Advice for new students

Preparing to come to University is an exciting time for most students. Whether you are returning to study a Postgraduate programme, just leaving school or you're starting an Undergraduate programme as a mature student you are likely to have mixed feelings about starting University.

Most students will have spent some time thinking about studying for their course, financial commitments and the logistics of moving to a new place or starting their course. However, it is really important for students to also think about their health and wellbeing as these elements will underpin their study and enable them to get the most out of university life.

The Wellbeing Service has also created a toolkit (My Wellbeing Toolkit) which aims to support students to build skills which will develop their resilience and support their wellbeing. You can access this toolkit through the VLE system once you have registered at University. 

Preparing to arrive at University can be an exciting yet daunting time. Moving to a different place, living with new people or just adjusting to studying again can be stressful for new students. It is normal to feel a little apprehensive about what the first few weeks will involve, but being prepared will help you to feel more confident and in control when you arrive.

Freshers' Week

There is a lot of expectation surrounding Fresher’s week and a lot of information for students about how to 'adjust' to the week. Some students have very high expectations about what this week will be like.  However, it is worth remembering you will be adjusting to a lot of changes and if you don’t have the amazing experience you were expecting then not to be too disappointed.

Before you arrive it is worth doing some research about your new surroundings. This will help you to feel more prepared.  Have a plan about what you can do in these first couple of weeks whilst you get used to University life.

Watch a video from one of our students discussing their experience of Freshers' week.

What you can do to prepare for University

First day

If you’re re-locating, plan your first day in your new home – will you unpack and spend the day with friends/family or will you go and meet people in your halls/on campus? Introducing yourself early on helps you to feel more connected to your new home – knock on doors in halls, go to communal areas, or go to Fresher’s events and strike up a conversation. Everyone is in the same boat and most people will be happy to meet new people.

Make a plan

Have a look at your timetable and the events happening at University for your first few weeks before you get there. Think about when you are likely to have free time and what you may want to do in that time - whether it’s go to the gym, explore the area or find your local shop. Your plans can change if something else comes up, but having some ideas about how you will spend your week can help you feel more in control.

Get to know your surroundings 

Research the town you are living in and find a café, cinema, restaurant, bar, or local sight that you will explore/visit in your first week – you could invite new flatmates or friends along to break the ice once you arrive. Finding your way around your new surroundings will help you feel more settled.

Get cooking

If you are in non-catered accommodation, practice doing a weekly shop for a few weeks before University to get used to managing a budget and cooking your meals. Look up where your nearest supermarket is before you arrive and plan a few meals to make in your first week.

Manage your money

If this is the first time you have had responsibility for your money, think about how much you will have to live on each term and create a budget to guide you. There are apps to help you see what you are spending and create budgets. Have a look at Studential for more information.

Looking after your wellbeing

Thinking about your wellbeing and being mindful of it whilst at University is a really important part of your overall health and happiness. Most peoples’ mental health and wellbeing does fluctuate day to day, but experiencing a lot of changes can make us more vulnerable to this. Being aware of your mood and when your wellbeing may be slipping will mean you can take action early on and prevent issues from building up and affecting your University experience.

Take a look at our video with tips on how to maintain your wellbeing once you arrive at University.

Ways to boost your wellbeing

Here are some further resources to support your wellbeing that you may find useful:

  • Building skills which support your resilience can leave you better able to face challenges and help boost your wellbeing. Take a look at the Wellbeing Toolkit to help you to explore some of these skills. 
  • You can find more information and resources online to support your wellbeing by looking at the self-help section on our website 
  • Student Minds have created a resource for students talking about a variety of issues that impact students when they are transitioning to University 

We can help!

If you are affected by these or any issues when you arrive, remember that there are lots of services on campus designed to offer support. Asking for help is the best way to address any issues early on and many students find they need a bit of support in these early weeks and months.

Make an appointment to access support such as Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or group workshops 

Getting good sleep is vital for our wellbeing, functioning and ability to store and retain information. Lack of sleep can have a significant effect on your ability to study.

Did you know?

  • The NHS recommends that most people need 8 hours sleep per night. The amount of sleep you need may differ from other people so think about what works for you
  • Good quality sleep is more important than the amount of sleep you get
  • Our mood can be affected when we don’t get enough sleep, it can lead you to feel more depressed, irritable and angry
  • Lack of sleep can affect creativity and can increase stress hormones
  • Sleep is important as it helps to make connections between thoughts and ideas, enables you to remember what you learnt that day and gives your body time to recover

Watch our short video with hints and tips for sleeping well to keep you feeling your best.

How to get a good night's sleep

Get into a routine

Most days try to get up and go to bed at the same time, despite what you may have on the next day. Sticking to the routine even if you have a late night or didn’t sleep well will help you to not be affected the following night

Prepare for sleep

If you find it hard to fall asleep then take an hour before you go to bed to relax – read, meditate or listen to music. Avoid eating close to bedtimes as it’s harder to fall asleep when your body is digesting food. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime as they can lead to more disruptive sleep. Make sure your room is as comfortable as it can be – the temperature, air quality, noise and light levels, and comfort of your bed can all impact your sleep

Be mindful of napping

Power naps can be helpful, but long afternoon naps or sleeping later in the day can affect your ability to sleep later on.

Exercise

Exercise can help us to feel ready for sleep.

Deal with problems in the day

Coping with difficult thoughts and feelings can affect our ability to sleep. Try to resolve any issues in the day time (see the Problem Solving techniques in the Wellbeing Toolkit for help), talk to friends and family or a tutor to address any issues or visit the Wellbeing Service.

Get out and about

Make sure you get outside for some fresh air. This can help our bodies differentiate between day and night which produces hormones that induce sleep. This applies particularly in winter months when the days are shorter.

Go digital free

Avoid screens an hour before you go to bed – the light from the screens sends messages to the brain that it is day time, hormone changes occur that then make us feel more awake

We can help!

If you are affected by these or any issues when you arrive, remember that there are lots of services on campus designed to offer support. Asking for help is the best way to address any issues early on and many students find they need a bit of support in these early weeks and months.

Regular exercise helps us to keep fit and healthy which has a positive impact on both our mind and body.

Did you know?

  • The NHS recommends engaging in at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, for example, cycling, jogging or swimming.
  • Exercising more frequently can reduce your risk of some major illnesses such as stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
  • When you exercise your body works harder which strengthens your organs such as your heart.
  • Doing weight-bearing exercises will strengthen your bones and build your muscle, which can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis.
  • Exercising releases endorphins which help you to feel good!
  • Exercise can help you to de-stress, pause racing thoughts and can help your creative thinking.
  • Exercising regularly can boost your self-esteem. You may learn a new skill, such as basketball or yoga, and seeing yourself improve in fitness and ability can have a great impact on self-esteem as well as the health benefits of the exercise itself.

Watch our short video with hints and tips for exercising well to keep you feeling your best.

We understand that everyone has different abilities and capabilities when it comes to exercise. Knowing and acknowledging your limits is important, you may have to find more alternative ways to stay fit and healthy. Congratulate yourself for doing the best that you can do.

How to get active

Go for a daily walk

You could walk to the supermarket to do your shopping and take your rucksack and some reusable carrier bags. Devon is also full of beautiful countryside to walk/run or cycle around, and it’s all free!

Work out when you want

Find out when you are most motivated to exercise – some people like to get up early and others prefer to exercise in the evenings. Decide when suits you best, pick an activity and make it a regular habit.

Use your study breaks

Use your study breaks to do an online workout, DVD or go for a walk outside and get some air. This can help to re-focus you on your studies when you return and get your heart rate and metabolism going through the day.

Take small steps to keep active

Take the stairs. Always, if you can. Get up and visit a friend in halls or in another student house rather than texting them.

Get involved

There are lots of sports clubs, classes and societies around campus which can make exercise more interesting. You can learn a new skill, meet new people and being part of a team can help you stay motivated to keep exercising.

Find out more

With over 200 societies and 50 sports clubs to choose from there really is something for everyone at the University of Exeter, have a look at some of the options from the list below and pick an activity you would like to try!

  • We have state of the art fitness centres on our three main University campuses. The Russell Seal Fitness Centre provides a fantastic facility on our Streatham Campus and offers a wide range of fitness classes as well as Tennis, Golf, Badminton and Cricket. The Sports Centre at St Luke's offers access to a heated indoor swimming pool and a wide range of classes including yoga and Pilates. 
  • If you are interested in exploring ways to support your wellbeing further, take a look at the My Wellbeing Toolkit on the Exeter Learning Environment. This contains information and activities on topics which can support your resilience and keep you feeling your best during your studies.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential for our bodies and minds to function at their best.

Did you know?

  • Its best to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates include dairy daily (or dairy alternatives) and eat plenty of protein
  • Eating too many foods high in saturated fats, salt, sugar (such as takeaways, sweets, cakes and ready meals) can lead to increase in cholesterol, weight gain, and increase the risk of diabetes  
  • Choosing foods that release energy slowly (wholemeal bread, brown rice, beans) will help to keep your sugar levels steady and along with it your mood and ability to study
  • Drink approximately 2 litres of water per day. More if you have been exercising or have consumed lots of caffeine and/or alcohol as these can leave you dehydrated
  • Eat approximately 2000-2500kcal per day. Everyone is different so be mindful of what your body needs
  • Think about your portion sizes – protein should fit into the palm of your hand, and vegetables should take up at least half of your plate for most meals
  • Its ok to have some treats every now and then and not be too rigid about your diet
  • What you eat can affect your mood so try to eat healthy food where possible

Watch our short video below with hints and tips on healthy eating to keep you feeling your best.

How to maintain a healthy diet

Eat regularly

Eating throughout the day (ideally 3 meals and 2-3 healthy snacks – no skipping breakfast!) is the best way to keep your energy levels topped up

Plan ahead

Try and plan your meals for the week ahead, or at least for the next day. This helps grocery shopping be more cost effective and avoids waste as well as helping you to get a balanced diet. Share some items with your flatmates in halls such as milk and bread to share costs and avoid waste. Shopping online can help you to plan ahead, avoid impulse buys and you can split delivery costs with a group. Carry healthy snacks with you to keep your energy levels up and avoid unhealthy impulse buys

Focus on the season

Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season is more cost effective.

Cook with friends

Cook in bulk and cook with friends– either cook a meal together or take it in turns to cook for a group of friends and freeze leftovers.

Take packed lunch

Although there are lots of food outlets and shops on campus, you may want to consider taking a packed lunch onto campus with you when you know you have a day full of lectures, studying and activities. Last night’s leftovers can make a great lunch!

Think ‘rainbow’

If you are in catered accommodation then vary your choices and think about making sure you get a wide variety of foods throughout the day. Try to think about eating fruits and veg of all of the colours of the rainbow, this will ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Have fun!

Cooking doesn’t need to be a chore. Vary your diet by trying new foods and recipes often.

Find out more

We can help!

If you are affected by these or any issues when you arrive, remember that there are lots of services on campus designed to offer support. Asking for help is the best way to address any issues early on and many students find they need a bit of support in these early weeks and months.

Establishing healthy study habits early on will help you to keep on top of your workload, manage deadlines and support your wellbeing whilst you are at University.

Self-expectations

Some students put themselves under a lot of pressure to perform at University. Naturally students want to do their best, but maintaining some perspective, keeping a healthy balance between study and other interests and being mindful of how realistic your expectations of yourself are can help to avoid undue stress.

Watch our short video of one student's experience of studying at University. 

How to practise positive study habits

What do you already know?

Before you embark on any study, take a quick mental check on what you already know about the topic. It will help you target your work

Break it down

Break down the tasks you need to do into small bitesize chunks so that they are achievable.

Plan ahead

Plan how you will manage your reading lists for each course at the beginning of term. A good tip is start with more general reading to get a grip of the topic before reading more specialised texts.

What suits you?

Everyone has their own methods for studying - some people like to have silence, work best in the mornings or work best when they are under pressure. Knowing what works best for you and planning around this is key.

Set targets

Set short and long-term goals in relation to what you want to achieve e.g. goals for a specific study session, but also goals to achieve by the end of the week or month. Work back from set essay deadlines or exam dates. See our section on Creating Action Plans in the Wellbeing Toolkit for help with this.

Don’t get distracted

Use laptops/devices wisely during lectures and also during independent study. Be strict with yourself, turn off social media notifications when you are studying. There are lots of Apps which can support study time by turning off notifications.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks. Go for a 10 minute walk to get some fresh air or schedule in a coffee break with a friend.

Have realistic expectations

Bear in mind there will be differences when studying at University to school or College. Be kind to yourself and remember it is an adjustment. Look at the resources from the Career Zone for help to adjust to your degree programme or talk to your tutor if you are not seeing the results you would like.

Ask for help!

If you are finding it difficult to fit everything in or are feeling overwhelmed at all, then speak to someone early on. There is a lot of support available from the Wellbeing team, your tutor, and the Academic Skills team and getting on top of any problems early on can save you a lot of stress or anxiety later on. See our further resources for some useful links. 

Find out more:

  • To help you prepare for university you may wish to start with the University Time Management course
  • There are lots of online resources provided by the University’s Academic Skills and Student Engagement Team. They also run a variety of workshops via the Career Zone to help with things that may be new to you such as referencing, project management and academic writing. Drop-in sessions with the Academic Skills team operate on both the Streatham and Penryn campuses; visit the website for further information.
  • If managing high expectations is something you need some advice around take a look at our Perfectionism workbook.
  • If you are interested in exploring ways to support your wellbeing further, take a look at the My Wellbeing Toolkit on the Exeter Learning Environment. This contains information and activities on topics which can support your resilience and keep you feeling your best during your studies. 

We can help!

If you are affected by these or any issues when you arrive, remember that there are lots of services on campus designed to offer support. Asking for help is the best way to address any issues early on and many students find they need a bit of support in these early weeks and months.

 Find out more about the support available from the University .   

Homesickness and loneliness

Starting University can be an exciting time, however, feeling homesick or lonely is something that affects many students at some point during their studies. A study by the Office for National Statistics found that young people aged 16-24 felt lonely more often than any other age group of adults, and the National Union of Students believes that between 50% and 70% of UK students experience homesickness.

Loneliness and homesickness are states of mind. You can be surrounded by people but still feel alone or miss a familiar place or person. These feelings can feel overwhelming but they are a normal part of life and these feelings will usually pass as we settle into a new life.

What happens when we feel lonely/homesick?

Both homesickness and loneliness can cause you to feel preoccupied with thoughts of home, feel more emotional, and lead to difficulties in sleeping and eating, as well as loss of concentration.

You may start to have negative thought patterns such as:

  • "This is never going to work"
  • "I don’t know why I thought I would like it here"
  • "I’m never going to make new friends"
  • "Everyone else is having a better time than me"

When you feel homesick or lonely it can often make you feel less motivated or withdrawn from other people. You may feel that you do not want to meet new people or engage in activities and you may feel that there is a distance between you and other people. This can further perpetuate feelings of loneliness and homesickness.

Tips for overcoming homesickness and loneliness

Sometimes knowing why you are feeling the way you do and realising that it is a normal part of adjusting to a new life can be enough to help you feel more able to cope.

However, if your feelings of homesickness/loneliness are affecting your daily life then some of these tips can help you to get back on track:

  • Keep in touch with friends and family: Although there are lots of people to meet and new connections to make at University, it is good to keep in touch with existing friends or family. Talk about how much contact would be helpful for you to have with them when you are at University. Also think about how often it is best for you to visit friends and family. Some people find visiting home helpful, but others find it stops them focusing on where they are. See what works best for you
  • Create a space you like: Arrive as soon as you can to your new accommodation and make your new surroundings/room feel like home and a space you enjoy being in. Decorate pin boards with photos and buy a few cheap plants or decorations to make it feel welcoming.
     
  • Get into a routine: Think about some activities you enjoy and make the effort to stick to them on a regular basis so you can meet new people and get into a routine. This can help you to feel more settled in a new place.
     
  • Look after yourself: Look after your physical health. When your mood is low you may start to neglect your physical health. However, exercise and good sleep are fundamental for you to keep healthy and happy and allow your body and mind to work at their best. 
     
  • Write a bucket list: Make plans and get involved in the events going on in your new area. Having things in the future to look forward to can help keep you focused on your new environment. Make a bucket list of things to do in your new area and start ticking them off!
     
  • Challenge your thinking: Use thought challenging techniques to help you think differently about situations, if you find yourself having a lot of negative thoughts.
  • Be gentle with yourself: Bear in mind that these feelings of homesickness may affect your motivation and mood and it may take some effort to change these feelings. If you are having a bad day it’s ok to take some time for yourself. Choose some of your favourite snacks and movies, video games or books and have a duvet day.
  • Don't focus solely on the University: Although there is a lot going on at the University there is also a lot to get involved in in Exeter and the surrounding area. From volunteering organisations to kayaking clubs there are groups for most interests. Do some research and get involved. Meeting people from outside of the University can help broaden your social circle and feel more connected with where you are living.
     
  • Have patience: Remember, many students experience these feelings and take some time to adjust to change. The feelings will pass eventually and you will find a new routine, people and places that feel comfortable for you.

Things to do in Exeter

There are lots of activities to get involved in your local area. You can find out more from:

We can help!

Although homesickness and loneliness are a natural part of adjusting to a new routine, if these feelings are becoming overwhelming or are not subsiding then do ask for help. There is a lot of support available around the University so reach out and tell people if you are finding things difficult: