For most of us, the move to university entails moving to a region and with it, comes moving away from the family and people that we have known and loved for years. As I have previously mentioned, this is new, it’s exciting, it’s inspiring. In fact, many of us actively WANT to leave home. In those first few weeks upon leaving home, halls of residence make huge efforts to both bring people together and to help them feel as much at home as possible; feeling comfortable in such a huge city becomes easy very quickly. Tight-knit floor communities form, Gong Cha and coffee dates are common and lectures are super exciting, as they are completely different from high school classes. Being at university is a thrilling introduction to adulthood, being surrounded by positive and motivated people, culture and support. However, despite university having more than its fair share of pros, it also comes with a few cons.
A huge topic of reflection that has presented itself to me over the last six months in Auckland has been that of mental health. Over the course of my life, I have experienced first-hand the effects of mental health that isn’t at its best; seeing it with my friends, family and in myself. Until last year, I found mental health issues quite difficult to understand and relate to even though it was close to me. In some ways, I was quite ignorant. Before coming to uni, I experienced some uncontrolled weight loss and minor anxiety, and coming into uni I had techniques to deal with times when I would be overly stressed out or anxious. As I was familiar with anxiety before coming to university, I have found myself to be quite good at dealing with it after moving from home.
However, over time I noticed some changes in a few people that are close to me at university due to stress; and by the end of the semester, I also noticed a few changes in the way that I was acting and the way that I was thinking. Recently I have done quite a bit of self-evaluation, reflecting upon the things that I did well in semester 1, and the things that I did not so well.
Unfortunately, sometimes being surrounded by people 24/7 is difficult; and of course, in any degree there is a fair share of ‘type A’ personalities as there will always be some degree of competitiveness. At times I found this a bit tricky, even though I was proud of the grades that I had achieved. Often, I found myself attending lectures and then immediately leaving at the end to go back to my hall as I didn’t want to engage with certain people. To combat this, I began viewing uni itself as less of a set of individual classes and more as a full working day, where I would avoid going home until my last class had finished, and spend some time either working by myself or with friends on campus or go for walks around campus. This also really helped to get over the lethargy that I felt after a morning lecture and stop me from taking ‘uni naps’ in the middle of the day. Being extremely tired and sleepy throughout the day can also be quite isolating in halls as I have seen some friends of mine spend a lot more time in their rooms than they normally would, especially around exam season. Sometimes it was hard to get ‘out and about’ especially when I really didn’t want to, but I have found that it genuinely helped me to feel better and to study more efficiently.
Yes, regardless as to whether you are in a hall or not, you will constantly be surrounded by extremely highly motivated students, and yes, that does tend to influence your overall drive too. However, despite encouragement from those around you, university takes a huge degree of self-drive and time management. Since being in Auckland, I have seen the shortfall of people that poorly managed their time and ended up excessively stressed, anxious and down by exam season.
That being said, from my experience at O’Rorke Hall, the pastoral care has been incredible. My RA has been extremely supportive and always ready to listen, and I have found that every RA at O’Rorke has been very easy to approach and talk to. Also, if you find that things are getting a bit too much and that the workload and stress of university are getting on top of you, the uni also offers 6 free counselling sessions with University Health and Counselling. I would recommend using these even if you don’t have any issues with mental health.