The 2021 USI Guide to
settling in to college
Settling in at college isn’t always easy. The experience of being away from home in a new place can be incredible fun; you get to stretch your wings and enjoy new freedoms – the advice below can help you maximise the experience.
Your Mental Health
Starting or returning to college is a time of huge change in your life, meaning it is so important to look after your mental health and wellbeing. Remember that you always have options for getting support and your students union will always help you.
This is section will outline some tips for minding your mental wellbeing and what you can do if you’re struggling with your mental health.
- Sleep: Try to get a good night sleep every night (aim for seven or eight hours). It can be tempting to stay awake late, but you wont
- Eating Well and Staying Hydrated: Regular, nutritious meals can have a positive effect on your physical health, which can contribute to feeling better mentally too! Remember to drink water throughout the day, try to keep a water bottle with you at all times that you can refill.
- Keep Active: Keeping active in any way you can, everyday can have a positive impact on your mood. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to get out for a walk and fresh air!
- Watch your Substances: It can become easy to use substances more when we’re not feeling ourselves, but its important to know that they can have also have an adverse effect on your mental wellbeing. Learn more about drug harm reduction here (Hyperlink to drug harm reduction section)
- Talk with those close to you: Remember that those close to you want to help and support you no matter what. Sometimes just talking about how you feel with someone can help massively. Talk to your friends, your family, or alternatively, your SU will always be there to listen.
- Do things with others: Sometimes just participating in group activities with others can have a really positive effect on how you’re feeling. Joining a club or society, getting involved with your students’ union, or volunteering can all be great ways to meet new people and give back to your college community.
What to do if you’re struggling with your mental health:
If you are struggling with your mental health, the most important thing to remember is that you are doing the right thing by reaching out for help, no matter what the situation. A great place to start if you’re struggling with your mental health is to talk to your SU welfare officer. They will be able to both listen to you, support you, and help you seek further support. Another option is to seek out the counselling services that your college offers. You will be able to access your college counsellor free of charge, and they will be able to help support you through anything you’re going through. Talking to your GP can also be another great resource, as it can never hurt to have more people in your court! Finally, there are many national support services who can provide general or specific supports for you, such as Jigsaw, The Samaritans, BodyWhys (for eating disorders)
If you are in a mental health emergency, click here (Help in a Mental Health Emergency | Mental Health USI)
USI Mental Health- Mental Health USI | The central repository for mental health work in USI
Spunout- Mental Health – spunout
College is a new and exciting time where you will meet new people and experience new things, no matter if you’re a fresher or a final year. There can often be a sense of pressure in college to be having sex and its so important to remember that you can go at your own pace, and to not feel pressured into anything. This section will outline the importance of consent and where you can get support if you have had a non-consensual experience, the importance of contraception, and some information about STIs.
As Active Consent* says, Consent needs to be OMFG- Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely Given
If you, or a peer, have had a non-consensual sexual experience there are a number of option available to you. As always, your local welfare officer will be able to support you, advise you of your options, and assist you in getting any help you may need.
The Rape Crisis Centres throughout the country provide support to victims both male and female of rape and sexual assault. The service they provide is to support victims of sexual abuse and to provide information surrounding rape and assault. If you have had a non consensual sexual experience, they can accompany you to the Gardaí or police, help arrange a medical forensic examination at a SATU (Sexual Assault Treatment Unit), and give you information about what happens next.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre provides support, information, counselling and advocacy services to help people recover from the trauma of sexual violence. The DRCC’s aim is to offer a safe and confidential space where women and men of all ages can be listened to and supported without shame or self-blame. If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually abused, you don’t have to manage alone. Please remember if you need any help or are unsure of what to do, call the National 24-Hour Sexual Violence Helpline 1800 77 8888 where you will get support and guidance from a trained person.
If you are considering engaging in sexual activity, it is important to consider what contraception you will be using. Contraceptives are so important for preventing the spread of STIs and preventing unplanned pregnancies.
Emergency contraception is a secondary form of contraception – it is used when other forms (e.g. a condom) have failed or has not been used. It is effective up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. If you need Emergency contraception (i.e. the morning after pill) then it can be prescribed and dispensed to you by a GP, Pharmacist or perhaps even through your student health.
For more information on contraceptives and their uses visit: Contraception – sexualwellbeing.ie
STIs & getting tested:
To protect against STIs a condom must be used each and every time you have sexual intercourse. To be fully protected, dental dams and condoms should be used during oral sex. The only assurance of not getting a STI is abstinence and abstaining from sexual intercourse and outercourse. There are over 30 types of STIs and they can be broking down into 3 categories:
- Parasites: pubic lice (crabs) that live on you – these are passed on through skin to skin contact and sometimes through contact with infected bedclothes etc. These are very easy to treat, and medication usually comes in the form of a cream.
- Bacterial infections: these are caused by bacteria and include Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. Problematic but curable – these can generally be looked after and dealt with. Medication usually comes in the form of anti-boditics and abstaining from sexual intercourse for 2-3 weeks.
- Viral: Hepatitis, HIV, Herpes – these all fall under the viral category. In general these can only be treated, not cured. And in HIV’s case, it can develop into AIDS . HPV (Genital warts) can lead to illnesses like cervical cancer also. Contracting a Viral Infection can be treated by taking regular medications and keeping up a strong immune system.
It is good practice to communicate and to look after ones sexual health, it should be regular and practice good sexual health always use contraceptives and get checked every 6 months. Please contact your nearest sexual Health Centre or G.U.M clinic to have a check up on your Sexual Health. For a full list check up http://spunout.ie/health/article/sti-gum-clinics-in-ireland
For more details on STIs, their symptoms and their treatment, check out: Sexually transmitted infections – sexualwellbeing.ie
It’s important to stay safe while being sexually active. To make sure your sexually healthy , you should take a STI test regularly . There is a lot of myths surrounding STI check-ups, but you shouldn’t worry. Tests are literally painless and don’t take too long. If you are going for a test, make sure not to pass urine for 4 hours prior to allow for a proper test. An STI test is usually free, so if you are having sex, get tested and be safe.
If you want more insight into a check-up you should look up Spunout.ie video http://spunout.ie/health/article/what-to-expect-at-an-sti-clinic on what a regularly check-up consists of.
For a full list of clinics look up http://spunout.ie/health/article/sti-gum-clinics-in-ireland
You can also look to http://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/ for further information.
Resources & Supports:
- Unplanned & planned pregnancy [My Options]:Unplanned Pregnancy | My Options from The HSE – HSE.ie
- Spunout: Sexual Health – spunout
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: Dublin Rape Crisis Centre | Home Page (drcc.ie)
- Rape Crisis Network: http://www.rcni.ie/
Drug Harm Reduction
It is important to consider both the physical and mental impacts taking drugs can have on you. How drugs impact on our mental health can depend on different factors such as:
- The drug – the type of drug, the contents, quantity and if it is a new drug.
- The Set- personal factors which are our starting point, how you’re feeling both physically and mentally or if you haven’t used in a while.
- The setting – where you are, who you are with, if you are not used to using drugs in this location or with these people.
Basic Drug Harm Reduction Tips:
- Taking too much of a drug too soon can also cause an overdose. Take a test dose and leave two hours
- If you stop using drugs for a while and you then start again, your tolerance to the drug may have changed. If you take the same amount (dose) as you used to before you stopped, you could be at risk of an overdose.
- You cannot be fully sure of the contents or purity of a drug. Dosing is difficult when you don’t know the contents or strength. Testing kits may not identify new compounds, adulterants or the dose.
- Mixing substances can also put you at risk. For example, mixing alcohol and prescription medication or alcohol and MDMA or Cocaine
- Do not use notes or keys if snorting drugs as they can harbour infection, use an unused straw, rolled up post-it or clean piece or card
Resources: Drugs.ie: Drug and Alcohol Information and Support in Ireland – Drugs.ie Spunout drugs: Drugs – spunout
We don’t have a lot of it. We’ve got a long way to go and a small amount of money to get there. How do we keep our costs down and our bang-per-buck up?
MFW money literally doesn’t grow on trees.
It doesn’t grow on trees, and it’s too tight to mention. You have a small amount of cash and a long way to go, so let’s talk about cutting down on waste.
Be smart about food.
You’re in college so you’re not stupid. If you’re going to be staying for four nights in your college accommodation (and heading home to see the folks at weekends), get enough food in for five nights. Why five?
When you get home on the Sunday night you’re not going to feel like hitting the supermarket – by making sure there’s something to eat at home you’ll avoid the temptation to call for a takeaway.
Eat before you shop. Believe us.
When you’re shopping for food, eat something before you go. Shopping hungry massively increases the temptation to buy highly palatable foods, which are high in fat and sugar, are broadly unhealthy and a waste of your money.
Learn to cook. Level Up in Life.
Learn to cook. Simple foods cooked well can be cheap and effective in keeping you fuelled for success, and spending time this semester learning how to waste less and eat more healthily is like extra credit for the rest of your life.
You learned to ‘eat the rainbow’ at school, so put it into practice now. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables of all colours and enjoy seasonal produce which costs less and satisfies you more.
We’re all about cutting food miles and buying locally produced foods – and happily, so are lots of supermarkets. You don’t need us to tell you that the big german retailers have some great prices on fresh fruit and vegetables – they advertise the fact every day. Learn to cook with what’s cheap and available.
Get a student Leap Card. You know this, but if we didn’t say it, we’d be silly.
Also, consider getting a bike if it’s safe and close to ride to and from college. Whatever you spend on a bike (and a second hand one is absolutely the way to go) get a lock the bike seller recommends. We love locks from ABUS and Kryptonite, but you can get a Diamond rated (really secure) lock for less in Halfords. We don’t get any money for this plug.
Buy stuff in sales, and prefer places with student discounts, obviously, but pay attention to second hand clothes stores to get fashionable outfits for less money. In USI we dislike the fast fashion stores and it’s always better to buy items that are going to last.
Living away from home is a big transition for everyone. The advice below should help you stay in the landlord’s good books and make living closer to college a good deal more fun.
Is the landlord registered?
Your landlord must by law be registered with the RTB, and if they’re not, you should seek to get that fixed ASAP. It provides protection for them and for you and they’re breaking the law if they aren’t registered.
Pay rent and prove it
Pay your rent on time and get a receipt for the rent. You should keep a rent book, and it’s a good idea to get one if the landlor fails to provide it..
If you’ve moved in (hopefully), now’s a good time to do an inventory. Missing or damaged items are some of the most common reasons for a landlord to withold rent and it’s your responsibility to make sure the things in your accommodation today are returned at the end of your lease in essentially the same manner you found them. Make a list – how many bowls, how many cups etc.
Also make a note (and take photos) of any damaged items in the apartment. Some wear and tear will happen from time to time, but if something has been supplied to you ragged or broken, it’s not going to get any better and you may as well make sure you’re not on the hook for it at the end of your tenure.
Vacuum your floors regularly – carpets get properly damaged if dirt is allowed to settle and gets added to over time. You and your housemates deserve a clean place to come home to every day, so do your bit. And if the floors are messed up beyond repair at the end of your tenure, you could well be on the hook to loose a chunk of your deposit.
You have rights, and you should make yourself aware of them at the RTB website.
Energy and the Environment
Your energy use doesn’t have to cost the Earth. As winter approaches, throw on an extra layer before you ramp up the heating. When you’re cooking, put a lid on the pot to reduce your cooking time by up to 50% and your energy bill by the same. Turn off chargers or unplug them when you’re not using them to save money and CO2. Do your console updates manually and don’t let them just run overnight, sucking cash out of your pocket and heating up the planet.
Be sound. Cooking a bigger pot of food for your buddies cuts food waste, cuts time cooking and reduces energy waste, and can also get a good vibe going.
Your Students’ Union
Imagine a thing specifically set up to help you find your feet and work towards your best interests as a student. You don’t have to imagine it – you’re already a member of your Students’ Union, and if you’re really lucky, already a member of USI
Your SU is your college family
Students’ Unions organise to pursue campaigns and activities for students. They play an active role in the quality of your course and they’re there to look after you and your interests. Each Students’ Unionn is different, but if your SU is a member of USI your officers are trained to support and help you whatever problems you may have. You should get involved.
Easter Eggs but it’s not easter it’s like winter
We hope this advice has been useful for you. There will be moments when you just want to blow off some steam, so we thought you might to play our favourite game.