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 and see all the solid research articles which indicate that most of you, in reality, are going to be pretty stressed at times. Why? Lots of reasons: The expense, the juggling of part-time jobs, the shock of being away from home and missing family. (Some of you will be very far away from home – in a new culture and using a different language!) Throw in relationship and accommodation issues… Then throw in assignment deadlines and academic issues… Then throw in anxieties about job prospects and debt…

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, happy, successful experience? And what can we do to help you? Here are some ideas from your Student Union Advice Hub:

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.

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!

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.

We’re sorry, this may be very boring but it has to be said. EAT properly, SLEEP properly and get a bit of EXERCISE. It is simply a fact that these three things are unbelievably important for your wellbeing. Oh, four things actually - QUIT SMOKING.

This one is also a biggie. ASK FOR HELP. No one is perfect, no one gets it right all the time, and sometimes difficult situations happen to us all. ASK FOR HELP! 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. You can get IT support and help in the library. And your school office staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. 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.

You can shut your ears to this if you like - we’re sorry, but we have to say it. Stress is not all bad. Stress is sometimes about you stepping out of your comfort zone to try to do new things. This is uncomfortable; but as a result, you grow, you learn, and you mature, which is fantastic. So you do have to be prepared to embrace a bit of adrenaline and anxiety, and you have to be prepared to put in the work to stay on top of your studies! Assignments, deadlines, and exams are meant to be hurdles, not walks in the park. Which brings us on to our second last (but very important) suggestion in this blog…

Laugh and smile with others, and at yourself. Try your best to see the positive side of life. Try to be pleased and happy with your achievements so far (you got into university, didn’t you?). If something goes wrong, or if you make mistakes, don’t panic and don’t despair. There will always be a way to get you back on track. Did we mention ASK FOR HELP? Sorry to be repetitive.

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) Stay patient and strong in 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 checking out the chaplaincy which is there for absolutely every student regardless of faith/no faith. Or come and chat with us in the Advice Hub – you will always be very, very welcome.

Angela Milton and Ailie Robertson

Student Advisors based in the Student Union Advice Hub

Hugh Nisbet Building (next to the student shop)

Advice.hub@hw.ac.uk