The title of this post makes it sound like making friends at uni is easy; something you can learn to do in a few minutes. But friendships, like all relationships, take time to nurture and build up. Uni isn’t like school, where you’re thrust together with the same, relatively small group of people for days on end. It’s so much bigger than that, and that ironically makes it much harder to meet people to form a bond with. Finding the right people for you can take a lot of time and effort – or it can happen out of the blue. In my experience, finding your future friends involves a bit of work and a bit of luck, but making and securing those friendships can take quite a lot of work. It’s a fun and important process though, and worth it in the end, so here are my tips and tricks for finding your friends at university.
Be open and honest
I’m not going to lie – this is basically my way of saying be yourself without actually having to use that awful, meaningless phrase. University is a time to work out who you are and who you want to be; most people don’t really know who they are yet when they arrive. What I mean by this, then, is think about what’s important to you: what are your values and principles, and what do you look for in a good friend? Don’t forsake these for the sake of getting other people to like you. Be open and honest to yourself about what you want from those around you, and to other people about who you are and what you need from them (without making unnecessary demands!).
Start with your housemates
Your student accommodation, if you’re living on-campus, is the most obvious place to start looking for your friends, but don’t rely on it. It’s never guaranteed that you’ll be placed with people you’ll get on with, but if you’re lucky there’ll be one or two members of your house or flat who you will want to call your friends. Regardless of your house situation, make an effort to be amicable and get on, even if you don’t think you’ve found your new best friend in the room across the hall.
Who’s on your course?
If you’ve not been in luck with your housemates, and even if you have, there are plenty of other options. You already know that you have something in common with the people studying your course, so your seminars are great places to look for new friends. If you’re studying a science subject with lots of contact hours it can be easier to meet new people as you see each other regularly; if like me you’re a humanities student with less than ten hours a week in class it can be a little trickier, but by no means impossible. Get talking to someone before class – just ask them what they thought of the reading or the lecture.
Join a society
Yep, I’m one of those people who tells you to get as involved as possible – because, frankly, you’d be mad not to. At university opportunities that you might never have again are offered to you left, right and centre, and often for free or very cheap. There’s bound to be something you want to get involved in. I’d advise picking just one or two and really focusing on it; for me it was my student paper, where I’ve met a whole host of amazing, hilarious people and one of my very best friends. In a society, you’re likely to be surrounded by people who share similar interests and values to you, so it’s all the more likely that you’ll find someone you get on with.
Take the plunge
So you’ve found a few people you think you want to get to know better – now what? Make the effort to be the first person to offer to set something up. Organise a movie night with the people in your house, or plan to walk to lectures with that girl from your course. Introduce yourself. “Want to get coffee?” is always an excellent offer; if they don’t have any money, offer to pay this time – little gestures like that go a long way. I know just how hard it can be to make that first move, but take a breath, smile and say hello.
What can we talk about?
Early conversations don’t have to be awkward. Talk about this weird present you’re both sharing as you start university; ask about their course and where they’re living. What societies are they interested in? Respond to what they say. Be honest. Ask questions. Find something in common. Talk about where they’ve come from – is it far away? Do they miss it? Remember that a person is defined by their future as well as their past and present; what do they want to get out of university? What do they want to do next? You’ll be surprised how far some of these questions can take you.
Engage on social media and talk regularly; check in every so often and see if they want to meet up again. If you’ve met a few people who you think might get on, organise a coffee, cake, or lunch meet to introduce them all to each other; doing this in my summer term last year has gifted me a wonderful friendship group. Organise work sessions and study groups, or chilled nights to relax after a stressful week. Find common interests and do things together like gym sessions or a language class. My favourite is group trips to the student cinema. Tell them when you’re sad, stressed, or worried, and allow them to support you when it’s tough; do the same for them.
New people can come into your life all the time, especially at university. Make an effort to be open to the new people in each seminar group you find yourself in. Be kind to everyone you meet. Offer to help, and accept help too. Don’t ostracise people because you’ve already got friends – keep being open. These skills won’t just support you through university, but through the rest of your life – so take this opportunity to refine them.
Like I say, making friends anywhere isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Your friends at university could be the people you turn to for many years after you leave, but if you don’t think you’e found that kind of relationship yet, don’t panic. It isn’t your fault, and there isn’t anything wrong with you. Keep trying, and above all, be the friend that you want to have.
What are your top tips for making friends at university? How did you meet your closest friends? Let me know in the comments!