Settling in at UCL: Theodore’s story

A current UCL student shares his experiences of life at University

Photograph of Theodore

What were your biggest worries/ concerns about starting University? 

Trouble making friends/fitting in and being lonely

How did you prepare for starting University? Any practical tips?

I went to visit my new halls and other buildings on my own to get a feel for the university layout though this didn’t really help much. I also tried to reinvent myself from who I was in 6th form but this didn’t really work either; as long as you are friendly and do what’s right it’s okay to have a style that’s not fashionable.

What was your experience of getting support in place if applicable? (DSA, equipment, mentoring etc).

I met with the DSA and was offered a lot of support with things such as buying equipment I might need. What I found most helpful were the special examination arrangements I was given which helped a lot with mid-exam panics.

How did your Aspergers/ ASC impact on your University experience and how did you adapt to this?

I found it very hard to fit in or even take part in most social scenes. One thing that helped immensely was getting a job in customer service (on a checkout in a Sainsbury’s local) which forced me to learn social skills by pushing me way out of my comfort zone. A part time job can also give you a mental rest, alternative sense of achievement and friendships with many different kinds of people.

Whilst I spent the majority of my time as an undergraduate being on my own I found a group of people at the Christian Union particularly caring and welcoming.

I also found it hard to keep track of everything I was supposed to do, particularly in the first few weeks. I would recommend trying to relax, making a list of everything you need to do and just getting on with those tasks.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known?

Not everyone will understand you or take your condition seriously but that doesn’t really matter, unless it’s hateful it’s often best to shrug off people’s ignorance.

Getting involved in some volunteering can be a great help in developing basic life skills, and making good friends and contacts in a similar way to getting a part time job.

Do you have any advice for students in terms of making the most of their University experienceTry to get involved with out-of-class activities especially if it involves physical exercise or spending time with people you get on with, but don’t try to do too much. It’s okay not to be able to do everything because nobody really can. Everyone can handle different amounts but I would say no more than 10 hours a week is generally advisable to avoid getting behind on university work.

Ask members of staff if you need help, expect them to be intimidating or irritable sometimes but remember it’s rarely personal. Try to communicate to all staff members, whether they’re the head of department or the bathroom cleaner that you appreciate their help.

Be ready to start working hard as soon as you start because the workload will increase very quickly after the first week


About Theodore

Theodore is in the third year of his Chemistry research degree.