I’m not gonna lie, this past week has been a rough one. I know it’s only been 2 weeks since school started and 3 weeks since O-Week (5 weeks since I left California), but I’m pretty sure I just went through my first dip.
On the walls at the dorms, even on some of the class introduction PowerPoints, you’ll see a picture of stick figures riding a rollercoaster as a metaphor to represent the first year of uni. The first dip is supposedly on week six, I had mine on week two (3 if you count O-week). I’m a bit embarrassed to admit what a rough time I’ve had, but I want to share because I know there are others feeling this way (or are going to feel this way).
During my first dip I felt so overwhelmed by my thoughts about school and finances and being away from home. It was like all my emotions and thoughts came and slapped me in the face. I felt a sense of unworthiness compared to my classmates because it seemed as if everyone was handling school so well, while I was low key panicking in class because I was still confused about the theory my lecturer talked about 3 slides ago.
Within the first week of my Social Work programme I was assigned five essays and one speech all due within the next 4 weeks of school. This past weekend I’ve turned in one so that’s 5 more assignments left. On top of assignments there’s readings, for my course it’s usually about 45 pages a night but I know courses like Law have heaps more. If you’re like me and support yourself, not working is not an option. I work about 3 shifts a week. Not having your family in the same city/country makes it extra hard because there’s nothing to replace the comfort and support from having your family nearby.
Going through a dip is tough, it causes you to question yourself and your place at uni. It clouds your thoughts to the point you begin to think negatively and anxiously about everything. Like all your rationality is lost.
However, I am not writing this to scare you. Low points, especially during a transition, are inevitable. Everyone goes at their own pace, but whether you are walking in first year uni with ease or coming in with a mountain of stress ‘the valley’ will come. It will also pass. Annoyingly you can’t avoid it, but you can make it slightly less hard to pass through it.
Here are some of the things I did that helped me…
No. 1: Talk to other uni students.
This may seem like a bad idea considering the fact that a lot of the insecurity you feel during your dip is because you believe that everyone else is doing fantastically. But the thing is those are your assumptions and more often than not your assumptions are wrong. When I finally got over myself and asked how other people were coping with their assignments, I found that a lot of people were just as stressed out as I was. Obviously there were some who were breezing through, but some people handle stress differently than others. Being able to rant and talk to someone who understands how you feel really helps erase the thought that you’re the only one struggling.
No. 2: Do NOT sit and wallow alone in your room
Don’t be like me and prolong your time in ‘the valley’ by listening to sad music or watching movies to block out whatever is stressing you. Because after your sad songs playlist has repeated twice or ‘A Walk to Remember’ is finished, life is still waiting for you to face it.
No. 3: Find something that gives you positive energy
So instead of hiding in your room find things that give you positive energy. Whether that be exploring the city, going for long walks, praying or meditating, singing, dancing, painting or whatever brings you life and positive vibes – do it. It’ll help comfort your mind and the positive energy will help center your focus.
No. 4: Make a Plan
When you’re finally getting some rays of positivity back in you, make a plan to get through all your assignments and readings and whatever else it is you have to do. I highly suggest getting both a diary and a wall planner so you can see what you have to do on the daily, as well as be able to view your semester/year holistically.
No. 5: Call home
When all is lost, call home. Whether home is your parents or siblings, pets, your best friends, your significant other, your aunties and uncles, cousins or grandparents – just call. They might be able to say something no one else can that will help you get out of your funk. Those people who are your home know you, and are there to remind you of your strengths, and abilities and dreams when you forget.
They’ll probably get you too laugh even when you don’t want to, like my little brother.
My first dip in the rollercoaster of first year uni life was hard. I’m sure there will be a plethora of others throughout the course of the year and beyond, but it will pass and through it you’ll be able to gain a stronger work ethic, resilience, character and relationships with your loved ones. So embrace the dips and enjoy the ride.