Coming to university was a lot harder than I expected, as I encountered a whole new experience in a city I had never been to before. I have always been a shy person but as one, in an environment where many of my peers where quite loud and outgoing I quickly felt lonely, overwhelmed and at times, quite depressed due to my social skills, or lack thereof. Indeed, due to my difficultly socialising my relationship with my flatmates in university halls was at first quite, strained. The problem was that I wanted to good friends with them but my general anxiety had a big impact on how attempted to do so. This also had an effect on my university work, as I became more and more stressed and so found it increasingly hard to concentrate on it.
I knew I had to do something, so I went to my student services. They got my GP to refer me to speech and language therapy at Cardiff’s Heath Hospital. This was the beginning of a positive and ongoing process to greater confidence in my communication and social skills. I was increasingly outgoing, going to parties and becoming more comfortable within other similar social situations. I also made new and valued friends, including my university flatmates.
Another situation where my social anxiety was particularly challenging was at presentations at university by myself or with others. Very often, I knew quite clearly what I wanted to say, but the words just didn’t want to come out. With the help of a bit of practise and the help of speech and language therapy this got a little better. Indeed, when I gave presentations as part of the Graduate Academy, feedback suggested it improved quite a bit. Without this improvement in my social confidence I might not even have attended the Graduate Academy or involved myself in the Prince’s Trust.
Though I am still a relatively shy person I have also been told by many people how equally determined I am and consequently, despite my personal challenges, I am intent on not letting this be a barrier to me in my future life or indeed, career. Consequently, though my strength lies with my written communication skills I am extremely eager to develop and strengthen my verbal communication skills with, in part, the help of Mind.
I know this is possible because I do not let challenges become obstacles and as such, I also know that this mind-set is critical to achieve my goals. In the end I am glad I shared my worries during university. I have come to love Cardiff and with the help of the many good friends I have made here, including as a volunteer at Mind and SNAP Cymru, I am positive I can make even more progress. By volunteering at Mind I have built good working relationships with my colleagues and am confident I could do so again, if required at other organisations, in my future career.
One of the ways I am challenging myself to increase my confidence is trying reception duties while being supported and learning with another volunteer. Through simply saying hello and interacting with visitors by developing my confidence to strike a quick and friendly conversation I am confident I can develop my ability to do so for other situations like interviews, which I have found hard before.