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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 10, 2015

Canadian Excellence

Personal Growth

Going away to university will spark an avalanche of change, especially during your first year. You will find that friendships and relationships as well as your lifestyle will change as you have more experiences and grow as a person. Below we have outlined some changes to expect as you adapt to your new environment.

Lifestyle Adjustments

University is full of new experiences and anxieties. It can be the best of times and the worst of times. Making friends, learning, and being on your own are the best. Falling behind in class, pulling "all-nighters", and final exams can be the worst. Adopting a healthy lifestyle in your first year is really important for your success. Here are some tips:

  • First and foremost - get enough rest!
    Unfortunately the average university student sleeps much less than the 7-8 recommended hours and they can never properly "catch-up".
  • Eat regularly!
    Many university students tend to skip meals or go all day without eating because they're too busy. When your body is deprived of regular nutrition it lowers your energy level.
  • Eat "quality" food.
    Snack foods (chips, candy, fast food) are not the most healthy, but because of the convenience, students tend to eat too much of these items. Well-balanced meals (like mom made at home!) and nutritious snacks are recommended.
  • Schedule an exercise routine:
    This is a crucial part of your "de-stress" program. There are excellent recreational facilities at university that can make exercise a convenient and enjoyable part of your day. Sports, games, and physical activity are essential in helping you stay focused and sharp.
  • Avoid or moderate all substance abuse:
    Alcohol use certainly does not contribute to your ability to study effectively. If you are going to drink alcohol (and you are legal), be responsible about it. Trying to write assignments or exams while hung-over is not an enjoyable experience. It will also affect your success!
  • Limit caffeine intake:
    (especially around exam time!). For some, a pot of coffee and an "all-nighter" are still part of university life. Excess amounts of caffeine leads to forgetfulness and nervousness, which are not traits that you would like to have during exam time.

Friendships and Relationships

When you leave for university you are leaving behind a world that you are comfortable with. Part of that world includes the circle of friends you've been apart of, often for many years. It is difficult to anticipate the change that might happen with relationships at home but it is something that many first-year students go through and it is something that often takes them by surprise.

It is inevitable that you will drift apart from some of your high school friends. It is also inevitable that you will meet some really great friends when you get to university. Let's take a look at why your high school friendships may change:

Proximity: This is the biggest reason why your friendships will change. After you graduate you will find all your friends getting ready to start a new life; some of your friends will be leaving for university or college, some might be traveling and some may be staying home to work. When your life changes, your priorities change. When you no longer see each other everyday to share your experiences it is very easy to drift apart.

New People: When you arrive at university you are bombarded with a sea of new faces. You will be introduced to people on your floor, in your residence building, in your classes and during social events. You will meet people from across the province, the country and perhaps the world. Eventually you will begin hanging out with people who share the same interests and ideals as you do and these individuals will become very close to you very quickly.

Personal Change: So much personal growth occurs at university. In fact the person that walks across the stage at graduation is often a very different person from the one who arrived in first year. As you mature and grow, you will find that you might not have as much in common with some of the friends you spent your high school years with.

Time: University life keeps you busy - classes, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities... the list is endless. Keeping a close relationship in tact can be difficult - but not impossible. It is often hard to find the time (and money) to keep in contact regularly with friends. Most first-year university students find e-mail the fastest and cheapest way to stay in contact with friends.


You may not stay close with all of your friends from high school but you will stay close with the ones that mean the most to you. These are often the people that you will be friends with for life.These people watched you change, let you change, and enjoyed the change. These are the people who changed with you.

Family Relationships

From the day your parents drop you off at university your relationship with them will begin to change. For most of you leaving for university, this will be the first time that you will be away from your parents for an extended period of time.

This is a very exciting step in your life but it can also feel really strange. When you get to university, the first thing that you will realize is that you are on your own - there's no one to remind you to do your assignments, no one to tell when you are going out and no one to take care of you when you are sick.

Although this freedom is great, it is important to know that EVERYONE will feel homesick at one time or another. Most university students also don't realize that their parents are going through a transition as well ~ they are adjusting to life without YOU!

Here is some advice from current university students on how to handle the changing relationship with your parents:

  • Share your experiences with your family:
    (Of course this doesn't mean telling them absolutely everything!). It will make a big difference if you let your family know about what you've been up to; what assignments you are working on, what your roommates are like, what campus clubs you are thinking of joining. Make your parents feel a part of your university life. If they know about the things you are experiencing they are more apt to treat you differently.
  • Invite your parents down to visit:
    Pick a weekend each term and invite your family to spend time on campus. It's important for your parents to feel comfortable with your new surroundings - take them for a tour, introduce them to your roommates, take them out for dinner at the university pub! The more your parents acquaint themselves with your new home, the less worried they will be about your being on your own.
  • Recognize that your parents are just as nervous and anxious as you are:
    When you are at university you will experience new things and people every day. With so much going on all the time it is easy to forget what is happening back home. Send an e-mail or a little note to your parents every now and then letting them know that you miss them.
  • Sit down with them before you move home for the summer:
    So you made it through your first year and now you're moving home for the summer. Will you have to be in by midnight? Will you be reminded to clean your room? Will you be expected to do your chores before heading out with friends? This may be the hardest part of your first year ~ the transition from university to home. Make sure you sit down with your parents and go over the living arrangements for the summer. If you've kept them informed about your year at university they will already know that you've changed and therefore the rules need to change. Good luck - this can be tough!

It is amazing how your parents will all of a sudden become "people" to you instead of just "Mom & Dad". Distance will often strengthen the relationship between you and your parents. Eventually you will find it easier to seek advice from them and share your thoughts and feelings with them. You may even look forward to spending more time with them and getting to know them better!