From a girl that went to the exact same school from nursery all the way to Year 13 the thought of moving to a completely different country for university was more than terrifying. I was leaving my support system, and heading off to a place I had never visited before to live with strangers. And yes, I hoped my living situation was gonna be like ‘New Girl’ where I would move in and we would all just click, but I was also terrified of the idea of not having anyone. The fear of being judged and left out was the first thing I had to overcome in order to actually find people and rebuild that support system that I had back home here.
1.Put Yourself Out There
After my Aunt dropped me at university I could hear all my flatmates introducing themselves in the kitchen. Obviously I did what any extroverted person would do, which was to lock myself in my room and FaceTime my friends. Being the amazing friends they are, they hung up and told me to go make new ones. After hyperventilating for a solid 5 minutes thinking of all the worse case scenarios I came to the realisation that my flatmates can’t hate me without actually getting to know me so I should at least give them a reason to. Walking out of my room to the kitchen was one of the hardest things I have ever done but if I didn’t take that leap, if I didn’t put myself out there I wouldn’t have made two of my best friends I have right now, who love musicals and ABBA as much as me. In case you don’t necessarily click with your flatmates there are countless other opportunities to make friends you have more things in common with.
2. Societies Are Your Best Friend
Societies are a great way to meet people who share similar interests with you, and lucky for you Exeter has a ton of them ranging from Football to Wine Society. There's even Anime and Manga Society; if there's something you’re passionate about or wanting to try, chances are there is a society for it. I have made some of my greatest friends through the Football team. Though it did take work to form those relations I wouldn’t give them up for anything. Additionally, this year is definitely easier to get to know people in your society and find your crowd as you can actually meet face to face. Getting drunk on zoom socials last year wasn’t ideal for making new friends!
3. Course Mates
Now, this is something I’m working towards. Since everything was online last year I barely had the chance to meet people on my course and I definitely didn’t make the effort I should have made to get to know people. I’m not going to lie, even this year I walk into my lectures with headphones on and head down, ready to just listen then bolt out without having any social interactions. I’m not going to say this way of attending lectures is bad or say you have to make friends and talk to other people there when I don’t, but I'm always mildly jealous of the people that walk in with someone else, have someone to discuss the pre-readings with and look over notes together. So in my second week I made myself the challenge of taking off my headphones and finding a seat next to a person smiling and saying hi. Just doing the bare minimum enabled me to have someone to walk with to one of my lectures and feel less like a depressing one-woman show when I attend them. Sometimes the bare minimum is hard and we can’t always bring ourselves to do that and that’s okay.
4. Be Yourself
There are times when we should venture outside our comfort zone which is why my first tip was to put yourself out there, but everyone has a limit on how far they can drift. What we need to remember is to not drift so far that we put ourselves in a situation where we feel too uncomfortable or unfamiliar with who we are. The greatest friends you can make at university are those that don’t force you to change, similarly, to find those great friends you yourself need to remember it’s perfectly okay to be you.
When you’re not afraid to be yourself people will get drawn to you for the right reasons. They are friends which will like and accept you for you, enabling you to slowly build a home away from home. And following along the lines of one of my favourite Marvel characters: home isn't necessarily the place its the people.
Ultimately, university is what you make of it and most of that comes from surrounding yourself in the right company, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there but ensure to stay true to you.