Building Your Uni Community
Loneliness is far too common a topic these days and with every change to the current situation, those at risk of falling into this category seems to shift. I know that at home and at university I rely heavily on those around me (even if they may not realise it) but I didn’t find it easy when I started at university to find my community.
In my case it was simply because of being an introvert. There was no pandemic making it difficult for me, I simply made it difficult for myself. However, I hope that perhaps something in my experience could help someone else out there still trying to find their social group at university.
I’ve become very aware of how broad many of my friends’ social circles seem to be. It seems that everyone knows everyone through some convoluted path of acquaintances and I’ve never really been able to relate to that. Rather, I have a few specific groups of friends and I’m glad to have each of them for different reasons.
My housemates have become the ones that know me best. Time and proximity were my friends in making these connections. I couldn’t just start conversations effortlessly like others but many short conversations over a the years have helped me build up an understanding of those closest to me.
The only ‘risks’ (for lack of a better word) that I took were small, seemingly insignificant gestures but I think they really helped and can still apply in the current confusing circumstances. The best example I have is that I left everyone a Christmas card in first year because I often find it easier to write stuff down than say it out loud and if your in a similar place, you could always drop a little note of encouragement to someone. Random gestures go a long way.
Then there were the friends I made on my course. Depending on subject this one will vary a lot and I relied heavily on just being noticed as a regular lecture attendee even when the numbers dropped at the end of term. I know that this may not be quite so applicable these days with everything being online but through this I found a group of friends with a similar attitude and commitment to our degrees.
To adapt this to the COVID world I would suggest trying to get involved with a group chat of people on your course. If there is someone you have spoken to a little bit before, send them a message to see how they’re getting on with the workload. It’s difficult, I agree, but definitely worth the risk of putting yourself out there.
And finally I have a few friends that I have made from getting involved with societies. Again, this is another case where it may not be so easy given the current restrictions but I’ll share my experience of societies anyway.
I found at first that I tried to get involved with many societies but found it overwhelming when I turned up and everyone already seemed to know each other. It helped a lot when I decided to commit to going to one particular society as regularly as possible. For me it was Astronomy Society.
Astronomy was quite a small society which I found made it easier to get involved in the conversation. It was also (and still is) an area of particular interest for me and I found that going to talks for a few weeks just got me noticed as a ‘regular’. I think the same can be achieved with online events and then, when you’re comfortable, you can try to get involved with the more social side and get to know the rest of the members.
Some societies even offer freshers rep. positions on their exec if you want a way to really get yourself into the heart of the action and an easy way into the conversation. Getting more involved with societies was one of the best decisions I made at uni and it may be different now but I think it’s still a possibility. Online events aren’t the same but they do sometimes offer advantages (i.e. not having to go out in the freezing cold in the winter months is always appreciated).
The thing that I want to stress is that when I went home at Christmas in first year, I was worried that I had no one to turn to. I worried that I had no one to discuss Physics with when problem sheets were difficult, no one to talk to about the everyday stuff involved in uni life and no one to talk to about my interests and passions. But time was the thing that helped the most.
It’s difficult at the moment for so many reasons but don’t let that get you down. It is said so much that it has become a cliché but you really can find your group at university no matter who you are.
Stay positive and be the one to take the first step. You won’t regret it.
I hope this might help someone and I hope that no one loses faith that there are people out there for them at university. Stay positive and have a great break!