Congratulations! You’ve got your place at university, applied for your on-campus accommodation and just been given your brand-new address. But there are still a few hurdles to overcome before move-in day: namely finding out about your new flatmates. Here’s my how-to guide for finding, chatting with and getting to know the people you’ll be sharing a kitchen with for the next year!
Get on Facebook[Now, I hate to say it but when it comes to finding your flatmates Facebook really is the best option. I know some people really aren’t keen on the idea of Facebook, and the reasoning is totally valid; however, if you’re not on Facebook and choose not to make an account be aware that you’ll have to work that bit harder to get to know your flat- and course-mates and find out about events taking place in and around campus and your local city. I can only talk about my university, but in my experience Facebook has been an invaluable tool for keeping me up-to-date and involved with campus goings-on. In my opinion this simply isn’t good enough, because not everyone wants to have an online profile. If you’re sure you want to stay off-grid, by all means do so, but know that it might make things that much more difficult for you.]
In recent years, universities have learned to really utilise Facebook, and at no time is this more prevalent than in the lead-up to Freshers’ Week. The vast majority will have set up Facebook groups for accommodation blocks (or colleges, if you’re at a collegiate uni like me!) for newcomers to join. There, you can post your house or flat number and wait for your flatmates to respond – but be sure to scroll down and check for your address first in case someone has already posted it!
This one leads on pretty obviously from the previous: once you’ve found one or two of your flatmates, add them as friends and drop them an informal introductory message. Talk individually, but it’s always worth setting up a group chat on Facebook or Whatsapp so there’s somewhere you can all get to know each other. Eventually this chat will probably dissolve into “Who left the oven on?” messages, but it will remain useful throughout the year. For now, though, ask the basic questions – where are they from, what course are they studying, what are their interests, etc.
Don’t make snap judgements
There’s that statistic that says we make up our minds about people within just a few seconds of meeting them. I’m a firm believer that people can change, and so can our judgement of them, but it can be hard not to think you know everything about a person when all you have to hand is their social media profiles. Make sure you take the time to get to know each member of your flat on a more personal level, beyond their curated Instagram snaps or their profile picture from six years ago. And be prepared to do it all over again when you meet them in person – it’s hard to be 100% yourself over social media!
Find common ground
It’s really important that you make an effort to find some kind of common ground with everyone. It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll all end up being best friends, but remember that you do have to live together for a year: the only way this will be possible is if you all make an effort to get on. A good way to start with this is finding something to talk about with each person in your flat; it might feel like you are in no way similar to the guy from the other end of the country to you who’s studying a course you’ve never even heard of, but with a bit of effort you could find you have exactly the same music taste, or binge-watch the same Netflix shows. Often one thing you have in common leads to another, even if you seem like totally opposite people.
Don’t start big debates
You might be incredibly politically motivated or a passionate feminist – good for you! But be aware that starting big debates about potentially controversial topics that people often feel very strongly about probably isn’t the best way to introduce yourself to your flatmates. You don’t really want to have an argument before you’ve even met in person, and you’ll have plenty of time over the year to debate. That being said, if somebody says something to you that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, call them out on it or consider seeking advice from your university’s accommodation services.
Be open, friendly and enthusiastic
The move to university is a strange transitional time, and most people are feeling that same mix of thrilling excitement and nervous anxiousness as you are (if you don’t feel this way, be aware that other people most likely are!). What’s more, everyone wants to make friends at university: everybody begins this process wanting to like their flatmates. So be open-minded about everyone you chat with and look for the good in them. Be enthusiastic about meeting them; talk with your flatmates and try and coordinate your plans for Freshers’ Week, so you know you’ve got people to spend time with during your first week away from home. And above all, be friendly. Make an effort to get to know and get along with everyone, so you’ve got a good foundation on which to try and build a real friendship when you do finally meet in person.
And if it doesn’t work out…
In spite of all your efforts sometimes your first student flat just doesn’t work out. I’ll write a whole post on this another time, but for now I’ll just say: don’t panic. There will be options for you through accommodation services; you should be able to change to a different flat. Instead, focus on building relationships with people outside of your accommodation. Find new places to do your work and spend time with other friends. It will always get better, even if you have to stick out a few difficult months.
Off to university this year? Let me know in the comments how you’re feeling about the big change!