That time of year has come again where many young people will be heading off to university. Back in September 2015, I moved to what would become my home for the following 3 years; the beautiful city of Winchester. It’s definitely an experience that terrified me, but for the first time in my life I had a completely clean slate. No one knew me, and I was so thrilled to get the chance to make new friends at university with people that I had zero mutual connections with. In this post I’ll be sharing my top 10 pieces of advice for anyone in the same situation. Hopefully this helps make the transition to university easier for some of you, and you’ll be able to make relationships that could last a lifetime.
My first tip, something I always suggest to new students, is to go onto Facebook and find out if any Facebook groups have been made for your university/halls of residence/uni course. This is a great way to meet some new potential friends at university. I managed to find a page for each of these personally, and it definitely helped curve some of the anxiety I was feeling towards the big moving day. I managed to meet several of my new flatmates, along with loads of new course-mates. Having that extra opportunity to bond with these people early will also mean that you shouldn’t feel as lonely once you arrive.
Bring a Door Stop
This is a great way to show your new flatmates that you’re open for conversation. One of the simplest little hacks but also very effective. People will be much more likely to come and introduce themselves to you if you’ve already got your door propped open, as it’s a lot more inviting than them having to knock.
You finally have this amazing chance at a fresh start, so make the most of it and just be yourself. Don’t try to fit in with the crowds you know you’re not compatible with. I did this at first. Half of my flat were people who were quite centred around ‘popularity’ and the idea of being cool. They enjoyed big nights out, and hanging with the cheerleaders and sports teams. Whereas the other half were much more like me, we enjoyed movie nights, days out to the beach, and weren’t really that fussed about what others thought of us.
The mistake that I made from the very beginning is that I tried to be friends and fit in with everybody I came across, which involved acting in different ways around certain people. This became quite tiring, and eventually I just realised that I only really wanted to give my time to the people I had most in common with, rather than those I had to change myself to fit in with.
Another, perhaps more humorous, example of this happened the day we moved into our flat. One of my flatmates offered me a beer in an attempt to be sociable. I really appreciated the gesture and (having just watched my parents drive away) I was quite grateful for the company. So I accepted the offer, and then had to work my way through this bottle of beer. Bearing in mind, I actually hate beer, so I don’t know why I took one. I was just so keen to make friends at university that I pretended I enjoyed it and then later had to confess that I only did it to make conversation.
Fresher’s Fair is the first big event that usually takes place for all the new students. Use this as a chance to bond with your flatmates/course-mates. When I was at uni, my flatmates and I all arranged to go together so we could see what was on offer. Make sure to look really friendly and approachable, don’t be afraid to talk to the people running the stalls and introduce yourself. You might cross paths with them further down the line. Also make sure you do some research prior to Fresher’s Fair, to find out which societies you might like to join and when their welcome sessions are.
Societies are a massive part of the university experience for a lot of people. Especially with the massive variety that exists nowadays, there’s so much more than just sports teams. At my university some of the societies included; Film; Comic Books; Teaching; Ballroom Dance; Feminism; Quidditch (!); Sign Language; Busking; and so many more.
I joined a couple during my time at university. Something else that was really great was that many societies were pretty inclusive. My housemate was part of the Psychology Society, and I sometimes went with her to parties with other psychology students. Societies usually cost a little money to join (more so if you’re in a sports society), for example I joined tennis and I think that was about £40 for the year which I thought was quite reasonable. I would definitely recommend joining at least one society during your time at uni. You can meet so many new people, plus it’s so lovely to have an extra curricular activity alongside your studies.
As tempting as it might be to keep to yourself and stay in the bubbles you’re used to, you should make the most of every new opportunity presented to you. Even if this means going out of your comfort zone and attending a party where you only know one other person. The first few weeks are the most important when it comes to making friends at university. Everyone is in the same boat and looking to make as many new friends as they can, to give themselves lots of options.
So one of my biggest pieces of advice for you is to say yes as much as you can, even if you’re not in the mood or think you won’t enjoy it. You might end up having a really fun time, and meeting lots of new friends. Especially in the first few weeks of uni before things start getting more stressful with deadlines and exams; this is what your free time is for!
Keep an Open-Mind
You’ll meet so many different people at uni so the best thing to do is embrace it! You will likely come across personalities you’ve never encountered before, so just don’t judge a book by it’s cover because those individuals might end up becoming your best friends.
If your school experience was anything like mine, then you never got the fresh start when moving from primary to secondary. It just so happened that pretty much my entire school year came to the same high school as I did. Being around the same group of people for 14 years definitely means you get used to being in a particular crowd. Not only that, but your peers end up viewing you the same way they have since you were 4-years-old. However, the blessing of starting over and making new friends at university meant that I could befriend anyone I wanted without the past judgement or social hierarchy getting in the way.
This one in particular has several benefits. Not only can you make some extra money on the side, but it’s also a great way to meet some new people. I loved my little part-time uni job; I worked in a stationers which sold tonnes of amazing products, and they were so great with flexibility. They always let me go home for the uni breaks like Christmas and Summer, and my job was always waiting for me when I got back to Winchester. Another awesome perk was the 35% off, which as I’m sure you can imagine came in handy with uni supplies.
It’s likely you’ll work alongside lots of other students, and I was lucky to make many friends through my job. Another option is working for the university itself, which will guarantee you’ll meet lots of fellow students. Universities usually pay pretty well, and some roles might include; Student Ambassador; cleaning; barrister/bar staff; and even working in the library.
Asking for Space
Your friends and family may be feeling a bit left behind and that’s natural and to be expected. However, there’s nothing wrong with telling them you need a week or two to settle into your new environment. This is a crucial adjustment period and you’re only going to be a fresher once, it’s the best time to make new friends in your new setting. They’re sure to understand.
Be brave. If you’re in your room and hear people talking in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to get involved and engage. Go in and join the conversation. These next few years are going to be some of the most exciting and full-on years of your life; and you’ll make so many friends at university along the way. So put on a massive smile and get to know your new peers. Even if this means you have to fake it till you make it.
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