One of my biggest fears before I went to university was the fact that I was going to be forced outside of my comfort zone into meeting new people in a completely alien environment. All of my friends were genuinely excited about going away from home and throwing themselves into a world full of strangers. But, for me, a shy teenager lacking confidence, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I went to school and the sixth form at the same place, with an established group of friends that I didn’t want to leave behind.
Here are some of the first thoughts I had when I started university with some tips on how to overcome that fear that will hopefully help you to find your feet in the first few weeks of university.
- “I don’t want to talk to other people”
One of the biggest mistakes I made over my first week of the university was that I didn’t attempt to branch out to others. I sat on my own and waited for others to speak to me. Although this does work and people will eventually speak to you, it makes the whole friend-making process a lot longer. Everybody is in the same boat during those first few weeks, and the chances are that the majority of other people will be just as scared as you are at the thought of speaking to other strangers. I found that, as I grew in confidence, I was the one talking to others and made a lot of friends this way.
Attend any introductory social events designed to help you to meet new people during the university welcome (fresher’s) week. At this stage, everybody will be in the same boat and just hoping to make their first few friends at university. Try to attend with classmates, housemates or, if you have to, attend alone. Everybody is incredibly friendly at university and will soon talk to you, and before you know it, you’ll start to make friends.
- “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”
In my first ever lecture, I remember spotting another guy sat on his own and decided that I was going to bite the bullet and occupy the seat next to him in the hope of making a new friend. I didn’t and ended up sitting alone. I came across the same guy in another lecture in my second semester, introduced myself and, eventually, we became best friends and still are today. If I had branched out six months earlier, this could have happened a lot sooner! Once you make one friend, the ball starts to roll and it becomes a lot easier.
- “I can’t believe I did it”
By my third year, I had an established friend group and used to regularly socialise inside and outside of university with them. Having had a shaky start, I felt really comfortable as a student and had so much more confidence, and a great set of people to keep me going during the stressful periods of being a student. Even going to the library to write assignments and essays became fun, because we were doing it as a group and could talk while we studied, with the occasional break to play pool in the SU.
Some of the best memories I have about university are playing football with my friends and making trips into town after lectures. Last summer, I went on holiday with my university friends and we still regularly meet up now, and socialising outside of lectures really helped us to form a close-knit group.
Just remember to be open-minded and be brave in the first few weeks. Everybody will be relieved to make their first friend, and will welcome anybody talking to them. If I can do it, anybody can!