Settling in to Student Life: Making Friends
01 September 2021
One of the biggest worries among people starting university is around making friends. You might be moving away from home for the first time, leaving friends and family behind; making friends as an adult can be a very different experience to making friends as a child.
And because we know how many people are feeling the same way right now, we thought it was an important topic to explore. With the help of the counsellors at Kooth, we’ve put together these handy tips for making friends.
Think about what you want from your friendships
Starting afresh and meeting new people can be a great time to think about your own boundaries and needs when it comes to friendships. What are you looking for and what are you okay with and not okay with in your relationships?
For example: do you need people to respect your space, to share the same interests, to be a good listener? Thinking about these things can help you develop healthy and meaningful friendships and perhaps also help you to reflect on past friendships that haven’t been so healthy too.
“It’s important to note that social media might give us the impression that university is all about big groups of friends having the time of their lives. That’s a lot of pressure if it doesn’t fit with your own friendship needs. Plus, the reality is, that some people don’t want or need a lot of friends and that’s okay too. So whether you want to make lots of friends or just have one or two meaningful friendships, do what feels right for you.” Kooth therapist
Remember that you are not alone
You won't be the only student looking to make new friends, and perhaps feeling nervous or vulnerable.
Everyone is different. Some people are more confident, some people are better at hiding their feelings; the point is that you're not alone.
“It’s really natural to have worries and fears, concerns about judgement, rejection and being accepted. And if you’re feeling like this, chances are, so are many others on campus, around halls and in your lectures too.” Kooth therapist
Be curious with simple conversation starters
It can be nerve-wracking to make friends but being curious about the people you meet can make things a little less awkward. Things like asking somebody how their first day/week/month is going or whether they're settling in could be helpful. You could ask where they're living, what their accommodation is like or whether they're getting on with their housemates.
Find out where people are from or what classes they're taking. These are all great conversation starters and are likely to make you and others around you feel a little more comfortable in the knowledge that you're all in it together.
“Sometimes, when we feel overwhelmed we focus on our own experience and how we’re coming across. Being curious about others takes the pressure off us slightly as well as being a great skill to have at university and beyond.” Kooth therapist
Get out and about
This can be the most effective way of meeting new people, and the beginning of the academic year is the best time to do it because lots of people are open to getting to know each other. That doesn't mean you have to join every club or group you come across, or have to spend every night socialising, but it does mean you might find people with similar values, ideas or interests to you.
“If you don’t have a specific interest, trying something new like a sport or university group might help you find new passions and friendships you might not have discovered otherwise.” Kooth therapist
Take things at your own pace
There are lots of small ways you can build your confidence by getting to know your surroundings, recognising the people you see often and interacting with those you come into contact with. Find out what's out there, go for walks, explore, head for the places that feel good to you.
Sit and have your morning coffee in the communal area of your accommodation rather than in your room, or venture out to a nearby cafe instead. It might feel liberating, it might feel scary, but you can take it as quickly or slowly as you like.
“If you find making friends especially difficult, setting small challenges for yourself might be helpful. For example, saying hello to someone in your halls or lectures or even a simple smile if that feels more manageable. This is your experience so do what feels right for you.” Kooth therapist
Something to remember
University is often thought of as a place where you make friends for life, but that isn't always the case. If you don't get on with the people you live with, or don't particularly click with them, try not to feel too disappointed or worried. You can make lots of connections with people outside of your home, and perhaps consider living with them next year instead. It's also important not to put too much pressure on yourself or others. You might make the most amazing friends, but it's also okay if you don't.
And finally from us, best of luck for your first term. Don’t forget, however things are going for you, you are not alone. You can always reach out for support here at Kooth Student.
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