Changing MENtality

"The Adjustment Period"

December 02, 2020 Changing MENtality Season 1 Episode 7
Changing MENtality
"The Adjustment Period"
Show Notes Transcript

Coming to university as a first year student can be a really exciting experience but it also comes along with some challenges. In this episode, Paul and Billy talk about coming to university for the first time, dealing with feelings of loneliness and how “the adjustment period” was for them.

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If you were distressed by any of the content in this episode or feel you need extra support, please find some further resources below:

  • Student Space–Online, one-stop shop’ for students in England and Wales who want to find help for their mental health or well-being.
  • Student Minds website- Information about different support services available, including how to find them and what to expect when using them for the first time.
  • Your GP Service- can refer to specialist support and services.
  • University Student Support Services e.g. counselling, mental health advisers, student advice centre, students’ union.
  • Samaritans-phone 116 123, email [email protected]
  • HOPELine UK-phone 0800 068 41 41: confidential service specifically for young people (under 35). They can offer crisis support for someone who is experiencing thoughts or feelings of suicide, as well as providing information and advice for those concerned about someone else.
  • Papyrus: email [email protected]
  • Students Against Depression- The Students Against Depression website has lots of information about tackling depression and low mood, including self -help resources and workbooks for students to work through to start taking steps towards tackling low mood.
  • NHS 111-Non-emergency line run by the NHS.
  • 999-for an emergency situation.
Billy:

Hello, and welcome to this episode of the changing mentality podcast. This is a podcast run by male university students and supported by the charity student minds that aims at discussing and tackling some of the topics and stigmas that surround men's mental health. I'm Billy and today Paul and I will be talking about the adjustment period. And what coming to uni for the first time was like for us, we will be covering what our first day was like some of the challenges we face and how we both learned to manage some of the pressures of moving away from home. An important note before we start, neither me or Paul or counsellors or mental health professionals. Rather, we are both male university students who have experienced what it's like to be a man at university and some of the challenges that have come along with it. So let's get into it. Hi, welcome to the podcast. I'm Billy. I'm a university student studying a master's degree in science communication at the University of Manchester. And I also did an undergraduate degree in biology in the history of science at the University of Leeds. And today I'm talking with Paul.

Paul:

Hi, everyone. I'm Paul, I'm a current student at University of Manchester studying a master's in environmental monitoring, modelling and reconstruction. And I also did my undergraduate degree in physical geography here in Manchester, as well. And I'm really excited to chat to Billy today.

Billy:

Amazing. Yes. So like I said, in the intro, today, we're going to be focusing on the adjustment period. So this is moving away from home and coming to uni for the first time. And what that was like for us. I mean, everyone'll very different experiences. Me coming from little old shout them down there, Bristol, and Paul coming from Lithuania. So yeah, it was kind of a bit of a chat and talk about what it was like, when we moved and what kind of experience we had. So it start everything off. Paul, what was your first day like at university?

Paul:

Well, now it seems it was, you know, back in time, ages away, but you know, remembering it, it was a very interesting day, I remember, I came to university, you know, met all of my future coursemates in that time, and everything seemed very interesting, but at the same time, slightly scary, because I was in a completely new environment. I didn't have, you know, my support bubble that I had back home in Lithuania. And that was, that was really challenging I think, because, you know, you used to have your friends, your family around, and when all of that disappears, you kind of feeling left alone a little bit. And I remember, you know, surely because I'm also a international student, I had a little bit of a struggle in university with my language with English language in the beginning. I remember, in the first few weeks, I just didn't want to talk to anyone in English, because I simply wouldn't understand what people are telling to me. And that was also, you know, slightly frustrating. But now I just look back into it. And I feel and I feel like it was really interesting experience.

Billy:

Yes. So how was your English when you first came over? Because I mean, I think your English is pretty good. Yeah. How was it? I wasn't coming over with that, like, what kind of language barrier?

Paul:

Yeah, I think, you know, I had a sufficiently good English to study in the UK University, that's for sure. But I think it was more about pronunciation, I think, and a local accent, you know, especially in Manchester, that we have Mancunian accent. And the first few days were really interesting, because I remember, I remember even going to the shop. And you know, a cashier simply would ask me, you know, if I wanted a bag, and I and I would be thinking in my head, what, what on earth, you know, this person just asked me like, what, what is that question? Or? I remember in, in my university cafe, I remember when a lady at the at the counter just asked me, you alright love. And I literally didn't know what she meant, because I was like, did she? I didn't understand why she just called me love. You know, this is not a practice we were used to in Lithuania. So that was really interesting and funny at the same time.

Billy:

Yeah, that must be funny to look back on now. I can't imagine what it's like. When I came to uni. I'd spend seven years at the same school in the village that I grew up in with very much the same people. So language barrier, and that kind of thing was never something that I had to deal with. But I can imagine that being like, quite a big challenge, especially in a country that maybe you know, you don't know very well. It's a huge experience. That was definitely something that I felt coming up. I never lived in a city before. The nearest good city to me is about 40 minutes away, which would be Bristol. So, so yeah, I didn't really know what that was like. And I remember coming to halls, my parents dropped me off, and I was moving in and unpacking my stuff. And you have all these different feelings in this in this first initial moment, it's very exciting. It's very scary, very lonely at points as well. And I remember only, I think, two of my flatmates and moved into my flat. So that, again, is another huge, I think, pressure when you first move in, and you kind of come into this adjustment period.

Paul:

Yeah, yeah, I can absolutely imagine, you know, even if you even if you lived, you know, in England, your whole life, I think that that is still you know, something, you know, something new happening in your life and you moving, you know, for higher education, and a completely new city, you know, to yourself, and new environment, new people, you know, till, you know, it's a new place that you have to have to adapt to those changes. I mean, if I, if I talked about my friends who study here, back home in Lithuania, even when they move, you know, to, let's say, biggest cities for education, they're feeling the same, I think they're feeling the same, because they're still in new environment, you know, their family is away. They're, you know, friends are away most of the time. And I think, you know, we're all kind of in the same shoes in this case, you know, surely, you know, the circumstances may differ, you know, depending on each personal situation, but I think we're all our students are kind of united in this case.

Billy:

Yeah, it almost doesn't matter what city you end up going to, or maybe not even a city at all. Whatever uni campus you end up moving to, if you end up moving into halls, or if you move into, say, a shared house, there is that kind of collective experience that all first year students have going into that adjustment periods. I think we can't really talk about going into this adjustment period. If we don't talk about freshers. I think that's that's the kind of, maybe not so now that we're in living in Coronavirus times but the adjustment periods and going straight into freshers, which is a great time, but also a very, very heavy and very intense time of meeting people having new experiences living on your own for the first time for a lot of people drinking quite a bit as well.

Paul:

Yeah, I think that was really interesting experience back then, you know, freshers week and doing lots of different things going to, you know, different social events. And that really was, you know, great experience. Surely at that time. No one clearly understood, you know what they should be doing? But everyone has fun, for sure.

Billy:

Yeah, definitely, I think, the fun that you might have there after the first two weeks, it kind of fades off a bit. And that's definitely something that I found I really had a lot of mixed emotions in these these first two weeks of meeting lots of new people and trying to find a good support network and a good group of friends. And I do remember getting to the end of it. And kind of having a bit of a panic and thinking, Oh, I don't have a group of friends. I don't have really good friends. I don't really at this point, have anyone to kind of turn to when I was feeling down, which was really, really difficult as a first year, who's just moved to a big city for the first time. So that that was Yeah, that was definitely hard. And it was something that kind of persisted for me quite a long way through first, especially through first semester, once uni work started getting difficult and once everything outside the daily happened to be independent, and the rest of that stuff all comes in together. It all becomes a lot with that combined with not maybe feeling comfortable. I think that was Yeah, definitely difficult. How was it for yo

Paul:

Yeah, I really resonate view Billy, you know, everything you just said, and I truly understand how you felt because I think my situation was was also similar. When I came to UK for my high education, I also, you know, was alone, and I didn't have many friends for sure. And the first after those first few weeks of freshers week and you know, induction and introduction in uni, surely, you know, things started started going a bit differently in a bit in a bit of a different pathway. You know, at some point, I remember I started feeling slightly lonely. And at that point, I didn't understand, you know, what was really what was really going on as you as you said, you know, having lots of mixed feelings, and not really understanding, you know, what your situation is because simply because, you you know, you've never been in this, this kind of situation before. So, I think, you know, at that point, it was, you know, natural to feel a bit, a bit anxious, a bit, you know, frustrated about, you know, how things are at the moment because everything is new. But, you know, later on I started noticing, you know, some kind of changes in you know, my, my mental health and I started recognising that I'm feeling lonely and it's difficult to talk about About loneliness, because, you know, we are kind of,

Billy:

yeah, everybody's in the same boat. And it's easy to say that everyone's in the same situation. But it doesn't often feel like that there are often these feelings of feeling very lonely. Even though, you know that loads of people are feeling the same way. And you know that everyone's in a new situation they've not done before, it's still hard to deal with those feelings of loneliness. And for a lot of people, and from what it sounds like for both me and you it was the first time we'd ever felt that kind of emotion before, and it definitely has a toll on your well being a mental health as a whole, and then has a knock on effect to everything else.

Paul:

Of course, it's really powerful thing, you know, that has great impact on your general well being and, you know, subsequent, you know, things in your life. So, um, what I wanted to say is, you know, I was feeling lonely, but that wasn't, you know, the physical kind of absence of loneliness, I was feeling lonely, but what I wanted to say is, you know, I used to go to different social events, different parties, different, you know, student gatherings, and, you know, all of the different events that were happening, but I was still feeling lonely. And I remember, at some point, then I started thinking about, maybe it's not about the physical absence of someone else, maybe it's, you know, something deep, it's maybe it's about, you know, emotional connection. And later on what I realised, you know, it's probably about sharing meaning with other people about things. It's not particularly about absence of physical, physical connection. So what really helped me was, you know, reconnecting with people simply calling my mom calling my, you know, school friends and checking up on them, you know, how they're doing, you know, why not? Why not, you know, having a chat, you know, more regularly and kind of establish this as a continuous process of reconnection, and building that relationship, and having a strong support bubble. So I really felt that I was feeling lonely. But what I understood was, you know, it wasn't, you know, simply physical absence of someone. It was, you know, absence of, you know, maybe a deep emotional connection. And once I started, you know, kind of talking to people and reaching out to people, I really saw a big difference.

Billy:

Yeah, I think it sounds a bit cliche, but it's that you can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely. I had a very similar experience I was, I wasn't just staying on my own and doing nothing. And being very physically isolated. I was pushing myself, I was meeting new people, I was going out to bars drinking with groups, and I was having some really good times. But that has really nothing to do with this feeling of loneliness and feeling very overwhelmed. In this new situation. It's a very complex, it's a very individual emotion that everyone deals with differently. To be fair, I remember a point where it was maybe two, three weeks into uni. So the final freshers had gone, and uni life, it's set in. And I've made a few friends and I was enjoying it. But I just had this one day, when I was walking back from uni, I remember calling my brother and just crying down the phone to him going, Oh, I hate this, I was like, I want to drop out, I feel awful, I can't do this. And then he just said, Look, stick it through for a bit longer, and see how you feel. He said, there's no harm in trying, you may feel lonely may be having a tough time at the moment, but just stick through it and see what happens. And then in that period, where I did stick through it for a bit longer, I think I did really find some of those deeper emotional connections with friends that you were saying about earlier, finding a bit of meaning and friendship, which isn't just being around people, and actually connecting people on a kind of deeper level.

Paul:

Yeah, I really, really resonate with you believe I feel that, you know, it's really difficult and a different time for for you know, for us, you know, who come to uni. And you know, I think this brings nicely on the idea that the only constant is change. And that, you know, everything is changing and you know, that's part of our, our lives, you know, to kind of finish one chapter, then open another chapter and, you know, see how things are going and, you know, surely not going to be failing, probably as comfortable as you were, you know, in the first chapter because simply you, you know, you're experiencing new things you going outside of your comfort zone. And, you know, that's definitely going you know, to cause some kind of frustration and maybe anxiety and what I want to emphasise that it's really okay. It's really okay to feel that way. Because we're all human and we're all vulnerable, you know, to change it into some kind of, you know, different and difficult situations and There is nothing to be afraid of, you know, things come and things pass. There's always you know, they're always day comes after, after tonight, I think it's really important to reminding kindly, you know, gently reminding yourself that, okay, this is a difficult period at the moment. Yeah,

Billy:

I think an analogy, which kind of fits this is if you see being at uni, kind of like climbing a staircase, with lots of different steps, and you might not be able to see the top of the stairs where you want to be. But in a period, that's very difficult for you, you're still on that first step. And you're still every day when you're doing new things. And when you're pushing yourself, and you're trying to look for these emotional connections, and you're getting along, and you're doing a uni work, and you're learning to be independent, and learning to live within that situation, you're always climbing those steps. And even if you go back down, you're still always on that journey. And there's only things to gain by trying to work on yourself and trying to figure out how you as a person, as an individual is going to cope with the situation. And eventually, you know, I think what most people find is they end up thriving in that situation. I for one, definitely looking back. Now, as a postgraduate student, on first year, I've had one of the best university experiences ever. That being said, I also had some of the worst experiences at university. So it's a real balance, and it's learning to navigate and know what to do in these situations. And that's different for every person.

Paul:

Of course, absolutely. You know, we're all having our individual experiences. And I really liked you know, that you mentioned, the balance, and because, you know, that's the key, and that's, you know, what we need to maintain, you know, that's the key to our, our well being and how we can help ourselves. So I was wondering, do you have really any sort of tips, you know, how people could help themselves and how, how personally managed to stay, you know, healthy during, during the time or, you know, what helped you to overcome, you know, some of the struggles you had,

Billy:

I think the best tip that I can give from my own experiences, is one of the best things that you can do for yourself, is persevere through this adjustment period, it's always going to be a difficult situation, there's no one who comes to university that doesn't have at least a moment of doubt, or a moment of struggle with their mental health and well being. And when you persevere, even if you're taking yourself out of your comfort zone, you're making those steps to improve your situation and improve your well being looking back now, three, four years on, I took a long time, but I eventually made a support network, and a support group of some great friends. my flatmates from first year, I'm still friends with my house that I live with in second and third year. I've got friends from my course, and friends from all over. And each one of those people provide me with something different in different situations, but overall have made for me this great network to rely on and fall back on and then coming into a new situation. Like when I moved to Manchester for my postgraduate, earlier this year in September, it made it so much easier for me to do that. And that was something that I maybe didn't have in first year. But by the end of my uni experience I did have and it's such a great tool. And it's such a great thing to fall back on for me as well. So yeah, nothing bad ever comes from perseverance. Another tip is, I have friends that have loved uni. From day one. I've had friends like me that had like a difficult time, and then managed to find something that worked for them. But I've also had friends, which realised University wasn't for them. I don't want anyone to take from what we've been saying that you have to persevere from university, sometimes it's just not right for you. But I know so many people that have either dropped out or chosen to do something different. And it's worked just as well for them. But what I think is the key thing, there is perseverance, or these people persevere through the situation, and you will find something that will work for you. What your top tip,

Paul:

as you Billy mentioned, I really like the idea of having strong network. And I think I was pretty much in a similar situation. You know, when in my first year, I had only a handful of people, or, you know, even in the beginning, I didn't have anyone to be honest. But later on, you know, I started developing these connections, and some of them, you know, later on kind of evolved into strong, meaningful, meaningful connections, especially during lockdown. You know, we're, you know, we're used to talking about lockdown and, you know, COVID-19 as a time of negative changes, but I would like to kind of emphasise that, you know, there is still positivity, we can find positivity, let's say in my own personal example during lockdown. I actually even strengthened those, you know, a few deep emotional connections with people because simply, you know, I was, you know, I was hanging out with them more frequently and that's, you know, how we kind of developed you know, that strong connection So, you know, surely, you know, having strong support bubble and strong meaningful connections is definitely something that you know, is really relevant to your mental well being. Another really great tip that I could, you know, give to people is being mindful, being mindful of your actions. And practising mindfulness is something that really has helped me to overcome my, the majority of my problems. Mindfulness is something that allows you to understand your body and mind. But at the same time, it connects your body and mind. And this synergy, then kind of allows you to achieve really a peace of mind. And what I wanted to say is that, you know, it's a continuous process, and it's a long process of practising mindfulness meditation. But once you realise, once your body and mind learns how to accept different emotions in a non judgmental way, it's a really powerful tool, then for your daily life. Because, you know, once you then when you then experience, you know, a difficult situation, a stressful situation in your life, your body acts, as it would during mindfulness, you know, simply accepting the situation, not particularly, you know, displaying a strong reaction to it. And that brings really a great sense of well being.

Billy:

Definitely, mindfulness is something that I find as well. And after a long period of time of doing it, it does, it does really benefit. I think we've got, hopefully a few episodes will be coming out soon to do with mindfulness. And it will definitely be something that I think me, Paul, and all the lads on the podcast will be talking about, and exploring, because it is great. It's not for everyone, but a lot of people do benefit from it. And it's a really great way of checking out and coping with struggles of university, of course, and,

Paul:

you know, I really liked that you mentioned, you know, it's not for everyone, surely, you know, we all are different people. And, you know, we all, you know, have different personalities, and it's about, you know, finding what works for you. And, you know, this is a brilliant idea. And I think, you know, you know, the more resources, you look for the you know, the more options you explore, the better you understand what really works for you. And once you've found that, keep going with that, and you're definitely going to see a big change.

Billy:

Yeah, I think the take home message of this episode is for the adjustment periods and coming to uni. Connection, perseverance, and support networks are three really fundamental aspects and things that can really help students and especially guys come to grips of understanding how they're feeling when they come to uni for the first time.

Paul:

Absolutely, Billy. Thanks, everyone for listening to our first podcast episode. This was Paul and Billy and we hope you enjoyed our chat.

Billy:

Thanks for listening. This has been the Changing MENtality podcast, with support from Student Minds and funding from comic relief. If today's episode you'd like to seek further help for managing and dealing with your own or friends mental well being is a few places to go. The website studentspace.org.uk offers a great range of resources for mental health and well being also students against depression.org and the student minds website under the find Support tab. For more immediate support, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or hotline UK on oh 800 oh six 841 41 which is a confidential service specifically for young people that can offer you support in a crisis. Finally, check out some of the services provided to you by your university such as counselling, mental health advisors, and student advice centres. Thank you again for listening and we hope to see you again in the podcast. Bye