Nervous about beginning uni?

By Jess Brown, BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration, 2nd year

People can tell you it’s going to be Ok, and you’re going to do amazing things at uni.

But just like someone trying to tell you what cake tastes like, it won’t work. You need to taste for yourself! Although I wish it did work, that’d be great. Imagine being able to taste cake with your ears…

Anyway, I had a lot of anxiety leading up to the start of my Illustration course last September.

I was excited of course, but more importantly, absolutely terrified. So many questions swirled round my head… What if I’m too old? What if the younger people all hate me? (I’m only 23, so a few years older, but you never know). What if I’m not good enough to succeed? What if I get lost and fall down a well on my first day? Etc. It turned out that not only did I have nothing to worry about, but everyone else had the same fears as me. Maybe not the one about the well, but you know.

Anyway, here are some of the fears I had before beginning- versus the reality of what my first year was actually like!


Fear- Okay I’m 23 and I know that’s a ridiculous statement, however it still scared me. I’m quite chill, what if I couldn’t keep up with all the 18 year olds?

Reality- I went to one of the mature student events expecting to be the only person in their early 20s (I wasn’t at all), and met two girls on my course who are now two of my best friends. One of them is my age (I’m now 23), the other is 28. There’s someone on our course who is in their mid 30s, and they get on with everyone too! On the first day I met three more people who I’ve become best friends with (all 18), and it’s just sort of snowballed from there really. I’ve befriended about twenty 18 – 19 year-olds from all different walks of life with different hobbies and interests.


Fear- That I wouldn’t be as successful after being out of education for so long. And that I would constantly be behind everyone else.

Reality- In terms of success it’s not been easy, but I’ve worked really hard and now I have my own apartment, I’m a student rep, I have two jobs as a Hallam Insider, and also blogging for the Union, I achieved a high first in my course, and I have learnt skills I never thought I would. That’s all on top of making friends with such lovely people. It’s been a very successful and productive first year to say the least.


Fear- Moving to a new city is disorientating at first, so I was terrified I’d be constantly asking strangers to save me. Flashbacks to me screaming ‘Mum’ in the supermarket as a child because I’d run off to look at sweets or toys tortured me relentlessly. Past a certain age it’s not socially acceptable to sit on the floor, cry and scream for your mum if you get lost is it?

Reality- It’s actually so easy to get help around the city- whether that’s via google, social media, going into a shop, or just by asking someone who looks friendly. Sheffield is such a beautiful city with so many interesting locales and places to help identify where you are, so it’s pretty hard to get lost. If you ever do, there’s always help there if you need it.


All in all, I’m looking forward to starting second year this October and seeing all my friends again. I know it can be intimidating when you first pack up your belongings and get out of that car, when you meet your flatmates for the first time, when you attend your first day etc. But whether you experience smooth sailing or rough patches, or a mix of both, I’ve found that the university offers help to cover all bases- really it does. There’s always someone to help out if you are worried, and everyone is super friendly, no matter the age or background.

I was honestly shaking on my first day- sweat dripping off my forehead, knees weak, arms are heavy, vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti- wait no. Sorry. My point is, I’m not just some confident looking geezer with a big grin, telling you it’s all going to be okay. Cause most likely, you’re still going to be absolutely bricking it even if you read this… But from someone who was in your position with those exact fears, I can safely say it will be okay. If you do struggle, you can meet new people by joining societies, or you can always reach out for support.

I hope you have a great time starting uni! (And don’t fall down any wells)