The car has been unloaded, your new accommodation has been inspected, you’ve said goodbye to your parents. Finally, you’re on your own, and a whole new chapter is just beginning.
Starting university, particularly when you don’t know anybody, can be a daunting experience. Finding friends is a number one priority, and your first week will feel like a frenetic flurry of socialising. It is important that you participate fully, and resist the temptation to cower in your room, waiting for the world to come to you.
When you move into your halls, start as you mean to go on. Prop your door open, put on the kettle for tea or coffee, open a bottle of wine. You will come across as accessible and hospitable, and passing residents, who will also be on the lookout for new friends, may well drop in and say hello.
Basic social skills will be part of your fresher’s survival strategy. Smile warmly, even if you’re feeling scared or homesick. Now is not the time to try and look cool and standoffish. Introduce yourself early on when you have a casual encounter (in the communal kitchen for example). Ask questions and show an interest in other people’s answers – it helps if you ask open-ended questions that will stimulate chat (“I wonder where the union bar is?”), rather than asking people questions that will only be met by ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. If you hit it off, always swap phone numbers – you’ll soon find a chain reaction of introductions and networking will sweep you off your feet.
Freshers’ week can be a crazy time – you’re launching yourself as an adult and putting your childhood behind you. You may be experimenting with a new look, or forcing yourself to be braver and more outgoing. But take it easy, and don’t do anything in your first week that you’ll spend the next three years regretting – getting in with a dodgy crowd, falling in love with the first person you meet, or blowing your entire budget on a ludicrous extravagance.
You may find the first few days a bit of a rollercoaster. It’s normal to feel a bit untethered and homesick when you start university. Don’t panic if you feel your fresher’s week hasn’t been a triumph – you might not have found your new best friend or dream social circle in the first few days, but university, especially once you start going to lectures and classes, will provide you with endless opportunities to meet and bond with new people. Be patient and remind yourself that this is just the beginning of your adult adventure…
Follow these golden rules to ensure that you start your university course as you mean to go on.
• Operate an open door policy when you move into your residence hall. People will inevitably drop by and they may even become real friends.
• Have tea, coffee, some cans of beer or a bottle of wine available (remember to bring a kettle, mugs, glasses etc. when you pack), and greet everyone with a friendly hello.
• Use the communal areas, frequent the bars (even if you don’t drink). Get out of your room and socialise.
• Accept that – at first – conversational gambits are going to centre on your A level results, where you're from and the course you’ve chosenr. These are ice-breakers, and may lead on to more interesting things.
• Listen to what other people tell you, and ask questions. Don’t bang on about yourself all the time, or your new friends will soon be making for the door.
• Introduce yourself to strangers at Freshers’ Week parties. Everyone is in the same boat, so don’t worry about making the first move. If you like the look of someone, go up to them, tell them your name, ask them a few questions, and listen carefully. Keep smiling.
• Swap phone numbers if you want to see them again. Don’t tell complete strangers where you live or you may find yourself besieged by unwanted visitors. You can always use social media to vet your new acquaintances and you may find you have second thoughts.
• Avoid getting very drunk – first impressions count and it's best to keep a (relatively) clear head while you're still finding your feet.
• You may not stick with the friends you make during Freshers’ week. If you realise that they’re boring, fanatical, mean-spirited geeky etc, you can always move on. So approach the whole social maelstrom in a spirit of adventure and discovery.
• Be a joiner. Freshers’ fairs lay out a tempting array of societies and clubs, but don’t go mad. Sign up for things you’re actually interested in (liking the look of the student manning the stall isn’t a good enough reason!) and you might actually stay the course.
• Be open to new experiences, but exercise a little caution. Don’t blow all your money on a flat-screen TV or commit to sharing a second-year house with someone you've just met. You may end up regretting your freshers’ week antics for the next three years…
• Above all, be friendly. Keep smiling, and accept invitations whenever possible. You’ll only be a fresher once…
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