We’ve all heard the line, right?
“I made my best friendships at uni.”
It’s well meaning, for sure. Nostalgic, even. A simple line that hints at everything surely coming your way the minute you dump the first crate of your prized belongings on the single bed crammed into your new (blue tack marked) room; Freshers timetable already screen-shotted on your phone. And it’s true, a lot of us have and will make some amazing friendships during our time at university; some we met in our first week, some we met in our second year, and going to uni is a brilliant opportunity to meet people in a way you couldn’t when you were thrown together at school.
It’s also true, unfortunately, that sometimes that well meaning line can morph into frankly unhelpful sentiments when you’re starting out at this new place. Top of the list is that, with the onslaught of all these new friendships, all the ones you have from back home are suddenly not needed, something that might even hold you back. And it’s just not true. There is not, and never has been, any law that says you will lose touch with friends you still want to keep in contact with. Sure, you can’t control their actions, and in those first couple of weeks it is likely you will all be busy trying to settle into wherever you’ve ended up. However, it doesn’t mean texting your best friend, or even just a classmate, will hold you back from all you’re meant to achieve here.
A lot of the time, it’s the complete opposite; a throwaway text mid October reading ‘do you feel really close with anyone yet?’ which says a lot more than all the filters on Instagram ever will. Arriving at university is a huge point in your life, especially after the struggles of A Levels, but how much of yourself you want to change or not when you get here is up to you. Most of the time, you won’t even realise how much you’ve changed until you reach third year and think: ‘how the heck did I get here so fast?!’.
But through all that, and especially in those first weeks, relationships from home can be the complete opposite of a hindrance. After all, why were you friends with those people in the first place? Maybe not the friendships that were out of convenience from simply being in the same class, but if it was because you spent however many years laughing at each other’s jokes, hanging out at their house and staying up way too late talking, then that, more than any well-meaning sentiment you might hear, is what matters.
And in a world where 1 in 4 students will go through a mental health problem and tabloids cite growing loneliness and stress as new, unwelcome features of uni life, keeping up with old friends can be one of the best ways to keep a perspective on yourself, and who you’ve always been. That’s not to say that texting your home friends twenty times a day and refusing to meet anyone in your flat is necessarily the best idea, but from most people I know, that simply wasn’t their experience. In fact, the only slogan that really did win out in pretty much everyone’s mind was ‘you’re all in the same boat’.
Cliché, I know. But I promise you, literally no one, when faced with the usual introductions in that first seminar, is going to ignore you or think you’re not cool enough to be friends with. Those first few weeks of uni, everyone wants to make friends. Actually finding those ‘friends for life’ might take a while longer, but come third year, there’s still a good chance your home friends will make the count. Plus, Christmas hols are going to be very boring if you haven’t contacted anyone at home for the last three months. Even with the best dog videos.