Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Now, having read the title to this piece, I don’t want you to think, ‘It’s fine to not try and meet new people at uni, they probably won’t be my tribe anyway‘. But I do want to tell you a story, from a student on the brink of third year, with graduation looming only a year away.
When you arrive at uni, your nerves persist to the point of nausea, and excitement brews to the point of ecstasy bubbling around in your adolescent stomach. At least that’s how it was for me. This prospect of being left alone by your parents, in a strange city with strange people and a pocket full of your student loan, is everything you’ve prepared yourself for. Perhaps you know people there, perhaps you know no one. Perhaps you’re plodding along, happy to go in as yourself, or maybe you’ve taken this opportunity to create a new identity, by maybe being more adventurous, or more studious. More something. This is all completely natural and completely okay.
You’re dropped into this flat of new people who you pray will be your lifelong friends, already imagining the friendships blossoming over the next three or four years. Perhaps they’re all a bit too quiet for you, or too outgoing, so you look elsewhere and meet people that way. Either way, the friends you make in the Fresher’s period hold promise and anticipation.
I think this is the number one reason why so many students find themselves sat in their room in their new student house in the first week of second year wondering if they did enough in first year, whether the people they’re living with are the right people, or whether they can cope with this new environment.
I found myself in this exact predicament. I was sitting on my bed, with all of my required reading in a pile next to me, hundreds of pictures of my first year nights out on my wall, and a box of tissues slowly depleting next to me, as I sobbed. I’m not going to give you the gory details, but the short version is, I realised the large friendship group that I had made in halls weren’t really my people. I’d spent so long trying to fit in with the group dynamic, that I had no idea what was mine anymore, what mattered, and who or what I wanted to be. I have retained some wonderful friendships from that group, however.
In my first year I didn’t commit to a single society. Coming from school and college, where I didn’t have a free hour in the day, this ‘sleep all day, boogie all night’ lifestyle was a huge adjustment for me. I wish someone had just grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, look at all these amazing things you can do! Go!’ By not joining any societies, I found myself secure in my friendships in halls but lonely on my course and without any passions.
For many people, this is okay. Their halls friends are their ‘tribe’. But how do you know that they are if you don’t at least dip your toe into the water of opportunity? When I realised I was never alone, but ultimately lonely, I knew something had to change. So I jumped, knowing that for a while I would be both lonely and alone, but that it would be worth it. And I haven’t looked back once. I joined 6 societies, and I cannot recommend joining societies to a fresher, or even a third year, enough. Common interests are the best foundation to build a friendship upon. I haven’t lost all of my halls friends, but I’ve realised which friendships matter to me, and which ones hold the most emotional connection, and put my time into those, whilst being myself. Introducing those friends to friends I met through societies created new friendships within a lovely network of people I cared about.
If you’re going into September worrying about any of these things, don’t make any rash decisions, such as binning friends that could be an amazing part of your network, but maybe go to a taster for one society during freshers. When I sat there, on my bed in a questionable room in a student house, surrounded by tissues and half unpacked boxes, I wanted to run home and give up, feeling like I was wasting these so called ‘best years of my life’. Within two weeks, I was already feeling better.
You may never find your ‘group’, or your ‘people’, but as long as you have people you care for and enjoy spending time with and this is reciprocated, it doesn’t matter. Forced friendships and falsity don’t last, even though we all hope it might in freshers. Be yourself, and the happy friendships you think university should be composed of will follow.