Independence and Making New Friends

"Our daughters (twins – Vicky and Jo – what a handful, but that's another story!) first started talking about going to University some time ago. We didn't take too much notice: after all, they were still just kids weren't they and more than likely would change their minds? They did about most other things.

Suddenly, they were going into their final year at Jack Hunt School, getting ready to take their A2s, and bringing home prospectuses for Universities in all sorts of far-flung places.

This was scary, but time to take it seriously. I think this is really the time to get involved, not just by driving on demand to various open days, but by understanding what the different places offer and getting to know the location a little bit. That way, when the day finally comes when you have to leave your precious little one(s), it doesn't seem quite so bad.

There's obviously a lot to think about in the time leading up to that big day. There is help available from the universities and talking to some of the current students on the open days also helped.

We seemed to have lots of discussions about money – budgeting, who would pay for what and how, understanding how the loan system works and when fees were due etc.

This is probably one area which is very new to the student and spending some time beforehand can remove a big worry. Not the expense, unfortunately, but at least it can be under control!

Vicky and Jo were really looking forward to starting their courses, their independence and making new friends. Nevertheless, they still both had moments of panic and fear as the time approached.

I'm sure this is normal and our role was to reassure them that all the other new students would be feeling exactly the same and that they'd be fine. The trouble was, nobody was reassuring us!!

Despite all the efforts we had made to prepare the girls for the big wide world and all the confidence we had in them, we too had our moments of doubt and worry. It's natural.

The thing is to remember that our kids are pretty resilient and resourceful when we leave them to get on with things.

The other thing that really helped was seeing all the other new students rallying round each other when they first arrived in hall, getting to know each other, providing support and generally helping each other to settle in.

It helps to encourage the kids to muck in, accept new and different people but also to remind them that they can be themselves and don't necessarily have to do everything just because others are – there's plenty of opportunity to join in but still room for individualism.

The girls first few weeks were a whirl and they absolutely loved it. That´s not to say that there weren't difficult times and calls home when things weren't going quite right. It's best to remember that you usually hear about the few (and hopefully minor) problems and that when everything is hunky-dory you tend to hear nothing!

It's an emotional and tiring time for everyone and we learned that moods are very up and down; we tried not to panic when there appeared to be a problem and learned that there was usually a reasonable solution or normally that what was a mountain today became a molehill by tomorrow.

A good phone contract with plenty of free minutes in the evening is the best solution here and you just need to be prepared to listen!

The girls have now settled in well and made some great friends and they have all helped each other at times of crisis and have very quickly adapted to their new lives.

There may be hiccoughs along the way but it's worth it and although we miss them, it's great talking and getting back to together with them to hear about their experiences – and still chipping in the odd bit of advice here and there!"

Alan and Karen Peterkin

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