Nqobile Mazibuko
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First year at university can be a profound adjustment. Living away from home can mean having more independence than ever before. New-found independence can be both thrilling and challenging. However, with a little bit of preparation, students can make the transition smoothly. Here are some helpful tips for managing independence as a first-year.

Learn to say ‘no’

Saying ‘no’ is a healthy and necessary part of self-care. Learning to say ‘no’ can be difficult, but it is a crucial skill for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It is okay to say ‘no’ to things that do not align with your values, and saying ‘no’ is better than committing to something that is not right for you.

Find a balance between university and a social life

It is important for your well-being to make time for both academics and socialising. Try to set aside a dedicated time for studying, and do not let social activities take over your schedule. At the same time, allow yourself time for fun, friendships, and self-care. Finding the right balance is different for everyone, so it is important to listen to your own needs and prioritise accordingly.

Stay connected to friends and family

It is normal to feel homesick and to miss your friends and family from home. Set up a regular time to talk to them, whether it is over the phone, via video call, or through social media. Keeping in touch will help you feel less isolated and will strengthen your relationships. You can also try to find ways to stay connected to your culture and traditions, whether through cooking, music, or even just having a conversation about your hometown. Staying connected will help you feel more grounded.

Be organised

Make a daily schedule and stick to it as best you can. Include time for studying, breaks, meals, socialising, and other activities. Having a plan will help you stay on track and make the most of your time. It is also important to find a good study spot, whether it is at the library, your dorm room, or a coffee shop. Make sure you have all the supplies you need, such as pens, paper, and a laptop. And most importantly, remember to take breaks and get enough rest.

Set up a budget and stick to it

Take some time to figure out your income and expenses. Include things like tuition, rent, food, books, and other essentials. Then, create a budget that is realistic and sustainable. And most importantly, track your spending and stick to your budget as much as possible. It is okay to be flexible, but try to make good financial decisions. Learning to manage your money now will benefit you in the long run.

Have fun and enjoy your varsity life, but also remember to prioritise your mental and physical health. Most importantly, be kind to and patient with yourself as you adjust to your new environment. Be sure to give yourself grace and seek help when you need it.