The start of university is in equal parts daunting and exciting. You’re thrown into a new environment surrounded by complete strangers and given a blank slate, which many people look back on as the best years of their lives. With this in mind, here are a few provisos from my own experiences as a student…
Be open to trying new things
For most people, moving into halls is the first time they’ve properly lived away from home. As well as the greatly increased freedom that comes with this, you may find yourself living in a bigger city in a different part of the country to where you’re originally from. If you’re by the coast this might mean you can try your hand at windsurfing, or paddleboarding, or getting drunk with friends on the beach. The people you meet will come from different backgrounds and will likely bring a host of different experiences with them.
Socialise, socialise, socialise
In the first few weeks, say yes to everything you get invited to, and make an effort to talk to as many people at house parties and gatherings as you feel comfortable with. Being outside of your comfort zone can be daunting, but in many ways this can be good for helping you to broaden your social horizons. Everyone’s in the same boat, even if at times it can feel like the Costa Concordia, and if you make the effort to reach out to people they’ll appreciate it more. Flat parties and house parties can often be a better way to meet people than through university-organised icebreakers, but be open to everything.
Don’t feel like you have to commit to everything
Equally importantly, if you find you’re not enjoying something then don’t feel bad about giving it up. This applies to any number of commitments, including societies, parties, nights out, or even potentially your degree. If you’re putting in the effort but don’t feel like you’re engaging with everything in the way you’re supposed to, don’t be afraid to put it on hold and try out something else instead. I never found a society I felt offered what I was looking for while I was a student and bailed from around half a dozen over the years, but by my third year of university, I was organising weekly sessions in the uni’s music rooms for me and my friends.
Make an effort to branch out
When it comes to making friends with new people, don’t just stick with your home friends if a large group of you all came from sixth form or college. When I started at Plymouth there were roughly a dozen of us who all came from the same sixth form. Initially it was much easier to socialise with people I was familiar with, instead of making an effort to put myself out there. I didn’t make much of an effort to interact with my course mates until I was halfway through uni, which I sorely regret as I eventually went on to meet some fantastic people.
Most importantly, be yourself
Many bright-eyed 18-year-olds see the start of uni as a chance to reinvent themselves, be it through adopting a questionable haircut or becoming the sort of person who communicates entirely in quotes from The Office. While this is a golden opportunity to drop an embarrassing first name and answer to something more conventional, don’t fall into the trap of pretending to be someone you’re not for the sake of feeling more different or more unique. Don’t do things that are completely out of character to try and impress others. If you find that certain people regularly put you in situations that you’re not comfortable with then it might be best to hang out with other friends. Be yourself, and be confident that you’re good enough for everyone else.