Beating the Post-holiday Blues

So, we’re delighted to see you, but we’re more than aware that you might have mixed feelings about coming back after the summer break or a study abroad year.  To help ease the transition back to uni life, our Student Money Mentor Claire gives us her take on practical things to do to help settle back in and ways to lift your mood. 

dogUni has started again: time to set the alarms, dig out the notebooks and find where on earth you put your King’s ID. (Yes security is still tight so you are going to need it to get anywhere and everywhere around campus)

Post-holiday blues is a real thing, but there are ways to make your transition back to Uni a little bit smoother.

Here are some tips for when you go back.

Focus on the Good Times

The most common question you will be asked when you come back and see your friends again will be ‘How was your summer?’. Do not reply with ‘It was too short’, you are simply setting off on the wrong foot and focusing on the negative rather than the positive. Relive the fun times you had while you retell your tales of summer picnics, reunion dinners and much needed time in front of the TV. No one wants their first conversation to be centred on wishing for something they don’t have, so embrace the fact you had a break and crack out those holiday pictures on Instagram.

If you are super nice, bring a box of homemade cookies to share around – no doubt you will make someone’s day and spread some joy. You can never go wrong with cookies.

Be Prepared

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It may be painful to contemplate as you’ve barely stepped back onto campus, but scrolling through all those emails you’ve blissfully ignored over the summer will save your life. It is stressful starting a new year, but if you plan what you are doing and know what is going on, you can keep that stress to a minimum. I would invest in a diary or a planner to write everything down, or use the calendar on your phone to track when you have seminars or lectures. That way you won’t be panicking at midnight the day before, trying to find a friend who is still awake and can tell you where you are supposed to be at 9am.

Be Social

Humans are social creature (most of the time, maybe only once fuelled with coffee if morning aren’t your thing). Sure you went home for a few months, ate everything the fridge, enjoyed not having to do your own washing, and relaxed while your family pampered you, so give them a call every once in a while. It is very easy to get caught up in our own busy lives, but even if it is once a short chat every other month, your friends and family will appreciate hearing your voice. The easiest way to feel better if you have post-holiday blues is to be around people who don’t. Their happiness is contagious and is all you need to pick yourself up.

 keep calmSo yes going back to uni can be a drag, but ultimately you will love it. Like going back to anything you have left for a while, getting into the routine is the hardest part, but once you are in the swing of things, the good times will simply wash over you.

If you find that you’re struggling to make the transition back to uni, please don’t suffer in silence.  Reach out to a friend, or your personal tutor.  You might also find these professional services and peer-led initiatives useful:

Welcome and Savour the Moment

Whether this is your first experience of higher education, or you’re returning after a break from study, the start of the academic year is an exciting time and it can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming!  With so much to take in, from finding your way around campus (Bonus points if you’re based at Strand and have managed to locate the Chesham building, which is notoriously difficult to find!), to navigating the transport system if you’re new to London, to establishing your social group; it can all go by in a bit of a blur.

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People often talk about ‘being in the moment’ and, whilst this can sound a little cringe-worthy to some, it’s worth unpacking what this can look and feel like and how it can help.   When we’re rushing around, trying to get ourselves organised and fit in our many different commitments, we often don’t even notice the world around us, much less what’s going on for us internally.   Sometimes, it’s important to slow down and check in with ourselves, notice how we’re feeling in our bodies and minds, ask ourselves which aspects of our lives feel fulfilled and which might need a little tlc.  And who can we reach out to so we can achieve that?  Taking notice of the external world, too, can help anchor us in the present, rather than being caught up in thinking about the past or stressing about the future.

This was probably best summed up at one of our Welcome to King’s panel discussions. When one of our new students asked the very helpful question “What one piece of advice would you give to us at this point in time?”, there were many useful suggestions, including this point from the Counselling Service; “Just breathe!”.

Savour the Moment Challenge

  • Take some quiet time to yourself to check in and notice how you’re feeling at the moment. Use our wheel of wellbeing tool to help you do this.  Think about each segment and rate your wellbeing out of 10 to identify your areas of strength and development.   If things are a little out of kilter, what could you do to restore that balance?  Perhaps our wellbeing toolbox can provide a good starting point.
  • Identify some times and places to carve out some quiet time for reflection on your own wellbeing. Spent 20 minutes reading, meditating, or just sitting with your own thoughts.  Why not try out the following spaces and see how they feel:
  • Wellbeing room, Maughan Library
  • Chaplaincy rooms – there’s one on each campus
  • Strand and Guy’s chapels
  • Try out our 20 minute vinyasa flow yoga tasters
  • Try a Be Active yoga class
  • Check out the mindfulness sessions run on a weekly basis during term time by the Chaplaincy. Click your campus to find out where and when.view over thames small
  • Take notice of and really savour three things a day that give you pleasure as a starting point. Use your senses to guide you. Was it a beautiful view over the Thames, your favourite song or podcast on the way to lectures, the smell of your shower gel, the taste of your morning coffee, the feeling of a cool breeze?  Sometimes it’s the small things that ground us and bring us back to the present to take us out of our racing thoughts.

For a recap of the different support services available on campus, check out Tuesday’s ‘Welcome and Never Stop Learning’ post

 

Welcome and Give to Others

Self-care and investing in yourself are crucial for academic success and personal development and we shouldn’t hesitate to give ourselves that ‘me time’.  At the same time, an atmosphere of mutual support, respect and celebrating diversity are what make for a truly inclusive university campus where everyone can feel free to be themselves and belong.

Be The Reason Someone Smiles Today  written on paper with pen,red gift box and wooden background desk.

Of course, there are actions we can take, both big and small ,to achieve this.  This could be something as simple as smiling and saying hi to someone in the lecture theatre or bringing someone into a conversation if they are standing on their own before lectures to signing up to do some volunteer work.  In time, you might even like to train as a KCL peer supporter to lend emotional support to fellow students.

Give to Others Challenge:

Have a read through the KCLSU societies and see if any of their charitable activities catch your eye

Ask one of your friends or flatmates how their days was and really listen

Is someone you live or study with having a difficult time adjusting to uni life?  Take them for a walk or coffee with them and remind them of all the support on offer.  Have a quick re-read now of our ‘Never Stop Learning’ post to jog your memory.

Get in touch with someone from home if you are living away to let them know you are thinking of them or send them a card

In Your Corner Campaign and Look After Your Mate workshops

You’ll soon be seeing our In Your Corner mental health awareness campaign posters up around campus.  Each month, a number of students, academic and professional service staff will let us know how they would be in their mate’s corner if they let them know they were struggling with their mental health.

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Current KCLSU President Momin Saqib and former president Ben Hunt are supporting our ‘In Your Corner’ mental health awareness campaign to create a campus where we can all talk about mental health in an open and supportive way.

With approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year (Mind), it really is nothing to feel ashamed of, so don’t be afraid to reach out for the help and support that you need.  Equally, if you notice that your friend seems to be going through a rough patch, or acting differently, why not ask them if all is well? It doesn’t need to be a big, awkward conversation; it could just be as simple as going for coffee, asking if they’re ok and giving them the time and space to talk through what’s worrying them. If they don’t open up this time round, then they know your door is open.

There’s also no need to feel that by reaching out you’re suddenly responsible for solving all your friend’s problems.  Make sure you’re armed with the knowledge of all of our KCL support services so that you can signpost towards professional help where needed so that you can just be there as a friend.  If you want a quick recap, have a read of our ‘Never Stop Learning’ post.

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If you’re interested in learning more about how to support a friend through mental health difficulties, do come along to one of our monthly ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshops.  With an emphasis on listening and supporting within your capacity as a friend and taking care of yourself at the same time, you will leave with an awareness of how to offer a helping hand without compromising your own self-care and wellbeing. It’s that old adage isn’t it?  We need to put on your own oxygen masks before helping anyone else with theirs 🙂

Welcome and Never Stop Learning

This seems so obvious, right?  It goes without saying that uni is a learning experience, but this goes so much further than your academic work.  For sure, there’s a certain sense of mastery that comes with exploring your subject in more depth and this growing expertise will boost our self-confidence.  But, what we learn outside of the lecture halls and the seminar rooms can be just as crucial to our wellbeing, if not more so. 

At King’s Wellbeing, we are all about helping students to thrive and have a full and rich university experience to become the person that they want to be in all aspects of life. Think about your first few days at King’s; what have you learned about yourself?  Think about what you’ve enjoyed most about Welcome Week.  It might have taught you something about how you prefer to socialise, the size of group you feel most comfortable with, your preferred social settings, how much time you need to yourself and so forth.  And where you’ve identified things that you aren’t so comfortable with, these could be areas for future development.

motivational  poster LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONESometimes, we grow as a person and develop new skills when we step outside of our comfort zone.  If you’ve identified an area you’d like to explore, King’s one-to-one coaching and workshops may be able to help.  

At King’s, we believe in nurturing the whole person throughout the year and you can find a variety of workshops to assist with different aspects of your personal development.  Check the King’s Wellbeing workshops page for sessions on communication skills, self-care, resilience and much more and keep checking Skills Forge and KEATS throughout the year for other workshops to help you build a portfolio of life skills alongside your growing subject knowledge.  Upon referral, the Counselling Service also runs a number of therapeutic groups and workshops, providing emotional support and space for exploration of different issues that may come up during your time at uni.

Sources of Support

Your student journey is bound to have ups and downs.  At certain times, you may be feeling great; enjoying all that uni life has to offer you.    Sometimes, we might need a bit of a helping hand with goal-setting to make the most of our time at uni and reach our potential; this is where King’s Wellbeing comes in.

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And on occasion, life can throw us a curveball and we might need some advice or support to help us rebound.  There’s no shame in this and King’s has a number of support services with dedicated and empathetic staff.  It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different sources of support now so that you know exactly where they are and how to get in touch if you need them.

 

Never Stop Learning Challenge: KCL Support Services

Take half an hour to look up all of the support services and initiatives below, learn what they offer and how to get in touch if you need them:

King’s Wellbeing

Counselling service and peer supporters

Student Advice – Housing, Immigration, Disability and Mental Health and Money, including the student money mentors

Mental Health Advisors

Chaplaincy

Careers and Employment

Study Skills

English Language Centre

Your personal tutor

Health Centre

Harassment Advisors

Positive Peers

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Feeling Connected to Campus

It can be easy to come and go from campus and feel a bit disconnected, especially if you’re living at home and commuting. But do try to stick around and feel connected; this is your campus, your space and you have every right to feel at home.  Identifying places that you enjoy being in either socially, or for a bit of quiet time to reflect can help you feel a connection to the physical space and campus at large.

Time to chill

Never Stop Learning Challenge: Connecting to Campus

  • Explore your campus with a friend and identify a nice spot for a coffee and catch up before or after lectures. Many departments even have their own common rooms, such as the Dickson Poon School of Law and the Virginia Woolf Building.
  • Find some quiet spaces for chilling and reflecting. Don’t forget the wellbeing room in the Maughan Library and the chaplaincy rooms on each campus if you just want some time to yourself.
  • Learn a little about the history of King’s and its traditions. Did you know that the Duke of Wellington had to fight a duel to defend his role in establishing the college in 1829?  Find more facts here and check out this link for 6 surprising facts about King’s mascot Reggie the Lion:
  • Check out the Life at Kings Instagram to see how some of our other students are connecting with campus, taking some fun and quirky photos along the way.

Welcome and Invest in Relationships

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Feeling nervous about building new social connections? Don’t stress, you won’t be the only one!  It’s daunting to find yourself in a new environment, potentially without the friends and family who’ve been your anchor points over the last years close by and this is something that many new students are experiencing.  It’s worth remembering at this point that you’re entering into a community of almost 30,000 students from over 150 countries and are perfectly poised to meet a new and diverse range of people who could become friends for life.  That’s pretty special.

Invest in Relationships Challenge: Accommodation

So, how can you start to build a social network?  If you’re in uni accommodation, that’s a good place to start. Even if you don’t end up being close friends, it’s still better to be on first name and friendly terms in a convivial atmosphere than passing ships in the corridor.  That said, have a look at some of these challenges below and don’t forget to buy and print your NUS card at the Welcome Fair to take advantages of student discounts while you socialise:

  • Knock and introduce. Take a deep breath and go and knock on the doors of everyone around you in halls.  Say ‘hi’, introduce yourself and, if you get a good vibe, see if they fancy meeting up for coffee/going to an event together such as our Welcome Marquee takeovers on the 21st at Strand (10am-7.30pm) and the 22nd at Guy’s (10am-3pm).

Wilmington DE © @timsavageYou just never know if the person behind the next door will turn out to be a great friend.  In any case, we bet it won’t be as scary as knocking on these doors!

  • The communal meal. Are you in accommodation with a shared kitchen?  Why not get everyone together for some chips and dips and drinks, or a meal if you’re feeling adventurous and get to know each other.  Don’t worry if your culinary skills aren’t up to much just yet; it’s all a learning process and many a uni friendship has been forged over experimental meals in the communal kitchen!

food small Lacking in the culinary skills department? No need to worry!  You won’t be alone!

  • Keep saying ‘hi’. Cut your flatmates a little slack if they don’t initially appear all that friendly.  They may just be taking a little while to acclimatise, so don’t write them off.  Keep being friendly and offer them the chance to come out of their shell when they’re ready.

Don’t forget that your Residence Associates (RA’s) will be putting on social and community-building events throughout the year in your halls – the perfect opportunity to get to know your new neighbours.

Trying new activities

Uni is the perfect time to try out new activities and from bhangra to Dr.  Who, tea drinking, to social justice, there is a KCLSU society for absolutely everyone. If you’re a bit nervous about going, just remember that this is the time of year when most new members join, so you’ll be in the same boat as a lot of other students.  You’ll come across societies recruiting at the Welcome Fair and around campus – they want you there!  And don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you find it’s not for you, you haven’t lost out, but you may just awaken a hitherto undiscovered passion or talent.

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Who’s to know what new passions and talents might be unleashed at the KCLSU Welcome Fair!

Aside from societies, don’t forget that there are other social events all year round within your academic departments, halls and Student Services.   Anyone staying in London over the winter holiday period can also make use of the Global Lounge provided by International Advice.

For a weekly get-together in an informal and friendly environment, why not check out the chaplaincy international lunch, running on each campus every week, aimed at bringing together international and home students of all faiths and none.  Whatever your faith background and nationality, you can be assured of a warm welcome.  Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch was very much mistaken!

Keep investing

Amidst the hubbub of freshers’ week and finding your feet with balancing academic work with social time, take some time out to reflect on your support network before KCL. Who in your life do you truly value; which relationships mean the world to you, are supportive and a force for positivity in your life?  Once you’ve reflected; whether this be friends, family, significant other, think about how you can continue to invest in these relationships even if there may be distance between you.

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9f84f38168542230d3d27c1e1b466bfdIt’s a common thing to worry about how a significant life change like going to uni might affect the dynamics of our relationships, but with Skype, WhatsApp, snapchat and student travel discounts, you needn’t feel far removed.  You can actually have the best of both worlds as you continue to nurture your prior relationships and broaden your social circle at King’s.

Keep Investing Challenge: Reach Out

So, why not reach out now?  Think of your super 5 supporters, who you know always have your back and write them down.  Send them all a card to let them know you’re thinking of them, drop them a text or a WhatsApp message and let them know how you’re getting on.

Welcome and Keep Moving

Wondering how to keep fit and active during your time at KCL?  You might already have found a sport or activity that you love with a passion.  If so, that’s great!  You’ll almost certainly find a club or society where you can get involved at your comfort level.  If not, no worries!  It’s the perfect opportunity to experiment and find an activity to suit your level and approach and you can even set up your own society if it doesn’t already exist.  Read on for a bit of guidance and a few fun challenges to help you get moving at King’s.

Active KCL – Take Advantage!

Check out the wide variety of sports and movement-based activities on offer.  Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just looking for a way to keep moving with some fun activities in an informal setting, there’s something for everyone at KCL.

You can choose from club sport on the KCL Sport website, the gym, the many KCLSU sports societies and don’t forget Be Active; KCL’s social sport programme.  At only £25 for the year (free if you’re in halls) it’s a bargain and has something to bring out the inner active side of even the most reluctant sportspeople among you!

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No need to suffer through workouts you  don’t enjoy!

The new Active Wellness scheme is also there to support students experiencing mental health difficulties to implement a health and fitness programme to help optimise physical and mental wellbeing.

Keep Active Challenge: London on Foot

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Tempting as it may be to jump on the Underground to get around, take advantage of the autumn weather to scope out the local area around your accommodation and campus on foot.  Go exploring with some people from your halls or course and identify some nice cafes, pubs or eateries to unwind after lectures. Don’t forget to check if you get a student discount!

Discover some of London’s many parks and green spaces and maybe arrange to walk to campus a couple of days a week (weather permitting!) to kick-start your day with some fresh air and gentle exercise.  You could even book a free walking tour with Free Tours by Foot with some new acquaintances and get to know the city and your fellow students at the same time.

Keep Active Challenge: Being Healthy and Active Your Way

Take 10 minutes to peruse the vast array of sports and activities on offer.  Find one that suits you, your fitness level and approach to exercise and give it a go!

You might also like to check out our very own Wellbeing Coach Wilna’s blog post about her journey to  fitness and marathon running and the benefits it’s brought to her physical and mental health here!

Wilna running Wellbeing Coach Wilna getting into the running zone!

 

 

Moving into Uni Halls

A warm welcome to all of our new King’s students!  And greetings to our returnees; it’s great to see you  back for the new academic year.  We hope this blog post finds you well and settling into your new lodgings.  One of the big adjustments you’re probably making is communal living; it can be nerve-racking to move in with new people!  But just remember, it’s OK to be nervous and everyone’s in the same boat.  Be sure to introduce yourself to your flatmates and neighbours in halls, try and organise something social early on to break the ice and take advantage of any events organised by your RA’s. 

Fortunately for us, Claire, one of our Student Money Mentors and prolific blog writer, is back this academic year with her top tips for making the most of uni, written in her own inimitable style.  First on the list is her take on life in halls and she’ll be back again shortly with some advice for cooking on a budget, so check back again soon!

Not everyone will move into Halls at university. My parents called it ‘digs’, which made me laugh as it made me think I would be living in a literal hole. Luckily, although some apartments may be small, none of them are buried in the ground. There are a few things you ought to do when you first move in though, and a few things to be prepared for.

  1. Someone will steal your food

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Whether it is because they are desperate and have run out of everything in their cupboard, or (more likely) when they have come back late from a night out and are peckish, one day you will wake up and your packet of biscuits you keep as a treat will be finished.

Do not panic.

Yes it is annoying and yes you will hate your flatmates for a bit while you mourn your bourbons, but in the end, it is only biscuits. If they are true friends, they will buy you a pack in compensation afterwards, if not, forgive and forget – save your grudges for bigger things

2. Label your Saucepans

It may seem childish to think that this is ‘mine’ and this is ‘yours’ but it is very easy to get mixed up, and if you bought an expensive non stick Tefal pan, then you don’t want someone burning their sausages and eggs on it and not washing it up. Especially if you are a vegan and can’t eat eggs nor sausages.

The same goes if you have allergies. You don’t want someone storing their walnuts in your plastic container when you have a nut allergy – that is nut cool (get it? XP Okay I will stop). When you move in, make sure you let your flatmates know about anything like that so they can be considerate.

3. Be Fair

Loo roll and washing up liquid can start a lot of arguments. Be honest, and if you haven’t chipped in for a while, take the initiative and buy the next set. Make a rota if you have to, but don’t be the person everyone hates because you always take and never give back. You want your parents to be proud of the person they brought up.

  1. Stay Positive

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Don’t make snap judgements. When you got to university, you are going to meet so many new people so keep an open mind. You will click with some people and less with others, but make sure you approach everyone with an open mind. Try going to Football Try-Outs even if you haven’t played for half a decade, or join the Board Games Night because it may be a lot of fun. The welcome period is when you can dip your toe into so many new experiences, so grasp that opportunity

  1. Invest in an eye mask and ear plug

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If you are a light sleeper, it is worth investing in these. The curtains and walls in Halls can often be quite thin. You may think you can survive a few nights on less than 4 hours sleep but they stack up very quickly and coffee can only do so much.

Trust me, you will enjoy uni a lot more with a decent night’s sleep. If that means having a cuddly teddy from childhood, do it!