Sunday, 30 October 2016

Friends at University

For me, the most terrifying thing about starting university was the thought that I wouldn't make any friends at all, and would be stuck, 400 miles from home, all by myself. Now that I'm here, I can see that all my worries about making friends were completely unnecessary, but I think it's something that most people are at least a little nervous about. I hope this post can show you that at uni there are SO MANY opportunities to make friends, and hopefully dispel some of your worries whether you're about to move or just want to broaden your horizons.

Before you go to uni, there's a couple of things you can do that might set you off on the right foot in terms of making friends. First, and I think this is one of the most important things, spend some time by yourself. In the first few weeks there will be times when you're without someone to go into town with, or don't have anyone to sit next to in lectures, or perhaps just need some time 'me time'. I think if you're already comfortable being by yourself, you'll find times like this much, much easier. It's also worth mentioning here that you're probably not going to meet your best friends in the first week. I think that out of all the people I spent freshers with, I still only talk to two people. It's important not to put all your eggs into one basket, and to keep your friend making opportunities open for as long as possible. Also it can be helpful to join a few Facebook groups that are linked to your university, perhaps one for your accommodation and one for your course. If anything, it gives you a few faces to look out for on your first day, as well as something in common to talk about with the people you meet. Take it with a pinch of salt however, the people who are most vocal in these groups are really not representative of every person there, as well as not every person in your year will have been a part of the group. They do tend to be a good place to get your questions answered, and to reassure yourself that everyone is feeling as nervous as you are.

Raisin at St Andrews- apparently covering each other in shaving foam is a great way of making friends.

In order to make friends, you obviously need to give yourself as many chances as possible to meet new people. In freshers week this is quite an easy thing to do, nobody knows anyone so everybody is ultra friendly and it can seem like making friends is the easiest thing in the world. Once people start to form little groups in the following weeks however, it can be a little more difficult. The easiest place to start, is to say hello to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE. If you bump into someone in a corridor, say hello, if you sit next to someone you've never met in a lecture, say hello, if you're doing your laundry at the same time as someone else, say hello. If you're shy like me it can be a really scary thing to do, but believe me, everyone feels exactly the same and it can be such a relief when the person you're walking next to strikes up a conversation. Following on from this, it's also good to make yourself seem as approachable as possible, something which can be hard if, like me, you have the resting bitch face to end all resting bitch faces. But, try and smile a bit when you're walking along, don't hide yourself away in a corner during lectures, and generally be a really friendly person and you'll be absolutely fine.

Societies can also be a really good way to meet like minded people. Again it can be daunting to go into a room of people where you don't know anyone at all, and are just expected to start talking to people. Unfortunately, that is exactly what you'll have to do, but, it is made a little easier by the fact that you'll all have something in common. Ask how they got into the hobby or sport, how long have they been doing it, what level are they at? Once you've broken the ice, everything is so much easier. With any of these things, once you've done them once, they never seem as scary again.
A  recent mountaineering trip I went on. It's difficult not to make friends when they're holding the rope that stops you plummeting to your death.

Once you've made some friends, the next thing to worry about is how to keep hold of them. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this also seems to be the most obvious, be kind. I think in a time where everyone is trying to 'rebrand' themselves, thinking about how other people are feeling can be the last thing on your mind. Nevertheless, kindness can go such a long way in cementing your relationships. One of the best things that's happened to me at uni so far for example, is when my flatmate, who's now one of my best friends, left a bag of chocolate buttons outside my room when I was really ill, with a little note to say get well soon. It was such a wonderful surprise to come home to, and made me feel so so much better, and like not all the people who cared about me were back home. It's little things like this that people really appreciate and remember, especially when everyone might be feeling a little homesick and lonely.
I made this Toad in the Hole for a friend...It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Finally, when you're making friends it's really important to follow your instincts. If hanging around with a group of people is making you feel awkward or uneasy, they might not be the friends for you. There's no point in trying to be a part of the 'cool' group if they're not doing things you enjoy, or are making you feel left out because of it. The most important thing to remember is to be confident on the outside, even if you're not feeling it on the inside, as most people will be in exactly the same situation and could just be waiting for you to say hello first.

E x


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