A letter to my first-year self

Before starting at Charles Sturt University in 2020, I tried to be very open minded. I didn’t have any expectations for what uni life might be, and in hindsight, I’m glad that I approached it like that.

I moved onto the Bathurst campus knowing no one within at least a 200km radius – leaving everything I knew back in Hobart, Tasmania. My mum made the drive up with me and when she left, I was terrified, but determined to make the most of this opportunity to start fresh.

I wasn’t on campus for the majority of the first year and now I’ve just finished my second year. However, I’m sure a letter to my first-year self would have given me the reassurance I needed to tackle any hesitations, concerns or fears I had going into my first year of study.


Em,

It’s time to break out of the bubble, fend for yourself and be your own advocate. I know it’s scary, but it will be more than okay.

I know you’re determined to do this all on your own, but you don’t have to. It can be tiring balancing study, work and life. But the best part is, everyone is in the same boat. So, if you get lost, there is almost always someone on campus (whether that’s students or staff) that will help you find your way. Even then, mum is only a phone call away.

Your grades are important, but don’t get too caught up in them. Chances are, you won’t remember what mark you got on a first-year test – you want to look back in these years and feel good about them. Put your computer away, switch off and go with the flow – the memories you didn’t ‘plan’ are always the best ones! So, go out, have fun, make some memories, and spend time building new friendships. Also, find ways to incorporate your old hobbies and interests into your new life.

In saying this…please, please, PLEASE back up your computer before you put it away.

Find work doing something you enjoy because while money is a necessity, so is your mental health – don’t waste your time and energy on doing something that you don’t find remotely rewarding.

Also remember that it’s important to take time off. Whether that’s to catch up on laundry or the new season of Sex Ed, take the time to explore your surroundings or even just the best coffee shops in town. Not every time spent with friends needs to include spending money either – watch a movie, go for a walk, play cards and most importantly be yourself.

In these next few years, you will learn more about yourself and the big wide world than you ever did at school or throughout your eighteen years so far. You will learn how to become financially independent, to look after yourself when you’re sick, how to distract yourself when you’re feeling lonely and how to cook more than just pesto pasta.

Toga Night during my first week living on campus.

You will also learn more about other people too – the different places they grew up, their different life experiences and the ways they have adapted to campus life that might be different to yours. Be open minded. That’s my best piece of advice.

Remember, you aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. You will find people who enjoy the same things as you, who are just as loud as you are, who know when you need time to yourself and who love you as you are. Don’t try to change yourself to fit in with other people.

And just like that, your first year will be over. You will take away your own wise words of wisdom to pass on to the next group of first years and you will continue to learn throughout your next years of study. Eventually, you will find what works and what doesn’t in all aspects of your life at uni. It might take a while and there might even be tears, but you’ll also laugh until it hurts and have some big wins along the way.

Written by Emily Francis