people, I found in my experience. You can meet people who are just like you and alternatively, you may be able to meet people who are not like you, from different backgrounds and cultures. Help you out of your comfort zone. Making friends is scary. But having those friends is one of the best experiences.

Dealing with mental health at university can be a tricky thing. Whilst everyone is dealing with average levels of anxiety and a normal amount of loneliness, people with mental health issues are susceptible to these and other feelings on a more frequent extreme. I personally have suffered with anxiety and depression since I was young teenager and I was particularly anxious I wasn't going to receive the same level of support at university that I'd received through the rest of my education. To my surprise, university did offer an array of mental health services from block counseling services to cognitive behavioral therapy, access to an overnight helpline, and providing the student the option to speak to someone about anything. In my personal experience, I did find the jump from university to affect my mental health, but positively and negatively. For example, my anxiety did feel a bit more prominent in the first few weeks and months, as the adjustment period was admittedly a bit of a struggle. However, on the positive side, my overall feelings of happiness improved as I made more friends, felt more comfortable in my accommodation, and succeeded on my course. My advice is to remember that mental health can affect anyone on any level and to reach out to anyone who can help.

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