surviving real world responsibilities: what I wish I had known when I started college

In England, we tend to start college/sixth form at the age of 16. I’m completely unaware if this is still the situation, I always hear people rambling like “ooh we (my age group) were the lucky ones, everyone has to stay on school now” and I’m never sure what they mean cause I see 16 year olds doing many different things, but right now I cannot be bothered to look into it.

Nonetheless, when I left high school and got my results I immediately enrolled onto my local college. I had the options of local colleges or my high school’s sixth form and I went for my local one. I did a BTEC course in Art and Design which meant it’d be the only subject I’d be studying but on a full-time course with projects and working in units instead of studying towards exams, like A levels.

I remember absolutely bricking it my first day. I’m one of those people who can get very excited for new starts – I love buying new stationary, clothes etc. for new college, work or school year. But at the end of the day, when I start I still feel like I’m not ready enough. So here is my best advice for starting your first year of college, and mostly things I wish I had known.

1) Your class will more than likely do ice breakers. They are tedious, but don’t mean a thing. – As someone with anxiety, and just general fear of talking in front of huge groups, I absolutely despise ‘ice breakers’ in classes more than anything in education. “Tell us your name and something interesting about myself”; oh god what if I pronounce my name wrong?! oh god I don’t know anything about myself?! god don’t teachers know thinking you’re interesting is not hip and cool anymore?! – breathe. Everybody is nervous on the first day, and if anything when you’re standing up and going “Hi I’m [x], and erm… I have a pet dog called Spot”, somebody will be panicking inside about if their sweat patches are showing through their shirt or if they’ve brought everything they need on the first day.

2) Please have a good breakfast before you head to college and have a bottle of water on hand. –  I’ll be completely honest, I could do with this advice being ingrained on my forehead for every new situation. A lot of places will suggest this during life. Before college, before an exam, before a job interview, when you get a tattoo/piercing, when you go to the dentist or doctors. Why? Because it’s damn good advice even if you don’t think it is. Nerves feel horrible and nauseous in your stomach on the first day, and having them on an empty stomach and when you are dehydrated is even worse. Grabbing some fruit like blueberries or a banana before you head to college is a great idea as both are great stimulants plus bananas are low-release energy snacks which will help you through the day and blueberries are known to help with anxiety! If you are scared you will be in too much of a rush for breakfast, I suggest packing fruit based snacks in your bag the night before. My favourite quick breakfast snack is Nakd Bars. They are vegan, dairy/gluten/GM-free fruit and nut bars which are delicious and come in such lovely flavours! My favourite is definitely the ginger bread ones!
3) You will make new friends at college. High school friends aren’t always forever. – Whenever I had friendship drama growing up, my sisters would always advise me with “my best friends now I didn’t meet until college/university” and I would  ignore that because I thought, who’s going to make friends with me in college when everybody already has their high school friends?! I was very wrong, and I’m glad I was. When I look back, me and most of my high school ‘friends’ had nothing in common. Some of us got along cause we were in the same classes and would have to see each other everyday and I would immediately consider them friends. Some of us only spoke because they were friends with my friends. I only talk to about one friend from high school now and that’s because we actually have stuff in common and we are actually close friends who make an effort to talk when we barely see each other. Some of my high school friends still talk to each other, but a lot of us have new friends who we met in college and if anything that friendship does seem to last longer than a high school one. So don’t worry about if you are starting to drift from high school friends during college, you will make new ones.

4) Talk to your tutors if you feel something’s wrong – In my first year of college I had a lot of stress on me from several different sources which caused me to cripple quite hard under college pressure and I switched to a different college for a month or two in the second year because I was in the mindset that my art course wasn’t good for me and that I wasn’t good at it. As soon as I got into my new course doing a different subject, I immediately missed a lot of stuff from my old college that my stress had blinded me from. Luckily enough talking to my tutor over email allowed me to join back on my art course and catch up with the work that I had missed. From then on, whenever I had anxiety or stress about anything I would communicate with tutors I trusted and got along with and it definitely helped me get support with my work and my final art project. Tutors are there for a reason and want you to do the best you can. Don’t stress alone.

5) Remember at the end of the day you can go home to your comfort zone. – A lot of people say interesting things happen when you leave your comfort zone and do something you’re scared of. If your first day at college feels like an extreme step out of your comfort zone because of all the new people, new situations and having to take down loads of information for your next two college years. Remind yourself you have a comfort zone to go to after. Whether it be your bedroom, your parents, your pet,your friend’s house, your favourite cafe, library or youth centre. Keep your comfort zone as your end of day target and know you can get through your first day!

If there’s any other tips you have for young teenagers starting college please feel free to add in the comments! Childline UK also has some brilliant notes on starting a new school or college, dealing with exams and making decisions as well as other things you may encounter in college including relationships, your future and jobs!

Thanks for reading
Lenah x x

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