Everyone tells you that university will be the ‘best years of your life’.

Which, for some people, may be the case: becoming properly independent for the first time; living largely by your own schedule; meeting new and exciting people; and studying something that interests you – with plenty of time for socialising in between! But the idea that these are the ‘best years of your life’ can also come with a lot of pressure, particularly in your first semester: if you’re not always on top of the world during your ‘best years’, then what does that say about the rest of your future?

But the most comforting thing, I found, was knowing that everyone else has the same worries too. Even those people who always seem to be out painting the town red, surrounded by a tight-knit group of new friends, are undoubtedly worrying if they’re doing this university thing right too. So, in the interest of solidarity, here are some of the questions I had during my first semester at Salford, and my advice to anyone feeling the same way:

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Why is everyone having more fun than me on social media?

We’ve all been told this since the day we opened our first social media account, but now it’s becoming more important to stress than ever – someone’s social media is not a true representation of their life. When every post you see is of people surrounded by a new group of friends, living it up on nights out, it’s very easy to feel like everyone else is having much more fun with so many more people than you are – when, in reality, this isn’t the case at all.

Think about the things you post on your own social media – the majority of the time it’s pictures from gigs you go to, from nights out (or nights in!) with friends, or dates with your significant other. But what about everything you do that you don’t post about? Nobody is living an adrenaline-fuelled life all the time, so don’t feel guilty about heading to bed early when you feel like it! Also, don’t be afraid to mute accounts that make you feel as though you are missing out. Your social media is under your control, and if something on there is getting you down, then it isn’t worth keeping that person on your timeline.

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Why does everybody have more friends than I do?

Connected to the previous point, social media can portray the idea that everyone you know has found a huge, diverse and wonderfully close-knit group of friends for life in their first few weeks at university – which, put simply, is never the case. Hyperbole and exaggeration are woven into the way we use language online: so that photo someone from your high school posted with the caption ‘Out with my besties!’, doesn’t mean anything in reality. How many people in that photograph would your old acquaintance turn to if the chips were really down? The answer is probably very few, if any of them.

If you are wanting to broaden your social circle, have a look at joining a society, or getting involved in opportunities around your course such as Quays TV for the creative types out there! But also, don’t be worried about simply having a couple of friends here and there at university – the best friendships develop slowly over time, and are all about quality, not quantity!

Photo by Matty Adame on Unsplash

Am I weird for not wanting to go clubbing every week?

Absolutely not. Party culture can seem like a staple of university life, particularly during your first semester when the Freshers spirit is still going strong! Indulging in something a little outside of your comfort zone is part and parcel of university life, so if you’re feeling up to it, why not take the plunge once or twice and embrace a night out?

But if you discover that drinking and clubbing until the early hours really isn’t your thing, there is so much more you can get involved with to diversify your university life! As well as the aforementioned societies, why not organise a pizza and games night with your friends in your flat? Or head out into Manchester to explore the range of cafés and vintage shops that the Northern Quarter has to offer? Feeling like an early night? Don’t let yourself feel bad about it – spending time recharging, talking to family and friends from home, or just binge-watching Netflix in your pyjamas is totally okay! Focus on doing the things that make you happy, and chances are you will find people along the way who feel the same way you do (and there are far more of them than you think!).

Photo by Madeleine Ragsdale on Unsplash

Am I allowed to go home?

The short answer? Yes!

Moving out of home, especially if it’s your first time doing so, is a huge leap! Homesickness is common during your first semester, but even beyond that, don’t feel guilty about wanting to head home for a chat, cuddle, and a home-cooked meal! Personally, I spend the nights when I have early lectures or an early shift at work in my flat on Peel Park campus, and the rest of the week at my partner’s house, which is a balance that works perfectly for me. So, whether you make the trip home once a week, once a month, or once a semester, taking university life at the pace that feels right for you is more important than you may realise.

There is also plenty of support available on campus for students who have moved from further afield and internationally. AskUS is the University of Salford’s Student Wellbeing service, where you can access support on everything, from academic support to counselling services, and the Faith Centre on Peel Park Campus is a great space to relax and unwind.

Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

Am I the only one that feels this way?

The opposite- I would hazard a guess that EVERYONE feels this way, some people are just much better at concealing it to the outside world. University is a huge new chapter to embark upon, and it’s okay to feel worried or to question yourself now and again. I know I definitely did, and some days I still do. But talking to people about these questions is invaluable – open up to your uni friends or people from home that are at different institutions, and they will almost certainly have asked these same questions to themselves. Take support where you need it, and take the pressure off yourself to have the perfect university experience, because it doesn’t exist – and stressing about it is far more trouble than it’s worth!

The thread that ties together all of these questions, and a whole host of others that may crop up during your first semester at university, is that everyone does higher education differently. The most important thing is to do what makes you happy – even if that doesn’t fit with what you think is the ‘status quo’. Whether it’s spending your time outside of lectures at your significant other’s house off-campus; deciding to move home and commute; or partying every weekend until you can’t stand up any more, this is your time to live your life exactly as you choose to. Embrace that, and I guarantee that university can be the best years of your life after all.