You’re actually heading off to uni. What to expect and how to negotiate the opening days.


Author: Katherine Young

Right off the bat, let’s acknowledge a few things about the pretty upside down finish you had to your high school career. Whether you just graduated from high school a few months ago, or you finished in 2020 and opted for a gap year, you have experienced a most unusual and unpredictable culmination to high school. All of the unknowns that you dealt with may understandably and rightfully leave you wondering about what is ahead. Life with Covid has changed things – your experience of uni will be different from those who have come before. It would make a lot of sense if you were wondering what it’s going to be like, what to expect and what to look out for. While we can’t know exactly what will unfold, we know that your university experience will be provocative, challenging, exhilarating and likely change the way you see things in the world.

So, how do you navigate such change?

We at mindhamok want to offer a few things you can keep in mind as departure date for university grows nearer. Our focus is supporting you, more specifically supporting you in thinking about how you create your own “hamok” for yourself on this new adventure.

Imagine for a moment the last time you actually kicked back in a hammock…gazing up at leafy trees, the dappled sunlight, a breeze tickling bare legs. The very idea of a hammock may conjure up a sense of lazy summer days, relaxation, and ease. The hammock cradles you, molding to your unique self, while allowing you room to move and stretch. This metaphor captures our hope for you – that you enter and experience uni knowing how to access your very own hamok of support, comfort and ease in yourself.

Let’s begin with a little info, a general roadmap of what to expect in your opening days and potentialities along the road to look out for.

Prepare to experience both exhilaration and questioning. You are likely experiencing it already.

The newness of what you are embarking upon = excitement and exhilaration on every level. You will be setting up your living space, getting to know endless numbers of roommates/hallmates/peers, learning your way around campus, beginning classes, joining clubs/teams, meeting professors. This excitement and exhilaration can also be scary and tiring. Growth and change take risk and effort. Acclimating to new routines and patterns, challenging yourself with new everything can feel daunting and requires extra energy to establish the new patterns in this new environment that will help you feel grounded, comfortable, and ready to meet the exciting opportunities before you.

The anticipation around setting off from the home you have known is a big deal and likely represents your first independent move to a place where you are largely in charge of yourself, of making choices and overseeing your academic, emotional, physical, spiritual self. Again, exciting and scary. You may find that the questioning periods have you challenging what you see around you or even doubting yourself. These moments may emerge out of the blue. At times, the newness could feel overwhelming (remember how much energy and effort it takes to adjust to new situations) and you could feel all kinds of questions sprout up about whether you wanted to go away to uni at all, or to this particular uni. The questioning may feel like a kind of doubt creeping in, and can be disconcerting. It may show up in the shape of wondering whether you fit in or whether you are doing the “right” thing.

We wish we could tell you how much of each you will feel, but that’s particular to you and your context. You may have whole days or even weeks of sheer excitement, and then enter a period of questioning and wondering. It could work the other way where the beginning feels a bit rough and then as you settle in, the excitement grows. It may also be that you feel both the exhilaration and the challenge simultaneously or what seems like back and forth movement between the two. Know that this is normal to feel both and to experience the seesawing back and forth.
Trust us on this one. This is up and down and back and forth of excitement and questioning is par for the course. You are taking the first steps of this next extraordinary chapter in your lives. So when the doubt and questioning feels heavy – do your best to remember it’s normal and natural. Your awareness that awe and excitement go hand in hand with questioning and doubt can help you make your way more easily through the rough patches (and you can remind your friends when it happens to them.)

Given this, how do you manage all this excitement and exhilaration, this freedom and independence, this questioning and doubt?

In this post, we won’t spend a lot of time on the foundational aspects of well-being, but we will touch upon them. In a sentence: eating well, exercising, getting good sleep, connecting with people you trust and love are all practices that help keep you anchored and grounded in the face of newness. We all knnnnoowwww this, so of course, please go ahead and do these things for yourself. But we also know that the excitement of beginning university, the opportunities you will have and the relationships you will be creating, will likely have you pretty busy so, initially, you may not be doing the things you normally do to take care of yourself.

Finding your way through this is exciting! It’s an enormous part of what university is about, what this moment in your life is about! It’s the way it’s supposed to be.

With this in mind, let’s return to the image of the hammock for a moment. Even in the midst of all the change and all the freedom, how can you create your own personal hammock even and especially in the opening days? We are not offering here a list or schedule (you could do this if it helps) but rather invite you to ponder the one thing, or perhaps two, in your life that create that sense of comfort, groundedness, and ease. When you feel most like yourself, most connected, and anchored, what do you do that contributes to this? It may very well be one of those foundational things that gets repeated over and over – exercise, sleep, connection, food – but let’s pick just one or two and get really specific so it means something to you.

Answer this question in your mind now.

What is the one or two things you do that create a sense of comfort, groundedness and ease?
Bring to mind a picture of you and you doing this thing.

For one student it could be connecting every day to a trusted friend or family member, a connection to home that proves stabilizing. For another, it could be a long run in the woods every day, allowing for solo time and connecting to nature and the physicality of movement. I recall one first year who found that sense of calm through knitting every day, and another who baked bread. For another it was rugby, and yet another it was finding like minded people in a particular club.

It’s unique to you this thing. Identify this and then let it be your compass as you navigate new terrain. If you can do the thing that keeps you grounded in yourself, it’s much easier for the rest to flow, for you to navigate the newness and the questions, for you to connect to your knowing and wisdom as you open into this extraordinary adventure and time of growth.

Mindhamok….supporting you as you cultivate your own unique “hamok” of well-being and growth. Put your mind in a hammock with us.

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