Grace’s Reality Check – The Challenges of Being a First-Year Uni Student

This University Mental Health Day, we delve into the realities of the new university journey and its impact on mental health. In this blog, Grace shares some of the hurdles she’s encountered during the first stage of her university career.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast at uni. I’m really pleased with the course I’ve chosen, and I’m embracing new ways of learning, living and working. I feel really lucky to be living in halls of residence with a group of people that I instantly became friends with, and I love my newfound independence and being accountable for my own decisions.

I’ve immersed myself in uni life, I’m doing well, and actually, I’m really proud of myself. However, I realise now how big a step going to uni really was (and still is!). There are many unanticipated curveballs life throws at you, and I’ve realised it’s perfectly normal to not feel great all the time.

Like many, I moved away to uni straight after finishing year 13. I had this idea that the degree would be easier than A levels, I’m not really sure why. And whilst I was glad to finally ditch the biology A level, this wasn’t necessarily the case, and deadlines and workloads were more intense than I expected.

Things I never thought would be an issue, suddenly were. I had a tooth infection quite early on, for example, and suddenly just wanted to be back home being looked after by someone else. I hadn’t registered at a dentist so had to organise getting home for treatment and antibiotics.

I suddenly had to manage my own money, like really manage it. I wanted to go out with my friends and to begin with, prioritised that rather than looking after my health and diet. Then one day, I woke up feeling really under the weather and it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a proper food shop in four weeks, and it was taking a toll on me. Not only did I have headaches and a cold, I was really struggling to sleep at night. For the first time I felt quite overwhelmed and homesick, and I really missed our two dogs!

I consider myself to be a strong person, and I admit I put on a front. But after yet another horrendous night’s sleep, I called my mum and broke down in tears. I immediately felt better just letting it out. We discussed each issue in turn so it didn’t feel like one massive problem:


I know I’m lucky to have a great support network of friends and family, and ‘home’ is only an hour and a half away from uni. We talked about the next visit home which wasn’t far away. Mum also shared her own uni experience, about how she called her own parents after the first week saying she was dropping out and demanding to be picked up and brought home!! It made me realise I wasn’t alone, this feeling was very common and with the right approach, these feelings of anxiety would ease. Most importantly, through simply discussing it, I realised that it was simply the symptom of other things getting on top of me.


It’s obviously not rocket science, I’d been spending a bit too much on enjoying myself. That being said, I don’t think my parents fully realised how much more things cost these days, and there was always an agreement that I would prioritise making friends etc in the first year and then would plan to get a job at uni in my second year. As I knew I would soon be working during the Easter break, my parents lent me some money to do a decent ‘healthy’ food shop to tide me over till then.



Poor eating habits and too many late nights took its toll on my sleep patterns, and I suddenly found myself lying awake for hours at night overthinking everything. To break this pattern, we discussed getting some fresh air with a walk in the park after studying and food shopping, as well as resisting the urge to nap in the afternoon. I also downloaded a cheap hypnosis audio, listened to that on headphones at bedtime, and felt the benefits that same night.


I decided quite early on that I wasn’t that great at working in my flat, surrounded by distractions. So, as I made friends with people on my course, we would buddy up and head to the library, study centres or sometimes a coffee shop to work and this really worked for me.

The first chapter of my uni journey has been wonderful, exciting and eye-opening, but navigating the whirlwind of challenges that come with it certainly hasn’t been plain-sailing.

I’ve found that there’s strength in reaching out for support when I need it, and breaking down problems means they are so much more manageable.”

Support and Resources

South Warwickshire and Worcestershire Mind can help arm you with a self-care toolkit to better manage your mental health. With a variety of services for anyone suffering ill mental health, we’re here to support you. Check out all our services here.