Starting university is a huge, exciting step in life and is bound to have you feeling a range of emotions. You may be moving out, gaining a new sense of independence in addition to having a brand-new city to explore – the world is your oyster! There’s a lot to look forward to, but it can feel a little daunting at times. A big part of university is stepping out of your comfort zone and making new friends, and it’s only natural to feel a little nervous about this. So, to provide you with some support, we’ve made a list of the top 10 things to help you settle in and expand your social network:
1. Join university/freshers/accommodation groups
Once you’ve been accepted to the university, get yourself signed up to all possible, relevant groups on social media – whether that’s accommodation groups to meet your future flatmates and chat over what to pack, or course groups to meet other course mates and get to know them a little better in advance of your start date. General freshers’ pages can be extremely useful too so that you can make connections with a variety of different people at the university (be it first years, international students or student representatives) who may be in the same boat as you. Signing up to a general fresher’s page will also ensure that you’re up to date with the latest events and activities that may be organised by the university. Facebook is a great place to start to find groups such as this, but also Instagram and Twitter can be just as useful.
2. Pack smart
This may be something that you originally overlooked, but what you pack can also be a big contributor to first impressions and breaking the ice. Things like speakers to host parties and boost the atmosphere; night out outfits or accessories that you can lend to flatmates; board games or movies for a night in with your flatmates or course friends; or a door stop to keep your room door open show that you’re up for a chat can all help with those initial few weeks of settling in and getting to know people better. Really put some time and effort into things you can bond over with others, and if you think it’s useful, add it to the list!
3. Help others move in
Once the big move has finally arrived, and you’ve managed to bring all your belongings safely to your new room, it can be a great idea to knock on a few doors and offer a helping hand to your flatmates. It not only instigates the first conversation and shows that you’re thoughtful but can be a way for you to get to know one another whilst skipping any awkward conversations/small talk. You can bond over snacks they’ve packed, a similar fashion sense or give recommendations on where to hang posters or laugh off what you’ve forgotten to pack. Helping flatmates to move in not only gives you a sense of who they might be but also gives you that first topic of discussion whilst keeping you busy.
4. Join a society
Whilst your flat and course may be great ways to meet people and socialise, there’s no better place to meet a range of people than by joining a society. Universities tend to have a range of societies to meet everyone’s needs so chances are that you’ll find a few that you’re really keen on with a group of welcoming, pre-existing members and group of new members such as yourself that you’ll have some common ground with, and make some wonderful friendships with. Try not to restrict yourself and sign up to a couple that draw you in. That way, you can commit to weekly activities and enjoy any evening socials whilst making sure you’re not compromising your studies.
5. Decoration can be key
Less obvious than the previous point, but ensuring your room is presentable and decorated nicely can definitely exude a welcoming atmosphere for others and encourage their company. If your room is a tip with very few personal touches, it can make it seem cold and less inviting. However, a tidy, clean and cosy room has the opposite effect. Personal touches such as photographs, posters, pillows, trophies/medals, favourite books, blankets, mood boards, fairy lights can all have a positive effect in welcoming guests while giving them in insight into who you are as a person.
6. Be nice
Compliments, considerate and not the messy housemate, cook for people, support them
7. Sit with course mates
Walking into a lecture theatre with a sea of new faces can be a little scary – but don’t let that stop you. One of the best ways to get to know people on your course is by sitting with others and introducing yourself: chances are others will be doing the same as you. It is not recommended to sit at the back in the corner on your own as it somewhat isolates you from others, so instead try your best to take the proactive approach. Once you’ve done this on the first few days, extend your social circle and try to change things up and sit with different people (maybe bringing along the people you met in the first few days) so that you can get to know everyone and see who you click with best.
8. Attend/organise events
Everyone loves to have something to look forward to, so what better way to expand your circle of friends and get to know people by organising an event. Whether you want something low-key like a study group, something chill like a game night, or something more upbeat like hosting a party, shake things up and invite a group of people you’re getting to know to an event. When there’s a group of you and an activity to direct your attention at, conversations will be flowing and it’s likely you’ll get to know those around you on a deeper level. Organising events is also a great way to open up invitations to plus ones to wider the scope of new people you can meet.
On the other hand, adopting a ‘yes’ attitude to university events is guaranteed to get you meeting new people and making new friends. Whether it’s a group movie night at a course mate’s flat or a freshers’ welcome evening in the common room, pushing yourself to attend a range of events will benefit you when it comes to socialising and making connections. Freshers week is buzzing with all types of events, so this is the best time to pluck up the courage and attend as many as you fancy.
9. Be approachable/open
Following on from the point about packing smart, a doorstop can be a really great way to physically show that you’re approachable and open to socialising. Eating meals and studying in communal areas can be a great way to do this too. Conveying this to your flatmates and any visitors will make people more likely to approach you and continue to build a friendship. Alongside this physical display, little things you do in interactions can enhance this. For example, body language can play a big part in showing that you’re open – rather than sitting with your arms crossed, try to look engaged and really invest yourself in the conversation and getting to know the people around you. Ask people questions about themselves and share experiences: give them an insight into your interests and personal life too (within reason).
10. Remember you’re all in the same boat!
This is the most important point to bear in mind. Anything that you yourself are feeling, it can be a reasonable assumption that many others are in exactly the same boat and have the same fears and stresses. Hopefully this can give you a sense of comfort and give you the encouragement to put yourself out there, make the best of university by making the effort to get to know as many people as you can, and make some really fantastic, lifelong friendships.