Starting university life

Whether this is your first time away from home or you are going back to study after a break, starting university is a major life transition. This guide will help you with typical social and academic challenges students face.

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Starting your academic life at Goldsmiths University can be a time of mixed emotions, for example exhilaration and apprehension. Even though it can be exciting, change can also be challenging.

It is not unusual in the first few days to feel bewildered, lost or lonely.


All students may struggle with some of these challenges:

Social Challenges

  • Meeting new people
  • Keeping contact with people from home
  • Balance of work and leisure

Academic Challenges

  • Feeling overwhelmed with academic material
  • Finding the courage to speak and contribute
  • Anxiety that can to procrastination

Social strategies

The Basics

It is good to prioritise these basics as soon as possible:

  1. Accommodation

    Have a look at the Goldsmiths accommodation options.

  2. Transportation arrangements

    Learn about using London Transport to get to campus.

    Use the campus map to find your way around Goldsmiths.

  3. Explore

    Get to know your surroundings. Explore the campus, the students’ union, lecture buildings and other facilities.

    Then go further afield – find your nearest bus stops, train stations, local shops and supermarkets.

    This could be a way to get to know someone who is equally unfamiliar to the area as you.

  4. Registering with a local GP (and other medical services)

    Find out how on our local healthcare page.

  5. Set up a student bank account

    Many of the mainstream banks will offer these with added attractive incentives, which can make it difficult to narrow down your choice. See our student bank account page.

  6. Learn to cook and clean

    For some this won’t be a problem. For others learning one simple meal might be the goal. Or how to operate a washing machine. For those leaving home for the first time, don’t be afraid to ask for help with doing getting to grips with these essential life skills.

Meet new people

Don’t hide away. Push through the fear and learn to connect with other students.

Don't limit your social life to just your flatmates or coursemates

Keep in contact with people from home

Homesickness is normal for many, but don't spend your weekends away too often if you want to stay close to your university friends and flatmates.

Work and leisure balance

Try not to study, or party, too excessively.

Keep in mind that developing social skills is as important as getting good grades.


  • Be kind to yourself
  • Be organised


Volunteering has shown to be positively associated with improved mental wellbeing and can be a great way to do something rewarding in the community whilst breaking up our day to day routine.

Find out more about volunteering here or visit to see which opportunities are available with our charity partners. Alternatively book in for a 1:1 chat with your Volunteering Coordinator.

Academic Strategies

Feeling overwhelmed with academic material

Try a reading strategy like SQ3R (Scan, Question, Read, Review, Recall).

Find the courage to speak and contribute

Develop a positive relationship with:

  • Fellow students

    Try to push through shyness and chat to your classmates. Be open and ask them about how they are finding the course.

  • Academic advisers

    Make appointments to sit and speak with advisors. Let them know which parts of the course you are enjoying and which parts you are struggling with.

Have a look at our videos on YouTube about overcoming panic.

Anxiety that can to procrastination

Procrastination can result from the fear of having your best efforts critically judged. Yet receiving feedback on your work is a core component of university study.

Unconsciously, we often hand in work that is not our best efforts in order to dismiss having our best efforts seen. Even then the feedback received is too often personalised instead of viewed as an opportunity to learn and develop.

Have a look at our video on overcoming procrastination.

Be kind to yourself

Self-compassion is key to staying healthy. Here’s a checklist of strategies you can take to get more out of university life:

  1. Defeat your negative thinking

    Our negative thinking needs to be challenged.Identify the negative thought (eg ‘’I’m not clever enough’, ‘I’m going to fail’).

    • Ascertain the evidence for and Against
    • Ask yourself whether this is an empowering or disempowering thought? ie are you making a ‘thinking error’
    • Propose a more reasonable alternative thought
  2. Don’t go along with the crowd

    You don’t make true friends by doing things you don’t want to do.

    So if you aren’t a heavy drinker, for example, don’t pretend to be just because others around you are doing that. Find people you have more in common with.

  3. Avoid perfectionism

    You don't have to get everything right straight away.

  4. Be realistic about what to expect

    Part of being kind to yourself is not placing unattainable pressures on yourself. Check with others if you aren’t sure.

Give yourself time to adjust to Goldsmiths and living in London

For many people, London can be overwhelming. Goldsmiths as well has a diversity of students and it can be enriching on getting to know people who may have different backgrounds from what you may be used to.

Develop health eating and health sleep patterns

Good physical health affects your mood and your physical and emotional resilience.

Be organised

  • Concentrate on the task, not the outcome
  • Break down huge activities into small manageable tasks
  • Remember your past successes
  • Take time for breaks
    • Take the time to breathe and think
    • Use mind maps to scribble and organise your ideas
    • Take regular, brief study breaks. go for a walk, talk out loud


Making the transition to university life can be stressful, but it can also be an exciting time of personal growth.

This can be a time to make lasting friendships as well as professional connections.

Imagine looking back in five years:

  • What regrets might you have?
  • What might you think fondly of?
  • Now… do less of the former and more of the latter!

You can ask the Student Wellbeing Team for help too.

Other sources of help