How To Make Friends (and live with new people) at university
University can be a great opportunity to meet lots of new and like-minded people, but such a prospect can sometimes feel intimidating. For many people, university represents a new social experience; as well as having fun with the other people at your university, you will also be able to live with them and work alongside them. Read below for tips on how to make the most of university’s many opportunities – and how to make sure that you and your new friends continue to maintain these healthy relationships throughout your studies, and beyond!
How to make friends
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Step 1: Talk to your neighbours
When you arrive at university, there’s a good chance that you’ll surrounded by people who are equally as nervous as you are. Your neighbours are a good way to meet new people and a good group of people to get along with because you will be in their company for up to a year. University is a setting where it’s considered quite normal for new people to come by your room and introduce themselves. This sets a comfortable precedent for friendly visits in the future. Strike up a conversation and your neighbours could become life-long friends – or at least people that you don’t mind sharing a kitchen and / or bathroom with. It’s also a good idea to keep a supply of tea (and maybe biscuits) in your room: it’s nice to offer when someone comes by for a chat!
Step 2: Enjoy freshers’ week
Universities hold a week specifically designed for student socializing, known as ‘Freshers’ Week’. There can be quite a lot going on during freshers’ week so it’s important to pick the parts that sound best to you – find a balance and listen to yourself. Whether your ideal first week is taking the time to make your room a beautiful haven with your favourite podcast, or whether you prefer to seek out the discounted club nights– there is no one ‘correct’ way of doing freshers’ week.
Freshers’ week activities offered by universities differ depending on where you go, and can include picnics, club nights, trips, quizzes, bar crawls, games, and more. The benefit to this range of options is that the people attending your chosen activities will probably be like-minded people who share interests similar to your own, and you can carry on doing these things with them throughout your degree. But it is also worth trying something slightly out of your comfort zone- leaving home represents a great opportunity to explore new aspects of yourself. See it as a chance test the waters before going all in – and you never know who you’ll meet while doing it!
Step 3: Societies, societies, societies
One of the biggest events of freshers’ week is the great freshers’ fair, an event where you can explore all the different clubs and societies at your university. Make sure you get a good look at what’s on offer (and it doesn’t hurt to sweep the stalls for freebies while you’re there).
If you’re into sports, fantastic. Most universities will offer anything from football to quidditch. Becoming part of a university sports team brings you into a close-knit community of players, as practice and competitions are paired with plenty of social events. You don’t need to be any good to join, most sports will have at least two teams, one highly competitive and the other more focused on casual play.
If you have no interest in sports, also fantastic. Societies are known for their great variety; from those vital to community support – LGBT+ societies, African and Caribbean Societies, faith societies and feminist societies– to those that are absurdly niche. The hummus society appears to be a particular university favourite. If you have an interest, you’ll probably find a society that suits it. If not, set one up – most universities have the facilities to enable students to create their own societies (this also looks really great on a CV!)
Step 4: Get to know your classmates
As well as your neighbours, your classmates also offer a nice opportunity to make friends with like-minded individuals. They can also represent an important support system for you! A university degree can be made a lot easier if you have emotional and academic peer support in the classroom and lecture hall, or at least the knowledge that other people are finding the work as confusing as you are.
Step 5: Keep it up
Once you’ve immersed yourself in university life, it can often consist of balancing your social and academic life. It’s up to your own priorities whether you tip more towards socialising or work but, once the initial excitement of your first couple of weeks has calmed down a little, it’s important to try and maintain the relationships you’ve established. For example, putting aside time for those that you have already made a connection with, whether that means going for coffee, grabbing lunch or studying together. This will help you keep a good balance of seeing friends alongside your studies too!
How to live alongside friends at university
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Step 1: Keep it clean
For most people going to university, this is their first time being (almost) entirely responsible for their own space. While you and your flatmates can be grateful that most university halls employ cleaners for shared kitchens, and sometimes bathrooms, it still isn’t their job to tidy up after you or wash your dishes. It’s important to treat common shared areas like kitchens and bathrooms with respect; whilst it may not bother you if plates stack up in the sink, for some people that can be a real cause for irritation. It only takes a few minutes to make life easier for others and this will help the greater cause of keeping the peace. On the flipside, if you’re going to be the one dealing with someone else’s mess, have patience.
If you’re sharing private accommodation, try making a cleaning rota – just so long as it resolves more upset than it creates. Learning how to reasonably resolve these squabbles within friendships is a useful skill that you may find yourself recycling in other areas of life.
Step 2: Navigating groupwork
Your course mates can be a great help both inside and outside the lecture hall, but make sure that you’re careful if you do decide to collaborate academically. Most people are happy to share ideas and support one another – this works best when both parties contribute something to the discussion and help one another. Sharing is a two-way deal! Generally, talking through ideas together, and sharing revision notes is okay, but make sure you write up your work individually (unless it is a group project – then you can focus on writing up your section!).
While borrowing notes and discussing ideas is a useful part of group learning, be careful you don’t cross line between sharing and plagiarism– plagiarism is when you pass someone’s ideas off as your own, and this is taken very seriously at university. If you are worried about plagiarism, your tutors are there to support you. Most universities will have a library or resources centre with courses specifically designed to help people who struggle to get their heads around plagiarism rules – it’s a confusing subject!
Step 3: Taking care in new environments
Life at university can create many new and different opportunities for socialising in a range of venues, some of which may offer alcohol. If this is not something you would enjoy, don’t worry – there are lots of ways to socialise without alcohol at university! In fact, nearly one in six 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK (16%) say they don’t drink at all1 – it can be a great choice to have an active hangover-free social life!
However, many students do enjoy drinking alcohol safely whilst at university. If you do decide to incorporate alcohol into your life at uni, it’s important to look after yourself and those around you. Current medical advice suggests against drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and to have at least three drink free days each week. These are the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines – and can help you minimise the risks of long and short-term alcohol risks. These guidelines can also help you to make better decisions whilst under the influence.
Whilst at university, you might also find yourself in a situation where other substances are being used. For honest information about drug use, please click here.
If you do have concerns about your drug and/or alcohol use, at any stage in your university career, there are always places you can go to get support and have a chat in a confidential environment:
- Most universities have support teams available, these may have different names, depending on where you are, such as ‘student wellbeing’, or ‘student welfare’.
- You can access your university health services to see a nurse, or visit your GP.
- There are also a variety of online resources that are specific to your concerns
Step 4: Check in regularly
Friendship is an important part of life, especially at university, where life often seems to happen at double speed! Adapting to university can be challenging, so it’s a good idea to build a support network in which you feel comfortable expressing your feelings. It’s also important to remain sensitive to the feelings of your friends and peers – reach out and ask if they’re okay too. Trying to schedule in regular ‘catch-ups’ or activities will help you share more with your friends, and also give them a chance to talk to you. Being there for your friends can help you realise that people are feeling similarly to you (moving to university is new for everyone!), and this will naturally create a strong support network for you and your friends.
If you or your friends feel that more support would be helpful, every university will also have its own pastoral staff and counselling service who can share the weight of the problems. No problem is too small to share, and staff at these services will be happy to talk about any concerns that are too much for you and your peers to manage on your own, from work-related stress to more deep-rooted concerns. It can sometimes be difficult to reach out and ask for help, but any steps you can take to explore and improve your mental health will be steps taken to improving your health overall.
Step 5: Try to stay in touch
The internet age puts people in a difficult position of constant availability. Yes, if you have a phone you are technically on tap for anyone at any time to talk to you, but should you really have to be? You have every right to preserve your own personal space and take some time to get back to your friends.
That being said, it is worth keeping their feelings in mind as well. If your friends are continually having to chase you to get a response, think about how this might make them feel. If you are not in a place to reply to messages, try to communicate this more generally. But if it’s a simple case of disorganisation, then your silence could be more hurtful than you realise – or, if your friends are trying to plan something specific, just deeply frustrating for everyone involved. During the vacation in particular, when you are suddenly separated from the social hub of university, online communication can be key to maintaining and developing friendships. Try to strike a balance between valuing your own mental space and acknowledging your impact on others – and if they’re planning something for tomorrow, maybe don’t take a whole day to get back to them.
And Good Luck!
Use these points as a guide and hopefully you’ll be able to navigate university with confidence. You will be surrounded by people at a similar life stage, with similar interests, who are usually just as eager to make connections as you are. It will probably be harder to avoid making friends than to find them.