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Regular Column: Auntie Po

Pauline Blanchet is a Third Year Development Studies and Linguistics student. For the past year she has been producing her own podcast about mental health and young people where she has investigated some of the biggest issues young people are facing. The first episode was released on October 10th 2018.


Hi, I’m a first year at SOAS, looking for some advice. Being in a new university is obviously difficult for everyone, but it somehow seems like everyone is dealing with it better than I am. I’ve developed some pretty bad anxiety over the past month and I feel like this only makes the already new environment more daunting. Crowds and group settings are the worst, but I don’t know how to avoid them without isolating myself. What do I do?

Sincerely, Frightened Fresher


Dear Frightened Fresher (one amongst many),

First of all welcome to SOAS! I can safely say that you are in good hands! I promise you that SOAS will soon feel like a small knit community rather than a daunting environment. However, I understand the worries and anxieties in the first couple months of the first year. I remember my first month at SOAS and it was a complete blur. On one hand I was scared to be alone but on the other, being in a big group or crowd was extremely tiring. I felt like I had to be ‘on’ all the time. With anxiety, it is important to not spiral your emotions and remember the core as to why you are worried and find a solution to that issue. It is easy to accumulate stress and worry and become more anxious. I have laid out several of pieces of advice that I have learnt over the last two years.

Firstly, find a familiar space in the university where you feel comfortable. For instance, there’s a seat I always go to in the Paul Webley wing. This is my go to space whenever I’m at University and feeling anxious, my safe space if you like. This will even come handy for the years to come. Secondly, I would try and eliminate the thought of seeing everyone in big crowds or groups as this can be overwhelming. Try and focus on one or two people either in your class or a society and try and speak to them. This way, you can stop seeing the University as so daunting but rather you can start to slowly familiarise yourself with SOAS person by person rather than by huge groups and crowds. Sometimes, I avoid people as I get nervous about what to say to people but the moment you approach someone, say hello and have a laugh you will suddenly feel a slow relief. And why not tell them how you’re feeling? Soon enough you’ll realise everyone is in the same boat and feeling similar to you. Fourthly, join a society or a community which interests you at SOAS! In second year, I joined the Women’s Football Team and it really helped me find a base at SOAS and a support system as well as being able to blow off some steam!

Of course, if you feel like it’s too much, there are many places you can go. Student Wellbeing in Paul Webley Wing offers services which are useful if you feel like you need to talk to someone.

For the time being, enjoy the little aspects of SOAS and remember that everyone is feeling exactly the same!


Auntie Po


In the next issue: We are talking about the deep world of social media. Send in your troubles, questions, and stories to our agony aunt, on [email protected]

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