Helping you get through tough times

Moving away to go to college

Armchair next to boxesMaking the decision about whether to move away or stay home for college isn’t an easy one and there’s pros and cons on each side.

If you’re still making that decision, remember whatever you chose is OK and should be about what you want, not what anyone else thinks you should do.

If you decide to go away to study, or you’re already there, it can be brillinat craic, but it doesn’t come without its problems. It can also mean a lot of adjustment.

Leaving home

No matter how much you might be looking forward to it in theory, leaving home is always a bit hard. The chance to make new friends, have new experiences and be more independent is really exciting, but it’s also OK to be feeling scared, homesick or lonely.

Leaving the familiar behind is tough for anyone, but it’s amazing how you can adapt to new surroundings with a bit of time.

Becoming involved in activities on campus can help you to make friends and settle in. Read leaving home for more on this.

Living on campus or in residences

Many people who choose to move away to study decide to live on campus or in college residences. While it can be very exciting and the atmosphere can be great, it can also be a bit stressful. Some things that may make it stressful include:

  • being in an unfamiliar environment
  • living with new people and getting used to different personalities/habits
  • feeling sad about being away from your old friends
  • being worried that you won’t make new friends
  • finding it hard to study with everything that’s going on around you
  • being tired from all the energy involved with moving or participating in orientation activities
  • pressure to drink and go out a lot
  • feeling harassed by other students – if this is happening, check out dealing with bullying.

Making life easier at a college

You’re not alone if you experience any of these feelings. It’s likely that other people who have just moved away for the first time are going through the same thing. You might find it helps to talk to other people about how they’re feeling, or speak to some older students about their experiences of moving away from home to study.

Give it time – big changes often take time to adjust to. Moving away from home and starting at college is a big move. It’s important to allow yourself time to get used to the change. Try to take one day at a time. It’s likely that life will start to get easier as you become more familiar with the routine away from home and start to make new friends.

Stay in contact with old friends – while you are making new friends try to stay in touch with your old friends. Chat to your old friends about how you are feeling about starting at college. They might be having similar concerns. Although you’re unable to see them face-to-face, keep in touch via email, instant messaging (IM), phone or mail.

Keep in mind that friends at home may be a bit slack in getting back to you. Try not to take this personally. It may be because they’re still doing similar things and are in their comfort zone so are unaware of how important their contact with you is. It may help to let them know how much you enjoy hearing from them. You can also invite them to see you.

Have something to look forward to – sometimes it’s helpful to plan ahead so that you have something to look forward to. You may want to plan to catch up with friends during the holidays or plan to do something special if your parents are coming to visit you.

Another idea would be to spend the weekend exploring your new city or town. Buying a guidebook of the area is a great way to get to know your new environment.

Get involved – a good way to make new friends is to become involved in activities that interest you. This way you are meeting people you have things in common with. Most colleges organise activities such as sport, parties, or formal dinners. These activities are often a great way to meet new people and have fun at the same time.

Try to participate in orientation and freshers’ week activities – many colleges organise Freshers’ Week activities to introduce new students to college life and provide opportunities to meet new people. Often times Freshers’ Week activities are organised by older students from the college, which gives you a chance to learn from their experiences of moving away from home and ask them any questions you may have. Read getting though freshers’ week for more information.

Create your own space – making your space your own can help you to bring a bit of home to campus life. Posters, your favourite duvet cover, books, posters, CDs and photos may help to make your space more like home.

Express yourself – being able to express how you are feeling may help to release some of the tension you may be carrying around with you.

Talk to someone – it may be helpful to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. This may be a friend or family member. Sometimes talking to someone who is not so close to the situation may be helpful. This could be a counsellor at college or older students. You can also call Samaritans on 1850 609090.

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This article was last reviewed on 24 April 2017

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