What do you Mean, Summer’s Over? 3 Ways to Prepare for University

Ah, summer.

The smell of sizzling sausages on barbeques, the feel of summer wind through your hair, the ocean breeze in the air, the total freedom of thought and expression and procrastination. Lazing around without a thought, earning some money at a summer job, catching up on favourite shows, heading to the beach, and— hey, wasn’t yesterday course selection?

It’s easy to forget about school when you’re having fun, but like they say, “all good things must come to an end”. It seems harsh: your body has already gotten used to doing absolutely nothing, and suddenly you’re supposed to catch up with five deadlines, two payments, and ten unread emails. Your brain, which for two months held nothing but song lyrics, has to cram knowledge of the bus schedule, room numbers, and your new syllabus. It’s unfortunate that our brains don’t have a button you can press to turn on “school mode”. It takes time to adjust, time it seems we just don’t have.

Gathering the motivation to get prepared is the hardest part. How can I go shopping when the new episode of Dragon Ball Super was just released, or when my friends made a spontaneous plan for the park?

There is no secret to finding the motivation for school. Realistically, the more you do, the more confident you feel about university. Even buying a pack of pens makes you feel one step closer to rocking the first day of school. The other day at Walmart, on a whim, I purchased a backpack that was on for a good price. When I got home, I found myself thinking about how it would feel as I walked through the halls, how it would look filled with textbooks, what I would decorate it with. It was small and cost me less than 20 bucks, but it was enough to get me excited for a new school year. You may have purchased a pack of gel pens, or a new water bottle, or maybe even a cool-looking eraser that has done the same for you.

Once you get past school preparation, though, things get a little more complicated. What if you can’t make any friends? What if your teachers are boring? What if you show up late to your first class? Worries begin to plague your mind and keep you awake at night, only adding to the stress already burdening you. You join every social media account, are on three different UTM groups on Facebook, and have a hundred people added on Whatsapp, but still feel overwhelmingly lonely. It seems this bundle of pre-university nerves just won’t go away.

However, there’s hope! There are plenty of things you can do to de-stress, relax, and get in the right mindset for university.

1.Know that everyone is in the same boat: it’s hard to make friends sometimes if you believe that everyone has already created a friend group. I originally struggled with the simple act of saying hello to a group of people, feeling like I was interrupting their “important friend time”. I always thought that I was the only one feeling lost.  When you realize that everyone is feeling just as nervous and lonely and unprepared as you, and longs to make friends like you, then it’s easier to connect with others. While I haven’t shaken off these pre-conceived notions just yet, these new perspectives are beginning to make it easier to say hello, and I definitely notice a difference when I approach others.

2. Stay informed: keep up with the emails and stay on Facebook to catch up with any events, information, and conversation. I felt incredibly lost before I discovered these groups, having the creeping feeling that there was important information out there that I was missing. Joining a Facebook page made me feel more grounded and gave me the opportunity to meet wonderful fellow first-years. While I personally found it difficult to keep up with multiple social platforms, the amount of information I received is priceless! When you’re well informed, you feel a lot more confident and prepared, and can register earlier for events.

3. Find time for yourself: self-health is important. I always find it hard to take care of myself when I have lots to do because I get very lost in my work, and I know many students also struggle with this. By the end of a massive pre-university review session, my muscles are stiff, my head is pounding, my stomach is grumbling, and nothing feels done. Just by trial and error, I’ve found that having a cup of tea, reading a book, taking a mental break, and writing in a journal are some things that will help calm my nerves, but everyone has different strategies. It also helps reduce the tension we tend to feel in the first month of school. While a bit of adrenaline is okay, being too stiff will lower your performance and make you lose confidence.

Remember: every first year student is struggling with something, whether it be grades or family or money or anything in between. We are all bonded together in our struggles, but also in our victories. Most importantly, through all of the nerves and stress, there’s certainly a sliver of excitement bubbling through the minds of every freshman. Focus on that sliver and you’ll find yourself skipping through the halls in no time!

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