Ailie and Angela's Advice for Freshers

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It’s possible that the prospect of starting uni in a few days is starting to stress you out a bit! Here at the Student Union, we have Ailie and Angela, our wonderful Student Advisors, who are here to help make sure that things run smoothly.

“Welcome to all new students.  For many of you, this is the start of your journey as a university student - an overwhelmingly exciting and transformational time in your life, the beginning of new discoveries, new carefree friendships, parties, laughs, and long holidays.

Really??? Have a quick look online or talk to any other student and you’ll find out that most of you, in reality, are going to be pretty stressed at times. Why? Lots of reasons: maybe you’ll be an international student and trying to settle in a completely different country and speak a different language. Maybe you’re trying to balance time spent doing coursework and meeting deadlines while trying to work and make money…throw in time spent with the flu, a break-up or two and trying to find a new flat – it can get to be too much at times.

So yes, being a student is exciting and transformational but it is also an incredibly challenging journey to navigate without getting lost at times and needing a helping hand.

So what can you do to prepare? What can you do from the moment you arrive to make being at Heriot-Watt a positive experience? And what can we do to help you?

Here are some ideas from your Student Union Advice Hub:

Settle into your room:

Make your room (whether in campus accommodation or elsewhere) as attractive and comfortable as you can. It will be your temporary cave. Maybe use cushions and lamps, gym equipment, personal photos, posters or art-work. Do what it takes to make your room feel a familiar, safe retreat and a new home you feel settled in.

Explore the campus around you:

Riccarton Campus and Scottish Borders Campus are both amazing places. For those of you at Riccarton; there are woodland walks, the Loch with swans and ducks, the sunken garden, the cycle paths, Oriam Sports Centre, and bus links into Edinburgh. Get to know it, and appreciate it – you are based for the duration of your studies in what was once a beautiful and historical estate garden; where you can walk, run, cycle, and relax. For SBC students; you’re in the heart of the green valleys of the Borders, surrounded by the heritage of the textile industry. Be inspired and apply it!

Explore outside the campus:

Get yourself sorted with a GP and Dentist on campus or near where you are living. These practical steps will help you feel secure and settled. Join Oriam and rent a bike from the Bike Bothy. Explore the Student Union Shop and say hi to us across the corridor. Find out about the daily shuttle bus connecting Riccarton and SBC. Check out where your nearest supermarket is, or how to get a delivery online. Clock the cashpoints. Get a bus pass at the Student Union reception, and spot the Amazon Delivery Lockers when you have mac and cheese in Libertys.

With your Fresher’s Week coming up, something to keep in mind is this: not all stress is bad. Stress is sometimes about you stepping out of your comfort zone to try to do new things. It can feel uncomfortable, everyone feels it but as a result you’ll grow and learn about new boundaries and maybe make a few friends along the way! Same goes for the stress you’ll feel about coursework and exams; it can spur you on to read that extra paragraph more or have that essay done a few days early. It can be a help and a hindrance at the same time. Assignments and exams are meant to be hurdles - not walks in the park.

While you’re here taking good advice; eat and sleep properly, make sure to get a bit of exercise in, don’t smoke and don’t take yourself too seriously – you’ll have a lot more fun if you try to see the positive things life throws at you!

If things do go wrong however, you have options and there are things we can do to help. The biggest thing is to ask for help! No one is perfect, no one gets it right all the time, and difficult situations happen to us all. As a student, you get free access to the University Wellbeing Services which includes an amazing counselling service and can assist you in getting help with any disabilities or support needs you may have; no matter how minor or complex their impact is for you. You also have a committed and incredibly helpful Security Team who are present at both Riccarton and SBC 24/7. You have a personal tutor and other academic staff to turn to for academic support and guidance, along with the library who run workshops on referencing, essay writing, finding primary sources and more!

On top of all these people you have us, your Student Union advisors, based in the Advice Hub (opposite the shop) and you can tell us about anything that’s troubling or puzzling you.

Finally, finally - but very, very, very importantly! - if you feel lonely and socially anxious, and everyone else seems to be totally relaxed making friends and chatting to other people, remember two things:

  1. It may seem like that but it isn’t true – LOTS of students struggle socially even if you can’t spot that.
  2. Be patient with yourself – you may be someone who takes longer to connect with other people and for your friendships to develop. If being lonely is hard going and painful, consider joining a society or sports team, or volunteering with the Student Union, or come and chat with us in the Advice Hub – you will always be very, very welcome. You can also check out the chaplaincy which is there for absolutely every student regardless of faith/no faith.


Angela Milton and Ailie Robertson

Student Advisors based in the Student Union Advice Hub

Hugh Nisbet Building (opposite the student shop)




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