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How to Navigate University as a Socially Anxious Person

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Going to university as a socially anxious person can sometimes feel extremely daunting, especially with the added pressure of covid. It is so important to find ways to manage this, as university can equally be fulfilling to anyone who struggles with social anxiety; it is just about finding ways to adapt to suit your needs. If you feel like you struggle with social anxiety and it impacts your daily life significantly, you should contact your GP or student wellbeing services.

Finding ‘your people’ – societies/hobbies

University is a time where you can try new things or continue pursuing old hobbies. Joining a society can be a really easy place to start, as you immediately have something in common with others, and it can be an environment where people are similar to you. It also allows you to make friends outside of your current social circle, whether in your halls or friendship group. If you are anxiety-prone, events will usually be at set times planned in advance which may help ease nervousness. Societies also host many socials, which can include nights out or more casual events during the day if you would prefer to meet people in that setting. 

Not putting pressure on yourself to make friends/socialise with people

When you feel like you are a socially anxious person, it can be easy to put pressure on yourself to make friends with everyone who is friendly to you. However, if you don’t choose your friends wisely and book out your calendar constantly, you may become overwhelmed at the idea of trying to bond with a range of people, and it will also mean the encounters you do have won’t be meaningful. It’s important not to isolate yourself but to allow friendships to naturally blossom, and not feel as though it is ‘wrong’ not constantly to see people you feel like you are clicking with. When you can already feel burnt out due to external pressures, it isn’t worth forcing yourself to be sociable if you feel like you need a break.

On-Campus learning

It can be anxiety-inducing to go onto campus at university, especially in academic surroundings where you feel pressure to articulate yourself and be sociable with people from your course. In terms of academia, it is best to prepare as much as you can within the timeframe to make sure you feel comfortable speaking. If you feel like you have fully prepared in terms of preparatory work and reading, it is worth writing down points that you feel more confident talking about to ease nerves and contribute. Generally, it is a lot harder to make friends on campus, but that will always be the case in a more professional setting. If you get on well with someone in your seminar, it can be worth asking if they want to meet up after, and an easy place to start is going to the library or a coffee shop to study together, and if you find this difficult in person, you can always ask for their socials and contact them on there. 

Drinking/partying culture

It can be hard when you feel pressure at university to be having an amazing time, especially due to the portrayal of student life on social media. Drinking and party culture is a large part of university life for some people. Still, if you don’t feel it’s right for you or can’t for medical or cultural reasons, you shouldn’t force yourself to go out for the ‘university experience’. Alcohol, acting as a depressant, can also enhance social anxiety, despite the fact that many people will say that alcohol makes them more confident. Although people can have a great night out sober, it can sometimes feel particularly overwhelming being surrounded by so many people, especially with the unsafe culture for women on nights out. Alcohol or partying doesn’t inherently mean that you will make more or better friends, as alcohol can often change the way you perceive others and means you will most likely not get on as well with people as you thought you did on a night out. You can also have more wholesome, meaningful experiences with people outside of a party environment, where you have the space to fully be yourself, as well as being able to make friends in a party environment. 

Hannah Dale

Bristol '23

I am a second-year student studying English! I mainly enjoy wellness, but I would like to become increasingly informed on politics, and am a keen feminist. In my spare time I enjoy journalling, reading, yoga, walking or going to the gym and scrapbooking.
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