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Experiences

Friendless in First Year? Don’t Worry, So was I

As we near the end of another misshapen academic year, it is particularly evident that things have not gone to plan. Our imagined version of what this year could hold has been completely overridden by the pandemic, with lack of social interaction being one of the most prominent features for many of us.

Although this has been a trying experience for our whole university community, first years have undeniably faced additional barriers. If you’re coming to the end of the year feeling discouraged about the state of your social life, hopefully my pre-pandemic experience can help you feel a bit more normal.

I started my first year with pretty much no expectations of how things were going to go. I knew I would be living with a roommate in catered halls and working part time, but apart from that I had no clue. Feminist society, dance club, and netball all caught my eye, but again I had no plans on exactly what to join. 

Freshers week came around and I had my first hall social and Union night out: Clan Warfare. Now I don’t want to sound too mean (either to my hall or the Union itself) but quite frankly, it was terrible. As an underage fresher I wasn’t able to buy drinks, and the chaotic mess that ensued definitely seemed like the kind of event that you needed alcohol to enjoy. I left the converted-gym-hall-looking club confident in my decision not to buy the ‘golden ticket’, and satisfied not to spend another night in 601 for the rest of the week. The shift from home to St Andrews was draining, my shifts at work were draining, and as an introvert, I didn’t have the will power to continually drag myself out in the hopes of making friends. Safe to say, I did not have the Freshers Week of my dreams.

As the semester went on, I tried to get more involved by joining social netball. A group of girls in my hall went, so I thought this could be a great way of connecting with people. We made it to one crazy Sinners together where I got pretty drunk, went home with a boy, and had the quintessential uni night out. Almost poetically, everything went downhill from there. I managed to unknowingly stress out someone in that friend group, and as a result, got ditched the next time Sinners came around. This was a serious blow to my confidence, and felt like all my efforts to click with these new people had been for nothing. I started avoiding hall meals and spent more time with the boy I was seeing because I didn’t want to deal with the awkward situation. I knew I didn’t fit in that group, but felt like I had no other option, since it seemed like everyone else had already settled in.

My roommate always encouraged me to just go out and see what happens, or ask people from my hall to chill, but this seemed beyond me. After being freezed out, I didn’t feel like myself, and because of that I never really opened up to new people. My two solid friends were the people who slept in a three metre radius from me, and while I knew I had a lot to offer, I wasn’t keen to expand my circle.

In second semester, things again got off to a rocky start, with problems in my relationship, and a terrible night at DRA ball. My mental health took a serious hit, but still I redoubled my efforts to meet people by joining Burlesque. I was so excited to get back into dancing and meet new people, but then of course, Covid came along.

In summary, my first year kind of sucked. I made two friends, avoided hall meals, sat alone in lectures, spent most of my time in a toxic relationship, and cried a lot. It all sounds very grim, but the silver lining is my life has gotten immeasurably better since that low point. I left that relationship, became more confident in myself, co-founded a society, joined groups that I’m passionate about, and met so many incredible people. And not just nice people I can chat to - people I really connect with, people I love and care about.

If you aren’t quite there yet, don’t worry, there really is no set timeline for this. We often feel pressure to find our 'group' early on and stick to it, but that isn’t how it worked for me, and isn’t how it works for a lot of people. Take things at a pace that you’re comfortable with and get to know yourself. Even when the pandemic ends and we’re plunged back into society, you don’t need an excuse to go a little slower. You’ll make friends in good time. 

Charlotte is a 3rd year English & Psychology student from Glasgow with dual citizenship in the United States. Founding Co-President of EmpowHER St Andrews, she is passionate about fitness, feminism, and lifting other women up. This year she is looking forward to expanding the ways in which she can have a positive impact through her writing.
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