Marese O’Hagan, BA Eng/Social Anthropology | 17 August, 2018
From finding a university society that's right for you to maxing the support services on offer, here is how you can be your best self at university.
Starting university as a shy person can definitely feel overwhelming. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I couldn’t help but worry about the changes I’d encounter and the new social situations I’d be faced with. Here are some of the strategies that helped me when starting university, which led me to becoming happier and a more confident!
1.Find your voice
This one sounds obvious, but it’s so important. I can be the type of person to sit back and hope someone starts a conversation with me, but it’s important to try and be the person who initiates conversation sometimes! Don’t get me wrong, suddenly being in a new group of people can be very daunting, but don’t be afraid to give your opinion or thought, or even to start up a whole new topic of conversation. Remember- your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. Also, not only can starting up conversation with even a couple of people make you feel more at ease in a social situation, but it can even help you to expand your social circle.
2.Don’t ignore email invites
Again, a little bit obvious. But every year students flock to the Freshers’ Fair, some to look around at the societies, some to get a few freebies, and some to do both. It’s common to sign up for multiple opportunities, and then ignore the follow-up emails until you leave university. Try to resist the urge to sign up for things you know you probably won’t follow up on, and focus your sights on a few things that you’ll definitely want to keep up. It’s a great way to meet people that might not be in your classes, or in your accommodation, all while filling up some extra space on your CV (and impressing future employers)!
3.Class participation, class participation, class participation!
For me, class participation counts as 10% of most of my modules. Although this is something you should definitely focus on from day one, I wasn’t really bothered. I told myself that it wasn’t really worth much, and didn’t force myself to speak up. I wish I could go back in a time machine and shake first-year Marese for even thinking this! Class participation is so important, not just for your grades, but also for your personal development. Try to speak up at least once per tutorial. You don’t even have to feel pressured about introducing a new idea- try to challenge someone else’s (politely of course). This shows you’ve really thought about the topic, and will go down great with your tutor as well as helping you gain a bit more confidence. Win-win!
4.Check in with yourself
With all the buzz of starting university, it’s easy to get caught up in the tide. Although you might be having the time of your life, remember to also take time to focus on yourself, mentally and physically. You might figure out some surprising things about yourself, and even see areas for improvement (I know I’m not the only one who’s crammed in a reading or two the morning of the tutorial). Taking just a little bit of time every so often to make sure you’re not feeling stressed or unhappy can do wonders for your social confidence and self-esteem! And even if you do find that you’re struggling in certain areas, you can reach out to Student Wellbeing at Queen’s for help.
5.Just Be Yourself
You’ve probably rolled your eyes at this one. I mean this sincerely though- don’t try and paint yourself as this entirely different person, just because starting university can mean a fresh start. You‘re a bit of a dork when it comes to Game of Thrones? Great! Mention it in the odd social situation and you’ll definitely find yourself friends of a similar vein (because, come on, who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones?). Were you a camogie champion at school? Fantastic! Don’t downplay it because you don’t think your new friends will be into it, they might surprise you! As long as you’re true to your values, you’ll know that every friend you do make knows you for who you are.
These are tips that I’ve really found helpful when dealing with the changes university life will offer you. Sticking to these has helped me become more self-assured- not just in university, but also in life!
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