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‘Congratulations, you are coming to university.’ Before you start thinking about what this means for you, remember that nobody knows your fears better than your own imagination. So sit back, take a deep breath and consider the next steps logically.
Moving away from home is a natural transition. As with every new experience you may feel uncertain or confused. This may because of a number of reasons – you may be alone for the first time, in an unknown city, or you may be figuring out how to turn a washing machine on (deadly device!). Perhaps you have ventured into a different country; customs and people’s behaviour may seem strange to you, or the student life may vary completely from what you expected.
My advice is to approach each experience at a time and focus on the positives – you’ll be learning new skills so mistakes will happen. Don’t be hard on yourself.
Focus on what you enjoy. Moving into student accommodation or joining different societies will help you meet like-minded people. These experiences may not go as smoothly as you initially plan and, like me, you may end up sharing a bathroom with four boys. The clue is not to panic and become emotionally overwhelmed.
Focus on your positive experiences to make peace with the ‘less ideal’ ones. Moving into student halls is exciting and it is important to appreciate what you have until you move out again and lose the privacy altogether (in halls you can actually lock your bedroom door and not find friends taking a nap on your bed).
From now on you are on the move. Every year or, if you’re organised, every couple of years you will move and find another place to call home.
Never be afraid to ask for help, especially when you’re confused about an acronym at medical school and later at wards. Wherever you go and however old you are you will meet new people and have to figure out the dynamics of new places from scratch. The more you do it the easier you will find it – I think they call it ‘networking’.
So when you sit in a lecture theatre for the first time, just remember that it may also be your lecturer’s first day and they may be just as scared as you. Now that is a thought.
In short, keep smiling and start with ‘hello, my name is___’, then you will never be lost, or you will be lost with a companion. When you start university everyone will be feeling exactly the same as you. No one comes in with a golden ticket and sails through. With time you will settle in and you will find yourself adapting to change quicker and easier than you expected. Good luck!
Aleks Poziemska is the medical students committee representative at the University of Edinburgh
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