Leaving secondary school behind is exciting – and also nerve-wracking. So strap in for wellbeing 101: here’s how to look after yourself at uni.
Starting university is a pretty exciting time. For many people it will mean leaving home and setting out on a solo adventure – for some, that can mean leaving their hometown behind entirely. For others, it’s a deep dive into time management and coping with a variety of new experiences and academic pressures all at once. Add in new routines, late nights and simply finding your feet at university, and it can be a bit overwhelming.
The University of Auckland endeavours to create an environment where students feel safe, welcomed and part of a caring unit. However, learning to manage your stress, understand feelings of homesickness, juggle a hectic schedule, and form new relationships can all put the pressure firmly on you.
To make the most of your time at university, there are a few easy things you can do to help you with tertiary life.
Here are five steps to help take care of yourself at university:
Understand how you learn
Tertiary study is largely self-directed, which means you need to work out how you plan and study for assignments and exams. Are you a visual learner, or someone who prefers aural cues? Do you prefer practical exercises or reading and writing as a way to learn? Understanding the style of learning that suits you best will help you prepare for academic life at university.
There are an abundance of resources online through the University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services to help you navigate the new learning environment and equip you with the skills you need to succeed. Check out their guides on how to get the most out of your lectures, the time management toolkit to stay on top of your workload, and the collection of tips and strategies for faster and more effective reading so you can spend less time hitting the books.
If note-taking during class is new to you, try out the different styles and apps to see what works best for you, or, if you’re a more visual learner, have a play around with their online mind-mapping software. If you can’t seem to remember a thing after rereading your notes, the university has a simple guide on active study techniques to get your brain into gear.
Learn more about studying here.
Prepare to feel a little bit sick
Homesick that is! For those of you coming to study from elsewhere in New Zealand or abroad, recognise that the change of scene might trigger a few weird feelings. For many people, homesickness is a very real part of moving away from home, and it consumes them like grief. If you find yourself missing home and feeling this way, don’t panic. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal, and it will pass as you become accustomed to your new surroundings.
There are lots of proactive steps you can take to combat some of the feelings of homesickness, including staying active, socialising, doing things that you enjoy and getting enough sleep.
Homesickness doesn’t usually warrant a trip to a counsellor, and can generally be overcome without professional support. However, if you find that you’re concerned by persistent feelings of sadness, or worrying thoughts, the university’s Health and Counselling Services are available and can help with all issues that feel too big to manage on your own. This includes persistent low mood, high and debilitating anxiety, relationship issues, sexuality, and alcohol or drugs.
The university also provides a range of online self-help resources, which you can access at any time for support. To access self-help resources, or to find health, medical and counselling services, visit here.
Speak to a stranger
Making connections with others is a great way to put aside any feelings of loneliness and isolation. Yes, we know it’s not always that easy to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before, but trust us, you’ll be glad you made the effort! Friendships are so important to our overall wellbeing and mental health. If you need a hand catching up with like-minded people, check out some of the clubs on campus. There are a great range of clubs, societies and associations at the university covering just about every topic a person could think of. Your future friends are out there.
Every semester, there is a Clubs Expo with heaps of stalls set up on campus to give you a taster of everything that’s on offer and an opportunity to meet people. There are more than 200 clubs and societies, so whether you’re into sports, culture, food, health, gaming or the environment, you’ll be able to find something that’s right up your alley.
One of the university’s oldest and most popular clubs, the Tramping Club – founded way back in 1932 – has more than 800 members. They do all sorts of hikes around the country, as well as hosting events like parties, movie nights, balls and quiz nights throughout the year. If getting involved in a club isn’t your thing, no worries, just keep your ears and eyes open around campus, and follow the University of Auckland’s social pages to stay in the loop about all the upcoming events. Toga party anyone?
To find your tribe, click here.
Staying active is great for your mental health, and no, you don’t need to be a hard-core gym junkie to feel the positive effects. Simple acts like taking a longer route when walking between lectures, opting for stairs instead of the lift, or joining a class or two at the Rec Centre every week, will do wonders for your overall wellbeing.
The university’s Recreation Centre is the place to go for a proper sweat session between classes, or at the end of your day. The membership costs are super student-friendly too, with a 12-month subscription working out at just over $5 a week. The centre itself is decked out with all the equipment you could possibly need to do your own workout, as well as personal trainers, a squash court, sports hall, and multiple studios that have group classes on rotation – from yoga, Pilates and dance to pump, boxing and CrossFit. If you love the camaraderie of team sports, take your pick from the university’s many sports clubs.
For info on what’s happening at the Rec Centre, check out auckland.ac.nz/recreation or to find a sports club, head to auckland.ac.nz/sportsclubs
Don’t do a thing
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our wellbeing is to do very little at all! There will be times at university where you feel you must keep going, because you have a paper due or an exam looming. But getting a good night’s sleep (we’re talking eight full hours), or simply taking five minutes to be quiet, still and mindful can help improve memory retention and revitalise you.
In fact, taking time to be more mindful of your everyday experiences can help you regulate emotions and manage destructive thoughts. Handy!
The next step is a big one, but the university is here to help. Make the most of the great services available, and know that support is available if you need it.
The University of Auckland believes that, no matter where you’re from or who you are, your university experience should be one of equality, safety and inclusion – discrimination has no place at the university.
The university’s student and staff culture is diverse, and there is plenty on offer to make everyone feel a little more at home. Cultural and religious groups are easy to join, there is a strong network of LGBTQI staff and students, plus lots of support for disabled and transgender students too, including unisex toilets.
If you or someone you know feels unsafe, is experiencing harassment or discrimination, or needs support of any kind, you can get in contact with the team at the Equity office, who
are committed to keeping the university a safe, inclusive place to study and work.