With Freshers’ week slowly creeping up on us, in whatever form it takes this year, young people all over will be nervously anticipating what this year has to offer. For many, university promises a fresh start, a chance to escape the familiarity of their hometown to experience new things and meet new people. It’s an exciting but naturally overwhelming time. With that in mind I thought that this would be the perfect time to reflect on some of my own experiences to hopefully give those of you preparing for this new chapter a bit of a heads up.
Prior to life in Leeds, I had more or less had the same friendship group since I was four years old. We had gained and lost a few along the way but for the most part our little bunch had stuck together for over a decade. I was always quite shy, struggling to put myself out there as much as I would have liked and often relied on my friends being close by as a sort of safety net. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, being dropped in a new city surrounded by thousands of strangers was more than a little out of my comfort zone. But when you move to uni and find yourself amongst such a diverse student population, you’re told that somewhere within that sea of faces are your people. The trouble is figuring out who they are.
My first semester involved a fair bit of trial and error trying to find where I fit best. In Freshers’ week I went on a pub crawl with some course mates and by the end of the night we had agreed to move in together the following year despite knowing little more than each other’s names. You’ll hear this a lot but don’t feel pressured into signing for a house right away. Lots of people get themselves into a panic about finding people to live with and end up regretting their choice by Christmas. Freshers’ friendships can be a bit of a whirlwind with halls life going at the pace of the Love Island villa. I definitely threw around the phrase ‘best friend’ a little too liberally, inviting a number of girls to be my bridesmaids that I’ve barely spoken to since.
However, it’s easy to look for friendship in the wrong places. On a number of occasions, I’ve found myself overlooking factors that have made me uncomfortable for the sake of having company. Little comments that have clashed with my personal values and situations that I didn’t want to be a part of. Ultimately, it’s not worth it to go along with the crowd just so you can be a part of one. Social media can create the illusion that everyone has already made loads of great friends and it can be easy to feel a bit left behind but as we know already, a person’s Instagram feed is rarely a reflection of what they really have going on. For most people, it takes a while to find a group of people you click with and that’s totally normal.
One of the best ways to find likeminded people is joining clubs and societies or taking advantage of any social events your school puts on whether that’s a coffee morning, poetry reading, guest lecture etc. Joining a dance society really helped me to broaden my circle and having a common interest made initially getting to know people a lot easier. It’s true what they say, everyone is in the same boat and will be just as eager to make friends as you are. Spark a conversation with the person sitting next to you or ask someone to get lunch after class. You have nothing to lose by putting yourself out there but potentially a lot to gain.
Unfortunately, just like in high school, there will always be people that don’t get on and when you’re spending so much time together, especially living in halls, clashes of personality are common. However, a lot of problems ultimately boil down to a lack of communication so if you’re not getting along with someone, it’s usually much better to sit down and talk about it sooner rather than later to save yourselves more upset further down the line.
On the flipside, I’ve also learnt to recognise which relationships are worth saving. Moving away from home has meant always being in a long-distance friendship of some form or other – during term time I miss my home friends and during the holidays everyone else is scattered across the country or even the world! It can be tough not seeing your friends as often but if you’re willing to put in the effort, there’s no reason for you to grow apart. For me, this has meant my friends and I sending each other little ‘vlogs’ to fill each other in on what we’re up to or giving someone a call when I’m walking home from uni. If you’re considering reaching out to an old friend or someone you’ve grown a bit distant from – do it. The other person will almost always be glad you made that first move.
Written By: Emily Tabern
Edited By: Dasha Pitts