Meeting people from all walks of life is just one of the many great things about being at university. Being part of a big student community gives you the perfect opportunity to create the friendships that, in many cases, will last for many years to come.
But moving out of your parents’ home, and living with two or three, or maybe even five or six strangers, can be a daunting prospect, so here are a few tips that can help with finding new friends, and making those first few weeks at university a bit easier.
The choice of events, clubs and societies at university is endless. Make the most of freshers’ week and sign up to a range of activities – you can be as adventurous as you like, as there are often new things to try, and many clubs allow you a trial session before you sign up. This is a great way to meet new people and develop a common interest.
Your student union or accommodation provider will be able to give you advice on local charities and groups who need volunteers. It’s a great way to meet new people and do something worthwhile, at the same time as building your skills and enhancing the all-important CV.
Hop online. Your university will almost always have a Facebook page (and there may even be one for your hall or accommodation), where you can find out who else will be joining at the same time as you. Or run a few searches on Twitter – there’s bound to be plenty of people at your new university, on your course, or in the same accommodation as you. Getting to know a few people online before you move to a brand new city can make the transition much easier.
Don’t underestimate the power of the humble cuppa
Taking a big teapot with you, and brewing up enough for all your new flatmates in the shared kitchen can be a great icebreaker. Throw in a packet of biscuits for people to help themselves, and you’re well on your way to being the most popular person in the flat before you’ve even unpacked. Obviously, coffee – or even a bottle of wine – will do the job too...
Let your flatmates know you’ve moved in
It sounds obvious, but with students turning up at different times, it can be hard to know who’s arrived. Display photos, or your name and a message on your door.
Take along a game
Dissecting your first freshers’ week night out over a cup of tea and a round of Jenga or Articulate can be a great way to get to know the people you’re living with.
Make the most of your existing networks
Are any of your friends from school or college going to the same university as you? While it’s not a good idea to rely too heavily on existing groups of friends, as you’ll miss out on meeting people who might come to be your best friends, they can be a useful starting point from which to meet other people.
Spend some time in common areas
Whether that’s the shared kitchen of your flat, the student union, or the library coffee bars. You’ll start to recognise familiar faces, which makes it much easier to strike up a conversation.
Have spare pens with you when you go to lectures
Being able to lend one to the person in the seat next to you who’s forgotten theirs is a good way to start a conversation with someone who’ll be on hand when you want to talk to someone about your course!
After seminars or tutorials, suggest to a couple of people that you form a study group – getting together once a week to go over lecture notes and reading lists can be a great way to make new friends and get some academic help at the same time.
Befriend the international students
However nervous you are, spare a thought for any international students – especially those for whom English might not be a first language – who have it far harder. Go out of your way to chat to them – or explain the finer nuances of Tesco versus Asda, and you could find you’ve got a new friend already.
Making a new set of friends can seem like a daunting prospect at first, but it helps to remember that everyone’s in the same boat. Dive in with enthusiasm, and you might find that in a week or so, you can’t imagine why you were ever worried in the first place.
Simon Griffiths is an area manager for London at UNITE