You might have opened this article because, like me, you are one of life’s worriers and making friends at university is one of the many things you have started to think about, even though September is many months away. Equally, you might not have given much thought to the friendship aspect of university life yet – this article is not to tell you that you should start worrying. On the contrary, the first thing you need to know is that friendships will fall into place when you get to university. That is not to say that friendships don’t require work or that you shouldn’t put yourself in situations to find friends. You should join societies, remain open to meeting new people, and introduce yourself to other students. However, making friends is not something you need to worry about – before university or when you get there. I admit that I would have scoffed to read this article before I went to university, wondering why the writer assumed it was easy to stop worrying. Although the concern may be something that continues to persist in your mind, I can give you some evidence to support my claims. Firstly, you can look to your own experiences, and then I’ll share a somewhat embarrassing story of my own to prove my point.
As obvious as it might seem, it is easy to forget that the friendships you will make at university will work similarly to the friendships you already have in your life. The new backdrop to which your friendships will be formed will not make them into something strange and unrecognisable. You will meet lots of people, some alike and some different to your friends from home, but you will make connections with people in similar ways, whether that be through a mixture of compatible interests, experiences, tastes, or personalities (remembering that compatible does not necessarily mean similar). If you are worrying because you don’t feel that you have good friends in your life now, the point still applies – you will meet different types of people that you will connect with in different ways. Moreover, you will find yourself put together with lots of people that also want to make friends and who must necessarily share some of your interests, even if only the desire to attend university or take your course.
Now to turn to my own experiences at university. My Freshers week was filled with lots of new faces and too many names to remember. I met my flatmates, random neighbours who came to our pres, new friends of my new friends, a few people from my course and my one friend from home who also introduced me to a couple of his flatmates. By the time lectures started the next week I felt that I was beginning to form friendships, and I was surrounded by people for the first couple of days. I even walked to my lectures with girls taking the same modules as me; we used the course group chat to arrange to meet outside our halls in the mornings. It was on the fourth day, when I had different modules to the girls that I knew, that I decided I needed to make more friends. Outside the lecture theatre, I smiled casually at my fellow waiting students, and when we went to take our seats, I gathered the confidence to ask a small group sitting nearby if I could sit with them. The pride I felt in my courageous decision to speak to these strangers was not long lived. The girl I had spoken to, kindly but candidly, told me that they were waiting for two of their friends. After internally dying of embarrassment, I quietly slid towards the fourth seat down from the group (leaving two spaces for their friends and a gap between us). One minute before the lecture started the girl’s friends hadn’t arrived and she asked me if I would like to move up and sit with the group, guessing that the people they were waiting for were not going to come. I moved seats. Thirty seconds later, as the lecture began, when it was too late for me to move without causing a disruption, the two friends arrived. After sitting awkwardly between the group for the lecture, I walked home feeling lonely. Although I didn’t realise it in that instant, I wouldn’t have made some of my best friends at university without that experience. It was on my walk home (to the halls where most first-year students live at my university) that I met two of my best friends. People that walk together in groups often walk slower than people walking by themselves, and I got stuck behind two girls deeply engrossed in conversation. I was stuck walking behind the pair for fifteen minutes because the path was too narrow to overtake them and the road too busy to walk on. When we got to a quieter road, I decided to walk past them using the bus stop we were approaching; although, I was slightly apprehensive to walk on the road in a city, having never done so before. I checked the long straight road behind me and saw no buses approaching, but I could not bring myself to walk in the bus stop section of the road. In my nervous and flustered state, I started to move towards the road to overtake the girls but ended up leaving one foot on the pavement, somehow thinking this was a safer option. I ended up walking up and down rather than forwards. This weird walk, or hobble, was too slow to allow me to pass the girls, and I ended up walking next to them. To get past, I quickly took my second foot off of the pavement and ran to get ahead of them before jumping back onto the pavement to try and speed walk away, but during the process one of the girls tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned back, as she called my name, I realised she was one of the flatmates that my friend from home had briefly introduced me to. That is how I met two of my closest friends at university. Yes, you might argue that I already knew one of the girls (from one five-minute conversation), but the friendship formed itself. Yes, in order for the friendship to form it took a girl who only knew my name to reach out to me, but she knew me because we had both been open to meeting the friend of our common friend. It was also a situation we did not purposefully bring about: we were all walking back to our flats at the same time because it turned out we had been in the same lecture – they were on my course. It was simply being at university, and being open to meet new people, that caused me to make my friends. This is the thing you need to know about making friends at university: you will need to put yourself in situations to find friends, although the nature of university often does this for you. You should try and be open to meeting new people, but the friendships will form naturally after that.
Also, my bad example of a time that trying to actively befriend a stranger did not work does not mean that you shouldn’t try it. If it weren’t for my needless embarrassment, I could have spoken again to the group I sat between in my lecture. I also made two more friends the next week by deciding to speak to someone I hadn’t before. I recognised a girl from a seminar I had been in one morning, in another seminar I had later that afternoon. Then, as I left the first seminar the next week, I asked if she also had an empty three-hour gap until the next lesson. She did, she invited me to wait with her and we found another girl waiting too. We then met weekly in the library café during our break and became friends.
It is natural to worry about making friends at university, but friendships are things that form naturally. Of course, it is necessary that someone makes the first introduction but after that things will fall into place. Moreover, university puts you in situations to find friends. You might make your friends through your course, your accommodation, societies, through friends of friends, or even when you would least expect it to happen: during your walk home (awkward pavement walk optional).