Little things can make a big difference.

In the lead up to the start of University my time was filled with the low key buzz of excitement and anticipation. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, usually a worrying realisation for me, but I felt sure that whatever would happen I would weather it and find the silver lining.

With this in mind, when my parents dropped me off, the intense feelings of loneliness and panic took me off guard. I had thought that I would somehow absorb the impact, the shock quickly stopped by layers of excitement and new experiences. But in my first week I felt pretty miserable underneath all the layers. I met my flatmates, explored Cardiff, joined societies, did the things that you were supposed to do to take care of yourself like buy food, do laundry, etc. Over the course of the first semester this became robotic: I would go to lectures, come home and do work, eat dinner, go to a society meeting, sleep, rinse, repeat. I was trudging along just fine on the surface, but underneath was a fair amount of turmoil.

“ I felt like I needed to hold someone’s hand all the time to get through things ”

This whirlpool of sadness, loneliness, frustration and longing to just be happier had an impact on others, too. I would call up my parents and friends from home at odd hours, incredibly upset, in tears and unable to stop panicking. They would always give me the best reassurance but it only helped for a handful of hours or a day at most. I felt like I needed to hold someone’s hand all the time to get through things, and it was having a devastating effect on my health. I was losing a lot of weight despite eating plenty, feeling really tired all the time and not really connecting with people on my course.

My parents were the biggest support I had and would visit me most weekends during that first semester, despite the trouble it caused them. Later they tried visiting me less, but this didn’t change how I was coping. They suggested that things would get better after the first semester, but in the moment things felt awful enough that I couldn’t get any perspective, couldn’t step away and see what was ahead of me and what I’d already mastered. I couldn’t see, only feel, and pretty terrible at that.

“ I stopped being such a robot, my routine became flexible and that was no longer scary. ”

Things came to a head during the lead up to and immediately after my January exam. I was considering changing course, at the possibility that perhaps that could make me feel better than I did. I talked to people and changed my mind about that, but for the next few weeks I was still fairly distraught.

Then things began to change. I can’t tell you that it was one particular thing or another – in fact, things seemed to happen all at once. Despite how I’d been feeling, I’d been doing well enough in the course, and I got funding to attend a big student conference that really inspired me. I made some new friends who I began to hang out with outside of my regular society schedule. I even began the process of starting a society with one of them. Part of it might have been that I had a collection of good marks in coursework behind me to give me more confidence in my ability. I stopped being such a robot, my routine became flexible and that was no longer scary. I began to really appreciate my connection with my new friends. I stopped relying solely on my parents, and the world around me opened up so that instead of feeling trapped in my own head, I could finally see where I stood.

“ But until they invent time travel, I’ll stick with being grateful for where I am ”

It all sounds a bit miraculous when put like that, but as I said, it was a lot of little things that turned things around. I hadn’t given up in trying to be happier, and it was a long time before I got there, or so it felt. That’s not to say that I don’t still get very real pangs of homesickness now and then, but it’s manageable and doesn’t negatively impact my life at university. Perhaps it was partly just time that I needed, and if I could have told myself how much better things would be in a few months, I would have. But until they invent time travel, I’ll stick with being grateful for where I am, and glad that I got here without giving up.

To anyone who might feel the same way, although things do feel awful, stressful and lonely in the moment, and though you might not believe it until it happens, things really do get better. Sometimes the best thing to do is to stick to your guns, keep your interests and hobbies going and don’t lose heart – time can solve most things.

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Written by Kalika Puri, 1 year ago