Endings and Beginnings: Starting University

Three fingers as friends

So, first of all, before you move into Edge Hill halls, you need to know what to bring! Here’s a short guide on “What To Bring To Halls”. After moving in it’s time to be “Starting University and Making Friends”, so here is a piece on doing just that! Since I was in first-year, the Facebook groups for halls have changed slightly – now, there is a group for the whole cluster of halls you’re in eg. Back Halls, Palatine Court, not for the single building. Also, instead of it being managed by Student Advisors, they’re managed by a Campus Communicator – which for half the halls groups, is me! Of course, your old friends don’t just disappear after starting and moving to university so here’s my take on “Maintaining Old Friendships in New Places”.

Three fingers as friends

If you’re not someone who enjoys the packed atmosphere of going out, then you might prefer “A Night In On Campus”, board games, movie drinking games, or perhaps an Open Mic Night! During the first few days on campus, you might notice our the lovely “Birds On Campus” – I’m pretty sure there’s now the occasional heron by the North-West lake too! (Don’t forget to say hi to the cats and corvids as well, those witch-y familiars deserve love too).

After settling in during Welcome Week, the biology students amongst you might be wondering what’s next in store. Well, the “First Year Biology Modules” are the same across all biological sciences courses… or were a couple of years ago at least! Plus, the “Biosciences Cyprus Residential” field trip should be just around the corner, with fun and science aplenty.

Additionally, it’s never too early to start thinking about extracurricular activities you could get involved with that will help you develop your CV and yourself as you prepare for postgraduate life. So have a go at “Improving Your CV at EHU” and take a look at the “Fund for Student Opportunities” to see what you could get stuck into. Don’t let this all freak you out though, I know that adjusting to university can be a big step and know you’re not alone in “Coping With University Stress”. Take a breather; watch the birds. 😉

Last weeks in the USA

During the last few weeks of my time in the United States of America, I had a rapid tour of Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Chicago (although I lived there for around 9 months, there is always more to see – especially since the sun was finally out again)! The day after checking out the National Mall and the Burning Man sculptures (exhibit named “No Spectators”), Diana, who was accompanying me on this whirlwind tour, took me around Georgetown, a really pretty neighbourhood next to the Potomac River that also features a historic canal that is currently being restored. Since there had been a lot of rain before my visit, the Potomac was almost bursting its banks with rapids having formed along its length. From one of the bridges that crossed a sidestream, I was able to see rocks with tiny patches of vegetation hanging on for dear life – even a tiny tree struggling to stand its ground! One person was even kayaking in the main river, not for the fainthearted!

The next day we got a train to New York. Unfortunately, it was raining when we arrived and I, lacking a raincoat, got to ‘jellyfish up’ in a lovely yellow rain mac. The rain let off by the time we had eaten lunch, allowing us to see Times Square without being drenched. If you’ve ever been to London, think Piccadilly Circus but bigger – like most things in the US!

On the following day, we explored many squares in NYC, as well as some parks and Lady Liberty from a distance. NYC has some lovely areas to see, although it’s very compact and pretty busy too. I ate a traditional New York bagel (again, huge) with some vegan garlic and herb cream cheese, which was pretty damn good. Later on, we saw the 9/11 memorial fountains which were quite a sight to see. After seeing the sights, it was time for the flight back to Chicago and catching an Uber to the airport was an absolute nightmare!

To make the most of the sunny weather in Chicago, Diana and I took a trip up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens (CBG), I was particularly interested in seeing the bonsai trees. It’s a huge garden so there was no way for us to see all of it in the time we had, plus, it was far too hot to stay for long. On another sunny day, we visited the beach and I got to play some volleyball – a sport I’ve missed playing a bunch whilst in the states.

In the final few weeks before I left the US, I got to spend some time with some of the wonderful people I met whilst living in Chicago. We played games, went to the Lincoln zoo, had a boozy brunch, took an architectural boat tour, even went out to a club for a drag show. I’m very sad to leave them and my life in Chicago behind, but of course am excited for what the future holds back in the UK, including a summer internship with the Biology department at Edge Hill!

Dealing with Homesickness

Although many people will try to tell you they don’t miss home, or that they were so busy with new things they didn’t even think about it, it’s very likely that it’s not true.

It’s completely normal to feel homesick at any stage of university life, whether you’ve moved across the country or just a few miles away. Here are a few tips to help overcome it.

1- Talk about it.

It’s very likely, especially in the first few weeks of a new term that you won’t be the only one missing home. Talking to your flatmates or coursemates about home can help you to remember the good things about home, but also help you remember why you’ve moved away and all the good things that will bring.

2- Home comforts.

No matter how old you are, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing things that remind you of home, even if that is a cuddly toy! Other items that work include blankets, posters, and fairy lights. Anything that makes your room feel like your space, rather than just an empty room.

3- Photos

On the subject of home comforts, I advise you to buy yourself a photo album or two and print out some of your favourite photos and memories from home. Although now a days we mostly store our photos on our phones, there’s something a little bit more special about a physical copy, and looking through them can really help if you’re having a hard time.

4- Call home.

Don’t be ashamed to excuse yourself from social areas in your flat to make a phone call to the family. It helps you to stay in touch with news from home, and to connect with the people who up until now, you’ve most likely been living with all your life. Using apps such as FaceTime and Skype can enhance this as you get to see faces and places, rather than just voices.

5. Make new friends.

Although you may at times feel like you’re betraying life long friendships by making new friends while you’re away, you’re not. Your home friends would want you to be making new friends and having new experiences, and although at times this may be hard to see, it’s important to remember you can always stay in touch with them in different ways, even if you’re not physically present.