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“You’ll find your friends for life”. If you’re heading to university in the coming weeks, you’re probably going to hear these words from at least one person. There can be a lot of pressure to find your people and make your friends in the first few weeks, or even days, of university. But not everyone’s friend-finding journey is that smooth-sailing. And that’s totally okay. Here is our advice on how to go about making friends at university.
1. Socialising looks different for everyone.
We’ve all heard the stereotypical accounts of university social life: partying until the early hours, drinking so much that you pass out and remember very little the following morning. This is definitely the preferred approach for some people. But for others, this might sound a little daunting. Socialising doesn’t have to involve alcohol, but it can if you want it to. You might find that joining a particular club or society opens doors for socialising in ways you wouldn’t have expected. Every university has a vast range of societies to join, who all approach social life in totally different yet equally valid ways. Trust in the knowledge that you will find what you enjoy doing: it just might take a little bit of time. You’ll soon realise that different people enjoy different forms of socialising.
2. Don’t base it all on the first few days.
Flashback to the week before I left home and moved to university. Everyone told me I would make friends immediately, and that I should leave my door open as an indication for people to wander in and say hello. But when I arrived at my London halls, my flat was emptier and quieter than I’d anticipated, and that made me nervous. The image I had of bonding with my flatmates was shattered, and during the first weekend, the seeds of panic started to settle in. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I’d had my first course induction where I met some friends, as well as attended a few initial events for societies I was interested in. I met people in freshers’ week whom I’m still friends with to this day, and I also met people who I spoke to once and never saw again. That tends to be the way for most people.
And, even as I enter my final year, I’m still making new friends all the time. Through society events, through being allocated to different classes or seminar groups, and through meeting the friends of people I already know. That’s one of the things I love about university: you don’t ever have to stop finding new people if you don’t want to.
3. Societies can be socialising.
Societies have been a huge part of my university journey. As a student in London, I felt slightly out of the loop when it came to socialising. Nights out in London can often feel very different to student-marketed events at other smaller city or campus universities. So, I looked to societies like student journalism and theatre to meet my friends and form the basis of my social life, and they became integral to my identity as a UCL student.
But it’s important to stress that my university experience is going to be different to yours, and everyone else’s. Experiences will vary between cities, universities, degree courses, accommodation and types or groups of people.
Kara, former student at the University of Portsmouth, spoke of the importance of being yourself at university in order to find the people you gel with the most:
“I’d say my key take-away from making the life-long friends that I have from university is that I was completely myself, and therefore met the right people for me. I didn’t want to conform to certain societies and types of behaviours, and while I think that’s a wonderful part of uni life that you should definitely get stuck into, don’t feel you have to - you might just meet your besties who aren’t into that either! Having fun is the most important thing, as your time at uni will fly by!”
Try not to arrive at university with preconceptions about what you might and might not enjoy, and don’t close off any doors straight away. You may well find that you’re much more of a party-person than you initially thought, or you might decide that drinking really isn’t for you, in the way you expected it to be. You might have your heart set on a particular society or form of socialising pre-arrival, and then realise it’s not for you. Be brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and try new things, but remember to put your own well-being first. It can take a while to find your feet.
Evie is a final year BA English student at University College London, and an aspiring journalist. She is President of Pi Media, UCL’s student publication, and writes about all things arts, culture and current affairs.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.