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Freshers’ week

A letter to myself

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A few words of advice before you start your second year of mental health nursing.

Hello you,

It’s been a year. You’re now entering your second year of mental health nursing. In the first year, you weren’t sure what to expect – but it’s been a truly positive experience. There were a few things that, had you known beforehand, would have put your mind at rest. Little things that you thought people would think were silly – even though you’re all in the same boat.

What if I don’t know anybody when I move in to halls?
It takes a while – but you will eventually find someone in your house. Searching for the university’s freshers’ page came in handy here – you were also able to find people on your course, countering your next worry…

What if I can’t find anybody on my course?
You will probably find at least one person online. They might not be living next door, but they probably won’t be that far away – and being able to walk up to someone you recognise and not stumble over your words is something of a relief.

A few words of advice:

  • Don’t spend your entire bursary during freshers’ week – overdrafts are not fun. Drinks and tickets to nights out all add up, as does the ‘getting to know each other’ meal you have with your new friends on the Sunday afternoon.
  • The students’ union accommodates for everyone – don’t be put off.
  • Have some time for yourself. If this means spending one night a week in your onesie, do it. Classes like Zumba, which you did for a while, are social, too. Sometimes, nursing students can feel quite isolated, particularly at the end of the year when it seems like every other student went home months ago! Joining student societies can help with this – although be careful, as many societies require high levels of commitment and might clash with placements.
  • Keep on top of work, be organised. When you have five assignments totalling 10,000 words due in within three or four days of each other, with two exams, you do not want to be scrabbling around, the night before the deadline, trying to find the definition of ‘therapeutic relationship’ or finding that reference for that model of reflection – you know, the one that was discussed in a lecture around 2 or 3 months ago?
  • If you need help, ask for it. This applies both at university and on placement, and it is certainly not a sign of weakness. Neither tutors nor mentors are mind readers. Besides, just because no one else has asked your question, it doesn’t mean that they won’t appreciate the answer. “There’s no such thing as a silly question.”
  • Lectures are quite different to classes at school. From a class of maybe 20 at most, to a lecture hall of 300. Seminars are in small groups – similar in size to the class you’re familiar with – and are based on the lecture.
  • Stepping on to the ward/in to the office on that first day of placement can be daunting. If you can, make sure to ring beforehand, perhaps arrange a visit before you start. And, do a practice run of the journey, to avoid turning up late.
  • “It’s not like Holby City or Casualty” – a common refrain from lecturers at university open days. They’re right – but you wouldn’t change that for the world.

I’ll see you here this time next year,


Emily Sharp is a second year mental health branch student at Nottingham University

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