First Year at University – Swimming or Sinking?

11 April 2016

Semester One is well underway and hopefully you are starting to feel that you have found your feet and got your head around how everything works.  Over the past few weeks however, I have had a number of conversations both students and their parents about how difficult the transition can be.

It is a major transition from Secondary School and NCEA, no doubt about it! And there is so much new information to take on board that you might not be aware of just how much help is actually available If you still feel like you are spending more time sinking than swimming.  The big ‘but’ is that in most cases you have to be the one to seek out that help – unlike secondary school where teachers may have known you better and stepped in when they saw you struggling.

If you do have that sinking feeling, there are three sources of support on campus you need to be making the most of – in fact the whole point of them is to help you succeed!

Firstly, if you are seriously doubting the course you are enrolled in, then make an appointment to talk to your academic staff.  Many students find the first year hard work – you might be trying to catch up in a subject where your prior knowledge is not so good, or not sure whether the programme is going to take you in the right direction after all.  Remember that first year programmes are about giving you the broad base of knowledge you need in order to go on to the second and third more specialised years.

The second is the learning support centre on campus.  They can help you with anything from time management, study skills, writing essays and reports through to help with any physical or learning challenges you may be experiencing.

And the third is your student support centre.  These guys are the ones that can offer a friendly face and helping hand when things aren’t going so well in your personal life. You may be struggling with relationships, with homesickness, with health issues or really feeling like you are sinking.  Student support staff and volunteers are young, they get what you are going through, and they can offer real practical support.

Alongside support, there is also a huge range of opportunities out there for you to grab hold of. Unfortunately finding these can get lost in the sheer mass of new information you have been presented with this semester.  Make yourself familiar with the website and how things are advertised.

Most places offer a range of exchange options where you can complete part of your degree (often one semester) in a University overseas, BUT these usually have to take place in the second year, which means you need to be looking at them and organising them NOW.

You will also find (if you haven’t already) an almost limitless range of clubs where you can follow your interests or get into something completely new. And increasingly our tertiary institutions are offering significant volunteer opportunities and programmes (in the wake of the Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch).  These are another way of getting involved in the new city you are living in, expanding your networks, and they provide a real point of difference on your CV when it comes to finding your first job.

Regardless of whether you feel you are sinking or swimming – and it might change from week to week – the support and opportunities you need are all there on campus.  And what you do with them is up to you.

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