Eating Disorders and Preparing for University: The Checklist

1. Exploring campus and finding any key buildings (and the wellbeing office in case you ever need it)

When you arrive at a new city, it can be overwhelming. My advice is to take a day trip to the city and explore the location. It is great to familiarise yourself with the area and routes (especially if it is unknown to you) before you relocate so it doesn’t feel so alienated! If you are staying in university-provided halls of residence, book a campus tour and use this opportunity to ask any questions you have. There will be maps located around the university and halls or a pocket-sized map that can be provided. Write a list full of questions or topics you’d like more information on. Take a friend or family member with you too if you think this may be helpful. Many halls have designated on-site wardens or resident advisors, this is worth checking out if you ever need to talk to someone. They can also help to signpost you to other services. Universities and halls often offer a well-being office or counseling service which is available to students. Check your university’s or hall’s handbook (usually on their website) where you can find contact details and important information regarding mental health support while you are studying. Before I started exploring what support was available, I had no idea half of it existed! Ask, ask and ask some more, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Universities acknowledge this is a daunting process for anyone, let alone someone struggling with their mental health. It can be worth disclosing information on your medical needs and mental health if you feel comfortable to share. This can also be helpful if you are staying in catered accommodation and if you feel you might need some support with the process, meal times and menus.

2. Visit the freshers fairs and find a ‘social’ which you might like to get involved with.

Whether you like to party, prefer a more relaxed setting, or want to join a bookclub, there will be something for you! Keep up with your universities pages on social media or on their website for events and clubs. You can also email for more information on what extracurricular activities are provided. Give yourself time to settle in your new area and challenge yourself to attend some events you are interested in. It’s great being around like-minded people with similar interests to you, it can take some of the focus away from your academic studies. My university allows students to suggest clubs and activities, they also help you to arrange these and promote them. So, if you have a new idea, why not get in touch with an event facilitator at your university?

3. Registering at a local doctor

A quick Google search or the NHS’s website will show you the nearest GP’s listed in distance from where you will be staying. It is worth exploring your options here and seeing if the practice is currently accepting new patients. You definitely want to register ASAP. You’ll be mingling with a lot of new people so it is a bit of a germ hotspot! Also, if you are fortunate enough to

be with an eating disorder service under your current GP, ask about referrals to a local service in your new town. This is called a ‘transfer of care’. All of your information is sent to the new service, it works similarly to a referral but it is already existing. If you are not with an eating disorder service yet and want to receive care when you move, speak to your new GP about a referral process. BEAT provides a leaflet you can take with you to your appointment if you think it would be helpful.

4. Making friends? It can be stressful to know how to introduce yourself to a roommate, or course mate?

This is where social media can be a great place to network. I posted in my universities Facebook Group to find others starting at the same time as me/students on my course. There are many group chats that are made at this stage and it is worth having a look for some. I found this helpful as there will be some familiar faces to recognise when I start my studies. Just a general chat can be great! Try asking someone what they are studying, why they chose the course, or what their hobbies are. This can help the conversation to flow and can be a foundation for making friends before you have moved. If you are comfortable doing so, leave your door open when you are unpacking so you can chat to other flatmates as you do so. If you are renting privately, ask for advice via your universities housing department. There are even groups for this too!

Remember, everybody is feeling somewhat anxious as they prepare for their studies. You are not alone. Though it can seem scary, it should be fun too! Give yourself some credit, it is a big step to make but one filled with lots of opportunities. Everyone is on different journeys and at different stages of their lives. Try not to compare your progress to others, you are making a lifestyle change and managing living with disordered eating. Just because you are in this situation you are not any less deserving of having a great university experience. Have fun!

Contributed by Ella