‘Second term blues’: A former fresher’s guide to surviving second term


Grace Fegan advises students on how to combat the difficulties faced beyond the first term of university

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By Grace Fegan

Commonly known as the ‘second term blues’, the realities of university begin to sink in for many freshers during second term. As the excitement of first term dies down and the academic pressures pile up, students are often left feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and homesick.

Yet the ‘second term blues’ are often overlooked. Many freshers assume that they have got through the hardest part of moving to university, the moving out! So, when second term rolls around at 100mph (trust me – it goes very quickly), it’s easy to see why many students are unprepared to face these less appealing realities of university.

However, as the cliche goes, I’ve “been there, done that”. After completing my first year at York, I’ve assembled some of the most effective tricks I used to overcome my very own experiences of ‘second-term blues’, so that you don’t have to! Simply follow these 4 easy tips, to guarantee that your second term will be just as exciting (and perhaps chaotic) as your first!

Setting a mid-term checkpoint
One of the hardest parts that I found when moving to university was separating from my friends and family back at home. It’s somewhat easy to distract yourself among the numerous events organised throughout the first term, so homesickness became particularly apparent for me in the second term. This is where my first tip comes in; setting a mid-term checkpoint to return home.

The average university term is 10 weeks, which is a long time without returning home. Although technology now allows us to easily interact online with others, it’s definitely not the same as being with them in person. Instead, arranging a mid-term date to return home makes the term much less daunting. I found that settling back into university after Christmas was a lot easier with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be too long before I was back at home again. Not only did this help to alleviate my homesickness, but by breaking the term into more manageable chunks I was able to handle my academic workload better too. I could focus on current tasks and assignments, removing any unnecessary stress surrounding assignments due for the latter part of the term.

However, returning home too frequently is a common mistake I’ve seen many first years make that I would advise against. Visiting home regularly can prevent the development of your own independence, causing you to rely on going home to temporarily suppress any feelings of homesickness. Setting one mid-term checkpoint to return home instead provides you with the motivation to deal with and combat homesickness yourself: a key life skill when adjusting to new and unfamiliar environments.

Continue socialising
Another noticeable difference between college and university was the sheer amount of people I met. Totalling to over 15,000 students, the student population at York differs drastically to the average college, so use this to your advantage! I know it’s tempting to settle down with a tight-knit group of friends, especially when putting yourself out there to meet new people can be overwhelming. But continuing to socialise throughout the year will expand your support network, which can come in useful if those ‘second term blues’ do begin to fester.

I found that having a larger group of people to talk to helped combat the isolation I felt at the start of second term, as I could relate to their similar experiences of loneliness and homesickness. Even if you aren’t affected by the ‘second term blues’, don’t limit yourself to a handful of friends. Broadening your network provides you with countless more opportunities and experiences. So, join that society, attend that event, push yourself out of your comfort zone and you never know, you might just get your hands on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Forming a daily routine
Becoming comfortable with being alone is just as important as having a large friend network at your disposal. I cannot stress enough the importance of creating and sticking to an individual daily routine from the beginning of first term. Repeating habits daily will create a routine, helping to familiarise the new environment you find yourself in, so if you do start to experience the ‘second term blues’, you’ll have a sound routine to fall back on.

Some examples of the daily habits I implemented into my morning included making my bed, going through emails, at least 30 minutes of reading (non-course related), and a walk. But the great thing about a daily routine is that it’s completely customisable, allowing you to personalise it to your own specific needs and preferences.

Sticking to a daily routine also encourages consistency. A recent survey conducted on the effect of COVID-19 on 1,793 students found that the loss of a routine impacted 92 percent of students’ ability to study. So not only will a daily routine help you to adapt to your new university environment, but it will also leave you feeling focused and productive – sounds like a win-win to me!

Setting aside downtime
Just like many other freshers, I entered second term under the impression that I had to make it just as busy as my first term. I signed up for too many things that I simply didn’t have time for and therefore couldn’t properly commit to. My days would be so jam-packed with little space between each task to cram in any extra studying, that by the end of the week I was always too exhausted to do anything over the weekend.

As important as it is to follow a daily routine, implementing downtime into it is just as crucial. Your time at university will be full of new and exciting opportunities, which when not managed correctly, can result in an overwhelming number of tasks on your hands. Doing too much without taking a break can be counterproductive, with stress remaining one of the leading factors in students dropping out of university.

Downtime will look different for everyone. So, whether it means grabbing a cuppa and putting your feet up for your favourite show, or going for an evening stroll; make sure you’re prioritising both your physical and mental wellbeing through taking time out of your day to relax and wind-down.

So that’s it, those were my 4 key tips to keeping those nasty ‘second term blues’ at bay. Simply follow them from the beginning of your time at university to guarantee that second term will run just as smoothly as your first. Enjoy!