Lifestyle Editor Katherine Prentice offers her advice on pacing yourself at university
If you’re anything like me, the start of a new academic year is thrilling, especially your first at university. New pens, new diary, new timetable and a head full of ideas about the outfits you will wear on nights out with new friends, and how you are totally going to get involved with those societies. After all, there’s loads of time after work, and classes, and reading, and … oh. Starting uni full of these ideas in 2018 soon left me pretty burnt out, repeating a cycle I had been trapped in for years. Starting back in 2021 after being at home for almost two years will be even more tricky. It’s important to ease yourself in, get settled and take on a workload that is going to be sustainable and enjoyable over the whole year, especially if it’s your first.
Tip 1: Settle in, first and foremost
Of course, we primarily come to uni to study. But, one of the few things I did in my first year that I continue to stick by is taking time to focus on getting into the swing of things and meeting people first. You generally have a little while before graded work piles up, but for the first couple weeks it is more important to familiarise yourself with your new schedule and get to know the people around you. It is going to be exhausting to start traipsing around campus again, regardless of anything else you’ll have on, so number one is: make sure to pace yourself and gradually build up your workload.
Tip 2: Be a quitter
As I said, meet new people! Go to freshers’ events, try out new societies, volunteer or try to learn a language. These are all great, but you have four years! Don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s a bit much and you feel you need to take a step back. It is tempting to salivate over just how full your CV could look, but it will look a lot better if you don’t burn out and give up on everything all at once. Cliché as it sounds, focus on enjoying things right now, and start slow. You can quit or join societies when you want to: first year is the best time to experiment, and you will always have time later to properly commit.
Tip 3: Socialise and take breaks
What is the point in meeting all these people if you don’t hang out with them? And I definitely mean hang out rather than just clubbing. Grab a coffee in-between lectures, sit in the library together, or check out a new restaurant or pub. These kinds of breaks are essential, because, for me, university quickly became: cramming in work; clubbing; crying over comparative literature; “recover” – then repeat. Equally, take time for yourself. You don’t need to be doing something and seeing someone all the time – enjoy doing nothing every once in a while rather than mindlessly clicking through Moodle!
Tip 4: Plan ahead
As well as setting aside time for yourself and to see friends, set aside time to remind yourself of events and deadlines, fast-approaching or at the end of the year. I have never understood how people get through the year without a planner, or at the very least a list of important dates in your notes app. I personally skim my diary each morning, and read it properly once a week, but even by taking a couple of minutes a day to make sure you know what your next week, or month, or year will look like, your head will feel so much clearer. When I feel completely overwhelmed, breaking down what is going on over the next week or two has proven a simple cure.
Tip 5: There is still a pandemic…
Don’t be worried about missing out if you don’t feel safe enough going to clubs or socials yet. It is going to be nerve-wracking, and even just quite tiring, to jump straight back into the university lifestyle after the last 18 months. You will meet people in classes and group chat and, throughout your entire time at Glasgow, you will constantly have opportunities to make new friends, so don’t panic about doing everything in your first week, or even year. Again, focus on what is best for you right now, and pace yourself as you see fit. People will understand – more than often be trying to figure out how to do the same themselves! – and ultimately it is more important to look after yourself just now. Freshers week happens every year, and there are things going on in Glasgow every day, so just make sure you’ve found your feet first, before finding the balance that works for you!