Although it is a different experience for all of us, there is a pattern of adjustment when you start life at university. You may experience all of this or none of it, but it can help to understand you are on a journey that can end in acceptance and integration (i.e. settling happily in to your new life at university).
The honeymoon – this is typically in week one when you are surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you, open to making new friends and try new things. It’s an exciting time when all your hard work has paid off and you are finally here (bear in mind you can quickly start to feel homesick at this stage, everything is very new).
Cultural shock – you don’t have to move to another country to experience culture shock. Even if you went to college down the road in Edinburgh, you have moved in to a new academic culture and may be facing the challenge of being much more self-sufficient on top of new academic pressures. This feeling can often start in the weeks following the exciting beginning when old routines and support from home are suddenly missed and new friendships, even when they are going well, don’t have the same comforting feel as your old ones.
Initial adjustment – This is the feeling you are starting to settle in to your new routines and responsibilities, and friendships are becoming deeper and more comfortable. It can be a reassuring time when you start to feel confident about your abilities.
Mental isolation – This stage can often be triggered by you returning home, if you don’t live permanently in Edinburgh. Often students find that when they do return home things are not the same, they have changed, and families and routines at home are not the same either. You can be left feeling that you don’t quite fit in to either world anymore. This stage can be particularly hard as you may now have been at university for a whole semester and feel that you should be fully settled in to your new life.
Acceptance and integration - this is that feeling you have been waiting for, you start to feel more connected to your new life and confident in your friendships. It doesn’t mean everything is now perfect but you feel part of a community at the university and confident being yourself.