• Zoe Williams

managing university friendship expectations.

Going to university is an exciting time - perhaps now more than ever. Having kept our distance from one another for over a year, the prospect of meeting and socialising with new people is full of anticipation.

Whether you’re starting your first year or returning after months of online study, re-entering our social worlds and forming new ones, can be daunting. We’re frequently told that our university years will be some of our best and that the friends we make will be ones we keep for life. Yet even for the most confident social butterflies, making friends at university is likely to have its challenges. Whilst we know that everyone’s ‘in the same boat,’ how to navigate that boat is another question..

With that in mind, here are some tried and tested dos and don’ts to steer you in the right direction.

do try to get to know people before you start.

One of the surest ways to ease those first day jitters is to try to get to know people prior to starting university. Most universities will have Facebook pages where you can request to be added to course-specific and accommodation group chats. Integrating in these communities will take the pressure off those first face-to-face meetings and will ensure there are some familiar faces you can approach with confidence.

do keep your door open.

A good way of getting to know people in your house or apartment block is to keep your door open. This way you can greet others as they go past and indicate that you’re available to chat! (Don’t feel you have to constantly keep your door open, maintaining your privacy and setting boundaries are important too)

do initiate games/activities.

A good way to break the ice with your house mates (and initiate non-drinking games) is to bring a favourite board or card game with you. Chances are everyone will appreciate your forethought and it’s a good way to progress and strengthen friendships past those initial conversations.

do put yourself out there.

This is your chance to put your best foot forward. As the majority of people haven’t met before, the chances are that you’re going to have to introduce yourself and take the initiative to attend events. This is bound to be nerve wracking at first but will become easier the more you persevere. Taking advantage of welcome week activities such as freshers fairs and course events will give you the opportunity to meet people before your course starts.

do hang out in common rooms/public spaces.

By making use of your house kitchen or lounge area you’re actively making yourself available to meet and socialise with others. It’s important to balance this with time for yourself but try to make sure you’re not hiding away in your room. The same goes for studying. While it’s great to have a place of your own to work, try making use of the library and university study spaces. You could even organise study groups with your course members.

do join societies and clubs.

Unlike school or college, university is a place where you’re likely to form friendships based on your interests rather than mutual acquaintances. As you may not see the same people every day and are likely to be mixing in large groups, it’s important to actively seek out people who share your interests. Joining societies is a great way to meet people from different courses who enjoy the same activities as you. Alternatively, if there’s a club featuring something you’ve never done before don’t be afraid to join! You won’t be the only one and it’s a great way to learn alongside other beginners.

do invite people to spend more time with you.

You’re likely to be meeting a lot of people at once, but if you’ve met someone you particularly get along with don’t be afraid to initiate spending more time together. This can be as simple as asking someone if they’d like to get a coffee after a lecture or asking if they’re going to the same events as you. Building on friendships is as important as making them and it’s likely that the other person will appreciate your invitation.

don’t feel pressured to engage in nightlife and drinking if you don’t want to.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone starting university is eager to go out every night and engage in heavy drinking. Look out for alternative group chats and societies (usually listed on university Facebook pages) organising non-drinking events during freshers week. These are a great way to meet people and build strong connections without forgetting who you’ve met by the morning…

don’t worry if you don’t get on with your housemates.

We all go to university with high expectations of our housemates. In the beginning these are likely to be the first people you’ll meet and those you spend the most time with. While you may be lucky and form strong friendships try not to worry if this isn’t the case. At the end of the day the people you’re assigned to live with comes down to chance so you shouldn’t be downhearted if these aren’t the friends you expected. Likewise, if you do get on, don’t rely on your housemates as your sole source of social interaction. This is a wonderful start and a useful steppingstone if you have someone to attend events with, but don’t let it prevent you from continuing to meet new people.

don’t be disrespectful of others’ space.

The surest way to make yourself unpopular at university is by making a mess and not clearing up of yourself. Remember to be respectful of those you live with and make an effort to keep communal areas tidy.

don’t be judgemental.

Starting university and moving away from home means it’s likely that you’re going to be mixing with a diverse range of people. As a result, you’re likely to come into contact with opinions and beliefs that contradict your own. Remember to be always open minded and respectful of others.

don’t compare yourself to others.

When it comes to making friendships at university it can be easy to compare your progress to others. Remember that lasting friendships take time to build, not a matter of weeks. You also have years ahead of you to make friends so don’t be concerned if your initial circle is small.

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