How to deal with anxiety about living in halls

Most, if not all, prospective students are worried about starting university. However, for some, it goes further than that. Here, student Tamzin Snelling discusses how to deal with anxiety, or anxious feelings, about living in halls.

Feeling safe

For people that experience a type of ongoing anxiety, such as generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, the prospect of going to university is a daunting one.

Speaking from experience, I definitely understand the trials and tribulations involved with all the aspects of student life, especially when you deal with a form of anxiety. Living in halls was definitely not an exception to this. I was so worried before I moved into my accommodation. I couldn’t get the worst-case scenario out of my head.

A lot of my own anxiety comes from worrying about my personal safety, which includes my living situation. I have to feel completely secure in my surroundings before I can settle. Doors locked and triple checked, you catch my drift. This was a big concern of mine when coming to university. I thought a lot about how safe I would actually feel, due to the fact you are sharing a flat with a group of strangers. Of course, they do not stay strangers for long, and I did get to know them beforehand by using the Derby Uni applicant groups on Facebook. This leads to my first tip, that I essentially just gave away.

Getting to know you

Use the Derby Uni applicant groups on Facebook! This way, you can familiarise yourself with not just your course mates but flat mates too! It is a great way to meet people before uni and you could even arrange to meet up in person before you start. I would say it is important to socialise with your flatmates in the first few weeks in order to bond with them, get to know them and understand who they are as individuals, as well as how you will live in harmony.

For example, will you cook together or separately? Will you have a weekly kitty to share the cost of household items, or will you just buy your own products? I do not think this is necessarily a conversation you need to have unless you feel like that is appropriate. Most of the time, you sort of just realise within the first few days what the dynamic is going to be like.

Security

The second part of my anxiety about living in halls was how secure the accommodation building and each flat were. I have to say that I was actually surprised with how secure each flat is. In my particular building, there are numerous doors that you have to get through before getting to a flat/room, and I know the situation is similar in Derby’s other student accommodation too.

This really reassured me as I could see how difficult it would be for an unauthorised person to gain access to the building, and therefore my flat, so there is no way they could get to my own room. The building also has many procedures in place in case there is a fire, and the fire alarms are tested on a weekly basis. Do not worry, it’s done at mid-day during the week, so it is unlikely to wake you up!

Who to rely on

One thing I was particularly anxious about was who I could turn to in a difficult situation. When I say difficult situation, this could be anything. The sort of situation you would rely on your parent/guardian to resolve, from a broken light bulb to an argument between you and someone on the sixth floor. The answer to all of my problems, quite literally, is my hall manager. I go and talk to her about anything that is concerning me, when I feel like I have no-one to talk to.

These members of staff are highly trained but are also such friendly, accommodating people, who have your best interests at heart. They know how to fix any problem and they have probably heard your exact issue before. If they cannot personally deal with it, they can pass the problem on to the caretaker if it is a maintenance task or even the University if it concerns your wellbeing, for example.

Planning

Finally, something I think many people get worried about is just navigating living alone for the first time. How will you go about doing a weekly shop? How do you cook? What will you do when you are ill, or just miss home? Luckily, we live in a time where the internet exists, and there are endless resources to give you guidance on the road bumps that you may encounter.

I think one piece of generic advice I can give is to be organised. Plan. Plan your weekly shop, budget for it and make lists. It is the same with cooking. Look up simple recipes and see what you need to buy before incorporating the ingredients into your budget and shopping list.

Make lists of what to do if you find yourself ill or missing home. Before you fly the nest, ask your parents or guardians for some help on life practices such as the best place to buy medication, what tips and tricks do they have for cleaning, how do you wash all your clothes in one go without colours running. This way, you can put together plans which will put your mind at ease and hopefully cause you less stress down the line. This even works for missing home. Have a list in your phone of things you can do if you start to feel a little lonely. These can include video calling your family, making plans with your friends so you are distracted, or organising your next visit back to the homeland.

Home from home

Something I will say is that it is important to make your university halls your new home. Make them homely and accept within yourself that this will be where you are living for the foreseeable future. This will make it so much easier to come to terms with the move. Do not act like your halls are temporary, or like they are a hotel. This will reduce your homesickness, and therefore allow you to become more settled. Trust me, it worked for me.

If you want to hear more about how I made Derby my home, you can read my ‘Home is just a feeling‘ blog post. I have also told the story about my experience of halls on the University’s website.

Remember, it is OK to be scared. Being scared means you are about to do something really, really brave.

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