Staying in touch with your old mates is just as important as making new ones, says Daniel Brown

It’s a balancing act, starting a new life at university. There are hundreds if not thousands of new people all in pretty much the same boat: on the one hand full of excitement and curiosity, on the other having left behind the familiarity of the family unit and the friends that know them so well.

Making this transition happily is about getting the balance right. Too much of the new world and very little of the old and you could find yourself somewhat overwhelmed and lacking the security that your home life provided. Too much contact with your family and friends back home and you may not be embracing the opportunities your new university life offers.

What’s the answer? “Let yourself go a little and give yourself time,” says Jenny Smith, student union welfare officer at the University of Nottingham. “Until you find your group of friends at university, it’s important not to put all your eggs in any one basket, nor demand too much of friends and family back home. Good friends will remain good friends and your family will also provide support and enjoy hearing of your new experiences.”

The step into university life is a big one; for the first few weeks it may even feel a little surreal. In addition, you will be meeting people from many different backgrounds in a short space of time, especially if you are based in halls of residence. Sharing your news with the folks back home will help you to process all of this: they will be happy to hear it all and you get the chance to talk through what’s going on. If you are struggling to adapt, a little contact with your family can go a long way.

“For students who are finding it difficult to adjust, the guidance of family members can be invaluable – a telephone call or e-mail can make all the difference,” says David Gerty, student union president at Loughborough University. “No one knows you better than your parents and they usually have that knack of saying the right thing at the right time.”

For parents, seeing their child go to university can be a difficult time and it will take them a while to adjust. They will benefit enormously from being kept in the loop and will be reassured that you are safe and sound and enjoying the university experience.

There will, of course, be an abundance of opportunities to meet new people in your halls of residence, on your course, within clubs and societies and socially; you will be making new friendships all the time.

However, many of your old friends will probably be going to university for the first time too and will be going through similar experiences. Who better to speak to about how things are going in the initial stages?

Richard Kendall, chair of Nightline – a student helpline – agrees. “By keeping in contact [with old friends], students can create a mutual support network that could be even more understanding of student issues than family might be.”

Remaining part of each other’s lives may be difficult initially, but regular contact will benefit everyone. And remember, they will still be your friends and family when you’re home for the holidays!

Staying in touch with your old mates is just as important as making new ones, says Daniel Brown

Independent student suggests

  • Mobile phones are obviously one of the best ways to stay in touch. Store all the numbers and contact details you’ll need before you leave and take advantage of student tariffs to minimise the bills.
  • E-mail is a great way of letting parents catch up with news. Not as immediate as the mobile but just as effective, and cheaper!
  • Facebook or Myspace allow you to combine old and new friends in one manageable system. Let everyone know your news by updating your status – just be careful who sees what pictures!
  • Skype allows you to phone home via your internet connection, at a fraction of the usual cost of a call.
  • A handwritten letter is an unbeatable classic for that personal touch.

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