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Getting your year off to a good start

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Your studies are a big step towards landing the job you want, but taking care of yourself along the way is key. We look at the importance of mental wellbeing, connections and asking for help.

Suzanne Henderson is part of Unitec’s Counselling Services team, offering free support for students experiencing life challenges - from depression and grief to cultural, identity and relationship problems. As a professionally qualified Mental Health Advisor, she says the start of the year can be particularly tough.

“A lot of students are really anxious when they start their course, and many feel uncomfortable asking for help. Unitec offers a wide range of free support services, all completely confidential, so you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out - it’s all part of the learning journey.”

Career Development Consultant Deb Crossan agrees. As part of Unitec’s Career and Employability team, she says much of the angst new students experience is around course selection, while further down the track it’s about their career path or finding work. 

“As Career Consultants, our job is to help people ‘find their thing’. We assist students with course and career planning as well as finding work - whether part-time to fund their studies or a full-time job when they complete their course.” 

So, with the academic year well and truly underway, we get Deb and Suzanne’s top tips on putting your best foot forward and keeping your mental and social wellbeing on track. 

TIP #1: You won’t know everything on day one!

Starting a new year can feel overwhelming, but you shouldn’t expect to know everything straight away. Suzanne’s advice is to remember you’re here to learn. Allow yourself to ease into your studies and things will fall into place.

TIP #2: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you need help, whether mental, financial, physical or learning, you don’t need to cope on your own. Unitec has a broad range of confidential student support services available, all free or heavily discounted. The key is to ask for help early - don’t wait until the wheels are falling off! 

TIP #3: Focus on the learning.

Getting hung up on good grades can be counterproductive. Deb’s advice is to concentrate on the learning process and the skills you’re gaining along the way - communication, teamwork, problem solving. By looking at the big picture you’ll reduce anxiety and actually enjoy the learning journey.

TIP #4: Make connections.

Step away from your laptop and connect with people - join a club or sports team, arrange a coffee with a fellow student or chat with a lecturer. It’s not only good for your mental wellness but can lead to opportunities. 80% of Kiwis get jobs through their connections, so you never know where it might lead!

TIP #5: Are you on the right track?

If you feel your chosen course isn’t right for you, Deb’s advice is to look at the bigger picture by finding out more about your chosen industry and the career options available. Volunteer at a relevant organisation or have a conversation with someone in the industry. If you still feel it’s not for you, the Career and Employability team can help you find a path that’s a better fit. 

TIP #6: Structure = balance.

If you’re struggling to balance study with family, work or other commitments, you’re not alone! Suzanne’s advice is to create some solid structure. Prioritise what’s important, then set clear boundaries and stick to them. It’s also important to stay organised, take good notes and keep on top of your studies to help reduce your mind clutter.

TIP #7: Prioritise self-care.

When we’re busy, exercise, eating and sleeping well are often the first things to fall away - but Suzanne says they’re actually a priority to success. Join the Unitec gym (students get reduced rates), sign up to a sports team or look into yoga or meditation. Students get free nurse visits at Unitec’s Medical Centre, Te Puna Waiora, $8 doctor visits (if you’re registered), and $15 sessions at the Osteopathy Clinic - so it’s easy to keep on top of your wellbeing.

TIP #8: Address learning challenges early on.

If an impairment is making it difficult to cope with course work, or you’re simply struggling with an aspect of your learning, it’s important to seek help early. Unitec’s Access4Success team provides impairment support, from notetaking to sign language interpreting and assistive technology, while our Learning Advisors offer completely confidential assistance with any aspect of your coursework.

TIP #9: Transitioning to study or work.

If you’re returning to studies after working, Unitec’s Learning Advisors can build up your learning confidence to help you succeed in your studies. If you’re transitioning from study to the workplace, the Career and Employability team can assist you in finding part-time work or securing a job at the end of your degree. 

If you want talk to someone, book a free appointment with our Counselling Services team at or 0800 108 510. For course selection, career planning or job hunting assistance, contact our Career Consultants on 0800 107 510 or Or, find the complete range of services available at Unitec on our Student Services site. 

If you need support with any issues affecting your studies, book a free appointment with our Counselling Services team by emailing or calling 0800 10 85 10. For help with career planning, course selection or finding work, contact our career consultants on 0800 10 75 10, email or book an appointment online.

To find the full range of student support services available at Unitec, go to our Student Services site. All services are completely confidential.