The top 10 tips for getting acquainted at university

Amy McLellan
Thursday 16 August 2007 00:00 BST

You've passed the exams, secured a place on your dream course and squeezed the essentials of your life into one bulging backpack. So, why does it seem like the hard work is just beginning? Starting life at university or college is a daunting prospect but take a deep breath, relax and follow our top 10 tips for settling in and making friends.

1. Smile!

Even though you might feel nervous or apprehensive when you arrive at your new home, look to be as friendly and open to new people as you possibly can. Remember, you're starting with a clean slate so make the most of it and start shaking some hands!

2. Meet the neighbours

Most universities will provide on-campus accommodation - known as halls of residence - for first-year students (see our article on halls on page 16). It may seem basic - expect a small room, possibly with ensuite bathroom, and access to communal cooking and living areas - but the atmosphere is usually lively and friendly. Introduce yourself to your neighbours as soon as possible, pool the costs of buying some domestic essentials and share tips on where to go and what to do.

3. Get fresh

The first week of term is freshers' week: seven days of events, parties and general mayhem. You don't have to attend every freshers-themed event, but do make an effort to join in. It's a great way to meet other newbies.

4. Try something new

Your university's many clubs and societies will compete for your attention at the freshers' fair. Be it music clubs, political groups, student radio, circus skills or breakdancing, there's something for everybody. It's a great opportunity to try something new but don't sign up for too many activities: you do have to find some time for studying!

5. The post-tutorial debrief

Depending on your subject, your academic life will be split between lectures, smaller tutorial groups and solitary library time. It's reassuring to make contacts in your subject area to compare notes and share study resources, particularly when the workload starts to mount. Why not ask a couple of fellow students for a post-tutorial coffee to discuss next week's reading list, or dissect your tutor's terrible dress sense?

6. Get active

Sport is a great way to meet new people and you don't have to be an elite athlete to join in. Institutions have extensive sporting facilities, which are usually free or heavily subsidised. Football, rugby, rowing and cricket - for both men and women - are popular choices, but you can also try your hand at basketball, canoeing, Ju Jitsu, Ultimate Frisbee, volleyball...

7. Be organised

The student union (SU) provides a broad range of services, from welfare and financial advice to providing sports facilities, clubs, bars and shops. Run by elected student officers, the SU also represents students' views on a range of issues including campus security, tuition fees, local transport and academic standards. Why not get involved and take up a post? It's a great way to meet people and really understand how your university works.

8. Lend a hand

Extend your social horizons and put something back into the local community by volunteering. Your student union probably runs a volunteering service helping local kids, the homeless or the environment. It's a good way to meet new people, gain a new perspective on life and make a real difference to the world around you.

9. Stay safe

Student life in the UK is exciting, vibrant and full of surprises, but it can also be overwhelming. Never feel pressured to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and if things do start to get on top of you - be it lifestyle, money or the stress of being away from home - you can tap into a wide network of support. All universities run student support services that provide confidential advice and counselling.

10. Relish the experience

You will meet people from a range of backgrounds and cultures, giving you new perspectives and challenging your thinking. It's likely that the people you hang out with amid the frenzy of freshers' week will be mere acquaintances by the end of the first term, but the friends you make over the next three years will probably be with you for life. Enjoy the ride!

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