Things I wish I knew Before I started International Studies: Kelly Musyoka

In this series, the senior members of BAISmag reflect on their experiences in studying IS and provide advice for the incoming first-year students. This week, Website Manager Kelly Musyoka gives some tips on dealing with self-doubt surrounding a new study programme. 

When I started studying International Studies last year, I had just transferred after attending an HBO study (University of Applied Science) for two years. In The Netherlands, this is not equivalent to University but one level below University. This hierarchy of education impacted the confidence I had concerning my academic performance at Leiden University. I had been getting okay grades in my previous school, but it wasn’t on the same level as University. This made me feel as though I was in over my head and like I wasn’t equipped to study here. I often questioned if I should transfer back to my previous school where I knew I could get good grades or if I should follow my interest, which had brought me to International Studies in the first place. 

Something that you should realise is that everyone is nervous coming into University. It is always scary to start something new without knowing the outcome, but this should not stop you from doing it anyway. 

  1. Talk to your peers

My first tip is to talk to your peers about the struggles you’re having concerning studying at a new school and getting so much new information thrown at you. Your peers are experiencing the same academic process as you, meaning they know exactly what you’re going through. By talking about your problems you can come up with solutions together, you can motivate each other, and you will realise that you’re not the only one feeling the way you’re feeling. During my first semester I felt a bit lonely and bad about myself, because I thought I was the only one struggling with the course load. It seemed like everyone else was on top of their stuff and always knew what was going on. However, after talking to some of my classmates I realised that they were not as put together as they seemed and they too were struggling. It, of course, sounds very off-putting to expose how you’re feeling and to make yourself vulnerable, but chances are your classmates are going to respond with a sense of understanding rather than laugh and point at you. Your peers can be an excellent source of emotional support. 

 2. Getting Help 

We all experience troubles and doubts, but if you at some point feel like you’re having a hard time assimilating to your new bachelor, you can always reach out to your study advisor. Even when you are having doubts about whether or not you want to continue studying International Studies. As the name suggests, your study advisor is there to give you tips on your programme and everything that comes with it, including your fears and doubts. They are there to help you, because they know how difficult it can be to be a student. It is nothing to be ashamed of and, as mentioned before, everyone struggles from time to time. Talking with your study advisor can help you feel understood and can put you at ease. University is stressful enough, you don’t need the additional stress that comes with keeping everything to yourself. 

3. Mental Health

Studying any programme can take a big toll on your mental health. The stress of deadlines and trying to juggle not only university work, but also your social life, maybe even a job and all of your other duties can get overwhelming. Anxiety and depression are very common among students. Left untreated, the symptoms only get worse and more intense. To help you to deal with these and other mental health issues, the university provides its students with the option of going to a student psychologist. This can be an easier and faster way to get the help you need especially if you’re coming from abroad. You don’t need to commit to anything, you can also make an appointment for a consultation and then the psychologist will give you their professional advice on what your next step should be. They are also authorised to refer you to a different institution if need be. If you think you might benefit from this service, feel free to contact the student psychologist.

Hopefully these tips help lower your anxiety level surrounding starting a new study programme. It might help to remember that everyone else is freaking out too.

Lots of luck,

Kelly Musyoka

Website Manager

(Image from ArcGIS StoryMaps)

Find us on Instagram @basis.baismag

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