Making friends at university
It’s my first day at university. I’m sitting on my new chair at my new desk, surveying my new room with slightly wide eyes. I admire how the stationery set on my desk is organised to perfection.
I can hear doors slamming around me, and faint voices – the stereophonic soundtrack of living in halls. Right now, they’re all strangers. Strangers from all over the country, with different stories. A small part of me already misses the comfort of my friends from school, who I’ve known for years.
This jittery feeling that I have; is it nervousness, excitement, anticipation?
I swivel my chair to face the door. I could stay where I am, in this cocoon that I have just made for myself. Or, I could go out there and talk to those strangers, because there is so much breath-taking potential here – in this hall, in this university – to build something new and brilliant.
With that in mind, I slowly stand up and let my feet carry me to the door. For a moment, I rest my hand on the smooth, metallic handle – a simple thing, but right now it signifies the power I have to create opportunities for myself. To make that introduction that turns those strangers into acquaintances, and then into friends.
I open the door.
That’s it. That’s the first step towards making friends at university.
Top tip: Step outside your room.
The first few weeks of university are the best time to make an effort. Start by introducing yourself to your flatmates and remember that everyone here is new and in the same position as you.
Top tip: the best place to start making friends is in your kitchen – low effort, but highly effective. All you need to do is hang around in there until someone else comes in!
The first flatmate I met was in the kitchen, as we were both putting our stuff into our cupboards. I must admit, I had to muster up some courage to break the silence (punctuated by clinking dishes) but when I did it was worth it.
We both then decided to knock on everyone’s doors and get everyone into the kitchen to introduce ourselves. Eventually, we got everyone to sit around the table, and take turns introducing each other – I promise, this isn’t as awkward as it sounds!
Top tip: Find a piece of paper (it could be the back of a poster!), and write all your names down, with your room number and course. Pin the paper onto your notice board in the kitchen – this was such an effective way for us to get to know each other over the first few weeks.
So, how do we go from being acquaintances to friends? Unfortunately, there’s no standard formula – as of yet, anyway (this one’s for you, mathematicians). It starts with taking the time to get to know each other. Over the first term, I made sure to spend some time in the kitchen to talk to my flatmates. Not a hard feat, considering that we all had to cook there. Personally, I find that these sorts of interactions are better for getting to know someone than just going out as a group – but that is fun as well if you can manage the logistics!
This is the week before you start going to lectures; it’s the perfect opportunity to start making friends!
For me, Welcome Week went by in a blur – one of the most exciting, action-packed weeks of the year. One of the highlights was the number of people I met by going to the various taster sessions for societies and sports clubs.
Top tip: Pick some societies and sports clubs that sound interesting – even if you don’t intend to join them – and go to their taster sessions. This is a great way to meet people who have similar interests to you. Potential friends!
Top tip: When you meet someone and add their contact details, write a short note on where you met them. Trust me, it will help you a couple of weeks later and potentially save you from an awkward conversation.
The people I met during that week fell into 3 main categories:
Strangers/ ‘sort of’ acquaintances
Inevitably, a couple of people I met during that week remained as strangers. But it is a wonderful feeling to walk past one of those people while walking somewhere and share that smile of acknowledgement. It makes campus life more comfortable when there are familiar faces around.
Acquaintances / ‘sort of’ friends
It is a small world that we live in. As such, it shouldn’t have come across as a (pleasant) surprise that I crossed paths with some of the people I had met later in the year. For example, I wanted to join a society late in the year, and I found out on Facebook that someone I had met during Welcome Week was part of that society. This was fantastic, as I could contact her before joining (especially when I was feeling a bit unsure about joining late).
I met some amazing people that week (and after!). In fact, while waiting in the queue for the student cinema, I met a girl who has become one of my best friends at uni. We don’t do the same course and we lived in very different parts of campus, but we still got to spend time together – going to each other’s accommodation, to the cinema, into Coventry, etc.
Societies and Sports Clubs
I’ve already mentioned this before, but this is a great way to meet likeminded people. Societies and sports clubs are so much more than the activity that they ‘represent’ – it is about bringing people together.
Societies/sports clubs organise optional social events outside the main activity, which are a great opportunity to get to know your fellow society/sports club members. I love how there is this big effort to be inclusive – activities include clubbing, going to the pub/restaurants and even laser tag!
Another great place to make friends is on your degree course, of course! I have met really lovely people on my course, during lectures, seminars and labs.
Top tip: In the first few weeks of your course, make an effort to introduce yourself to the people you sit next to in lectures and seminars.
Making friends at university is so important, which is a lot of pressure! But this is something that I urge you to remember:
Top tip: Don’t force it. It’s okay if you meet some people who remain as strangers or acquaintances. Making friends isn’t instant – it takes time, and everyone has their own style of socialising. It can take weeks, months, or even years, to build strong friendships.
I met a lot of people during my first year, for sure. They are all lovely, but even as I write this at the end of my first year, I can count the number of close friends I have on one hand. I still miss my school friends at times, because I haven’t yet found that level of familiarity at university (though some people are getting close!). So, here is my final tip:
Top tip: Do not compare your university friends to your school friends. These are different eras of your life, and the nature of the friendships you make at university cannot be exactly the same as those that you made in school. That is not to say that they cannot be as strong – just different.
I have made some amazing friends at university. I am also looking forward to building stronger friendships with those that I currently know. I also expect to make more friends when I start my second year. It’s never too late to make friends!