Managing Change

The start of college life can be a daunting experience rife with changes and new experiences. The majority of students will feel some degree of loneliness and homesickness in the first couple of weeks and this is totally normal. Many people will seem to hide this feeling, for one reason or another, and therefore it may seem that you are the only person experiencing this. This is not the case however, and you should never feel that there’s something wrong with because you feel homesick in the early stages of university. Nothing is wrong, as going through any transition can be a disconcerting experience. Successful students are those that can recognise and accept transition for what it is - a natural period of adjustment that will soon pass.

Adjusting to change takes time and patience. Here are a few things you can do to help yourself make the transition:

Get involved

Do enjoyable things
Try something new. Meet new people!
Get organised
Look forwards, not back
Connect with others
Be patient and allow yourself time to settle
Stop giving yourself a hard time

Before starting college

Once you know that you will be attending NUI Galway, then it would do no harm for you to visit the college before the start of term! Having even a rough idea of the layout of the college, especially where your department is based, will make settling in, when term does start, a lot more straightforward. That said, at the start of the year first years are encouraged to take full advantage of the Student Connect Mentoring Programme in which existing students are tasked with ensuring the fluent integration of incoming First-Years into university life. This voluntary programme will assist First-Years with any transitional needs and mentors will be a go-to person for any problems they may have or assistance they may require.

Do some research into the many societies and clubs available in the university so that you have an idea of which ones you might be interested in. This way you’ll have some ideas of who to look for on the Socs and Clubs days at the start of the year.


During the first few weeks of college you will be bombarded with information, and with small changes that maybe you weren’t expecting. You will be given info about modules, assignments, holidays, timetables, deadlines and housing. This, coupled with realising … that you have to take your own bins out … your housemates have a habit of leaving milk in the fridge way past the use-by date … and that having to get yourself out of bed to get to a 9 am lecture is actually a thing … may lead to you feeling quite overwhelmed! Be gentle with yourself, try to take everything in its stride, and realise that not everything has to be tackled all at once. You will hopefully be in NUI Galway for at least a year, so you will have plenty of time to try all manner of new things. Getting used to the everyday in college should be your first priority, and you will soon find those things that seemed so daunting at the start of the year to be totally normal.

Friendships – You will find that your social circles will be multiplying and expanding gradually over the course of your time in college. You will be meeting myriads of new people through your course, through societies and through other friends and you will find that it may be hard to juggle relationships with all manner of people. It is important to realise that you will not have to force yourself to be as close to all of these new friends as you may have been to smaller groups at home.

Homesickness - Leaving home for the first time can feel very daunting, especially when moving in with strangers and meeting countless new people. The important thing is to try and take it in your stride and realise that the first few weeks are the most challenging part. Given time you will wonder how you ever found it so difficult. There are ways of decreasing the sense of homesickness too. Remember that there is never any shame in talking to family and friends at home regularly - no one expects you to be thrown into college life with little or no communication with home. However, do allow yourself to be free and a little more distant as time goes on, to ensure that you really relax into independent living.

If your new room feels unhomely and unpleasant, then you should make sure that you decorate it as you would a room at home. The objective is to make this room feel as homely as possible. Posters, pictures with friends and decorations will make you feel far more at home in your new room.

If you are struggling to make friends, then you should strongly consider joining one of the college’s many clubs and societies. There is almost certainly one that will fit your interests and that will enable you to make new friends with similar interests to you. And remember! There are hundreds of other students in the same boat as you right now and who are all as willing as you are to meet new people and make friends that will last your university life and beyond!

Coming home – You may come home regularly enough, or just around Christmas time for a holiday. It may feel strange returning home after so much change having occurred, certainly during your first semester in college. Putting that change into perspective, and not allowing it to cause confusion in your mind, is important.

There might have been changes that happen to your home, or to the people within it, while you have been away. You have changed as well. You have experienced living life independently and may have a struggle between enjoying the safety of home and of being looked after (food is cooked for you, washing done, bills paid) and of wanting to continue to be your own boss and take on responsibility. Home may have rules or cultural norms you don’t agree with, and your friends and family may not agree with the new ideas you will have. This time of transition is called reverse culture shock and may take you by surprise. You may feel unsure about where you belong.

It is normal to feel unsure as you have two lives in different places and the expectations are different in each. You will experience similar feelings as you continue to make the regular transitions between home life and university life as the terms and vacations come and go. Integrating change is part of the university experience.

Reaching the end of College – Final Year

The approach of your degree being complete will be a daunting experience. For most students at this point, life has been largely based around education for most of their life. Suddenly the prospect of being out in “the big bad world’ of work etc., without the comfort blanket of university, will seem very strange and scary.

There are plenty of ways to approach that fear of leaving college though. Realising that once college ends that everything doesn’t need to happen all at once will be central. Allow yourself time to let plans for the future develop. Once you finish college it may seem vital that you immediately find a job, new house and feel a need to constantly be progressing at a rapid speed. Taking time to let the reality of leaving college set in, and letting your plans form naturally and carefully in your head, as opposed to jumping at everything without foresight, will be of great benefit to you in the long run. Most people finishing their undergraduate degree will be little older than twenty-one or twenty-two. It can be easy to forget that at this point you are still very young in the grand scheme of things and that you still have plenty of time to settle into plans for the future. Be gentle with yourself and ensure that your decisions for post-college life – whether that be further education, travel or employment – are the right decisions for you at this juncture in your life.