Settling in: Adjusting to a new environment

Settling in: Adjusting to a new environment

Welcome to all new students, and welcome back to all of you who are returning to continue your studies.

We are all looking forward to being on campus and connect with others. Certainly, after last year’s lockdowns, it is normal to feel a bit apprehensive about being around more people. As human beings, we can adapt to changing circumstances. It will take a bit of time, but soon you will notice that things will feel more familiar as you meet new people and learn about your course.

For some of you, this may be the first time you are away from home, and others coming from abroad will notice differences in living and studying here.

Managing transitions

At the start of of something new, many people experience some mixed feelings. Sometimes we may miss family, friends, and your familiar environment. In general, most people prefer certainty, to have a sense of how things will turn out to prepare for situations to manage them. We need to learn to manage uncertainty as it helps us to adapt and learn.

Transitions are times of renewal, and they provide an opportunity to make changes that bring us positive feelings and experiences (Bridges, 2004). We are motivated to improve and to have a sense of achievement. We feel good when we can have a sense of satisfaction for having done something meaningful. Maintaining a flexible attitude and focus on learning enable us to adjust and keep well (Dweck, 2008)

Each day look for what was good about your day, and what you learned. If there were some disappointing or frustrating experiences, decide what you can learn from the experience, and what you may do differently next time.

What matters now is to focus on what you can control and let go of what you cannot. Identifying something you can do and getting started will help restore a sense of competence and confidence.

Understanding homesickness:

Starting in a new place for the first few days and sometimes the first few weeks can be unsettling. You may feel that although you want to go out and participate in the activities, you may not feel too keen to be in a large group or be in a situation where you do not know anyone.

Acknowledge these feelings – it just means that you are going through a transition and that your body needs a bit of time to adjust to the new environment. Then, start to connect with one student at a time, you can discuss the information you collect and see what you find interesting.

When feeling homesick, you may feel as if you are the only one experiencing these feelings. However, many people experience this feeling when moving to a new place. What matters is to acknowledge the feelings and then take some steps to contact others.

To manage this period, you can remind yourself of the transition periods you have gone through before (e.g., from primary to secondary school). After a while, you gradually got used to the new situation.

Think about what things you like doing, perhaps you can invite another student in your flat to go out and explore the campus or you can go into town and explore your new environment.

Strategies to adjust to a new environment:

Develop healthy routines: Starting a new life at university will bring many changes, both in terms of different ways of doing things, new information to take in and adjusting to relating to new people.  It will also bring many internal changes in terms of how you feel about your choices, your feelings and how you see yourself. 

It is essential to maintain our energy level during transitions as we need it to process information and manage our emotions. Develop healthy routines such as eating well to nurture your body, exercise to strengthen your fitness and sleep well to maintain an optimum energy level. It is fundamental to feel well and confident as you go about your day.

You can find more information in the Looking after yourself booklet. 

Managing worry thoughts: Sometimes, we may experience doubt and worry about what would be best, so it can be challenging to make decisions. If things do not work out how you hoped they would at first, it does not mean that you made the wrong decision. For example, if you feel disappointed that the module is not what you expected or that your accommodation is not quite what you had hoped. Instead, you can look for some aspect of the situation that can provide you with useful information and decide what you can do to make things better next time.

Focus on learning: As human beings, we are naturally curious, and enjoying learning is one of the best ways to maintain our motivation and manage our emotions. 

You can explore the  Life Tools programme and participate in the webinars. You will also receive a weekly email with the webinars planned for the following week. Students have said they like to join because it is a safe space, the content is researched-based, and they can meet other likeminded students who are keen to do well and keep well.  

“The fact the Life Tools programme had something for me to work towards and earned me a certificate at the end was a key selling point – it was personal in that it was me focusing on doing the best for myself, but also academic/professional in that I could add it to my CV for potential employers to see my dedication to personal growth and healthy lifestyle.(Student) 

Check this video describing the programme and hear a student giving feedback. Why not try a webinar and see what you think? You can dip in and out, and there are no assessments.

Connect with others:  As you begin your journey at university, your curiosity and interest in getting to know other students will be stimulating and rewarding.

Explore the activities on offer by checking the Welcome Week programme. You may feel uncertain about what would be best to do as you do not want to miss out on things. Choose the activities that you think could be interesting, and if you cannot get to one that you like, try another. 

You can check out RUSU’s website for events they have planned for you during Welcome Week. You can follow their social media to keep up to date with future activities on campus and online.

International students can find out about resources available on the International students page on Essentials. For upcoming events check their Facebook  page and their Twitter account @UniRdg_IntStu

How about attending a few and see what you find out? These provide a good opportunity to get to know other students. 

Communicating in a second language:  As you are absorbing significant amounts of new information, your brain is working hard to process all of it so that you can use it in your day-to-day.

For those of you coming from other countries, it will take a bit of time to get used to communicating in a second language most of the time. It will require practice to build language proficiency and confidence in your skills. 

Even though you might feel self-conscious speaking in English, focus on practising the language as much as you can. Instead of expecting to speak in English without errors – focus on communicating with others. Making mistakes is how we learn and develop skills. If you do not understand something, do ask others to repeat what they said. People will be understanding as they also want to share with you. After a while, you will build your confidence and will gradually become more fluent.

Wishing you all a stimulating time and that you have rewarding experiences during this academic year.


Bridges, W. (2004) Transitions. Making sense of life´s changes. Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.

Dweck, C.S.,(2008) Mindset. The new psychology of success. How we can learn to fulfill our potential. New York: Ballantine Books. 

Tierney, J. and Baumeister, R.F. (2019) The power of bad and how to overcome it. Great Britain: Allen Lane.

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