The age old question. How does one acquire friends at university? It was definitely what I worried about the most before I came to Imperial and everyone tells you not to worry and that friendships will just happen but THAT IS NOT HELPFUL. That is obviously the last thing you want to hear when you’re already worried about moving to the busiest city in the UK, possibly thousands of miles away from home, to live with strangers, adjust to being totally independent and also, y’know, obtain a decent degree from an internationally renowned university. So here I’m going to do my best to advise you about the friend-making process at university:
1. Talk to everybody you meet on move in day. I was told to keep my door open and play music and that this would attract friendly faces to come and chat to me whilst they were moving in. Since my room is in the furthest corner at the very end and back of the building, this did not work for me, but who knows, it might work for you! If it doesn’t, knock on the doors around you to say hi. Chat as you’re putting your things in to the kitchen. Your hall seniors will probably organise some kind of welcome meeting for the people in your kitchen/corridor. GO TO THIS AND SAY HI TO EVERYBODY (also free wine so it’s a win-win all round). It gets the ball rolling even if you don’t immediately become besties with everyone you say hi to.
2. Go to everything during freshers. I’m the kind of person who can be extremely reluctant to go to things where I’m unlikely to know many people and would usually make an excuse not to go out if this were the case at home, but you just can’t do this at uni. Go to all your hall welcome events, talks and campus tours. Go to all the events they put on (Fisher took us to China town and bowling – the meal especially ended up being a really great opportunity to meet people who I hadn’t talked to yet!) and go to the Mingle and Freshers Ball. It’s essential to socialise with people during freshers as once lectures start, you’re not going to have as many opportunities to randomly start conversations with strangers (who could become your best friends) without coming off a bit weird.
3. Go to Freshers Fair! Societies are a great way to meet like-minded people. The Christian Union is the main society that I’m involved in and I can genuinely say that I’ve met people there who I can see being my friends for years to come. Get involved! Also free stuff at Freshers Fair wraaaay.
4. Keep in touch with your department family. Pretty much every department has a mums and dads scheme where a couple of second years will take on three or four freshers and look after them. Most people tend to lose contact with their parents after a while, so don’t worry if this happens (I see mine around occasionally and they have been quite helpful with questions about revision, tests and coursework!). However, your department ‘siblings’ are people who you can stick together with in the first few days of lectures (shout out to my biology sister Emily who I went to Freshers Fair and the Ball with, lab partnered with and went shopping with many, many times in the first few weeks of term – I love you girl). Value your department family!
5. Don’t fret if you don’t immediately make best friends with the people you meet. The people you hang out with on the first night aren’t necessarily going to be the people you stay with for the rest of your time at uni. This definitely wasn’t the case for me! One thing I struggled with was how superficial all my interactions seemed during freshers week. It’s ok to not find a super close group in the first day or two! The important thing is to make connections with others and spend time with different groups from different place (your hall, your course, societies etc). You will find the people who will be your closest friends eventually.
6. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Freshers week is probably the only time in your life where it’s acceptable to walk up to complete strangers and start asking them about themselves. Just to talk to every single person you meet. As a side note, learn this script: Hi. My name is ____ . I live in _____ and I’m from ____ . I study ______ . What about you? You will lose track of how many times you divulge this information over freshers week. Ask for people’s numbers too! Honestly, I’m friends with my hall friends now because I thought they looked nice at the Queen’s Tower Tour and I didn’t have anyone to talk to so I just kind of slipped in to their group and joined in their conversation. Don’t be afraid to do stuff like that.
So many different events are organised during Freshers, it’s impossible not to meet people, just make sure to be bold and brave… don’t be the person who spends the whole boat party (which will probably be your first event of Freshers unless Imperial finally decide that three hours actually is too long to cram 100 people into a boat for) stood by the railing with their back to everybody. Friends will come, but not if you don’t look for them!
Good luck to everyone preparing to come back to London this weekend for the start of term and if you’re already back at school or uni… unlucky 😉