‘For most students, university will be the first time you’re away from home for more than a few nights. Don’t be shy. It can be tempting to stay in your room on your first night, but if you get out and start bonding with your new housemates, it will pay off. A box of chocolates, packet of biscuits or cup of tea is a great way to break the ice and start that first conversation.’
Kate Fulton, 22, from the UK, Creative Writing at Bath Spa University
‘The first thing to remember about making friends during your first term at University is that you are not alone. We were all once at the stage where we felt that we were the only people struggling to make friends. This was particularly the case for me as I have Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of autism. This basically means that I have problems with socialising and making friends. Despite the challenges this presented me with, I now have a good number of friends and I am currently running the Goldsmiths Music Society.
One of the methods that I used involved walking around with a bag of sweets that I could share with other students. This gave me so many opportunities to talk to loads of different people, some of whom are now my friends. You might also consider going to the Fresher’s Fair, where you can sign up to a variety of different societies and sports clubs. One final thing to remember about making friends in general is that you should always be yourself. We are all different and we should respect each other for these differences. After all, the world would be a very boring place indeed if we were all the same.’
James Dew, 22, from the UK, BMus(Hons) in Music from Goldsmiths College, University of London
‘Do not miss out on Students’ Union activities – they usually cater for any hobby/interest you can think of, so take part in developing uni policies or learn fun skills in classes like pumpkin carving.’
Victoria Matey, 34, from Russia, MSc in International Events Management at the University of Surrey
‘Go out. A lot. There’s only so much time you can spend in your room, so go out and explore the new city or town you’re in! You’re a student now, so it’s perfectly acceptable to be in your local cinema at 3pm on a Tuesday. Put your most serious coat on and go and look at some art at a posh gallery. Go and play in the park. Go to a gig. Go to a greasy pizza restaurant and feel sick for the whole afternoon. Just get out of your bedroom, and get some fresh-ish air. With your new friends, preferably.
Most importantly, make friends with the people you live with. You might be in a house with four others, you might be in a hall with eleven others, but make a few, good friends. They are your family while you are here. You’ll all be feeling a little bit scared and homesick, but once you have a good friend across the hall, you can cry on them, laugh with them, cook with them and generally do stupid, student things like decorating the flat for Christmas and playing games in the corridor with the Hoover.’
Grace Jenkins, 19, from the UK, Media and Modern Literature at Goldsmiths College
‘Being an international student can have its advantages and can be a real ice-breaker amongst prospective new friends in your first term. For me, one of the most amazing things about being in university was meeting new people who came from other countries and being able to exchange stories about their home country and life in the UK.
Societies are an excellent way of making friends who either share similar interests or want to learn a new skill. Whether it is sports, computer games or learning first aid, societies have a huge social element to them, so don’t be surprised if you get invited to 'meet-ups' which help members to meet friends without the awkwardness. If you don’t make it to the Fresher’s Fair, fear not; societies will always be looking for more members and your Students’ Union (SU) can provide you with this information.
Also, students are social animals! Your SU bar is also a great place to get to know people around campus, and SU bars will normally organise ‘theme nights’ throughout the year. Most UK students see university as a life-changing experience and will be more approachable as they are in the same situation as you. A lot of my friends were made not just in my first year but right up until my third.’
Christiana Smith, 23, from the UK, Media Studies at the University of East London
International community: UWC Atlantic College student Francesca Maviglia, from Italy, took this photo of her friends Yuka from Japan, Husna from Malaysia, and Becca from the USA.
‘There is no better way to get to know a new culture and improve your language than getting to know the youth of the UK. And even though English students have not moved to a new country, many have moved from a different part of the country and are equally alone and eager to make friends. I’m not going to lie: there were days when I felt alone, out of place and annoyed with my flatmates. But I made memories I will never forget and friends for life.’
Marie Storheim Grongan, 21, from Norway, Creative Writing with Journalism at Kingston University
‘Fresher’s Week isn’t the best week of your life. There are so many new things to do and new people to meet, but don’t exhaust yourself before term starts properly! It’s okay to be overwhelmed with how scary and confusing it is, and a lot of people probably feel the same as you, even if they don’t show it.
It’s also okay to feel homesick. Most people won’t admit to it, but be assured that even the biggest, toughest rugby player still wants to see his mummy sometimes. Get your parents a webcam and microphone so you can use Skype to talk to them online for free whenever you want. Don’t spend too much time with people you already know. It may be comforting and reassuring to stay around people from your home country, but you will miss opportunities to meet people who could become close friends. One of the best things about university is that everyone is usually really friendly and eager to talk to anyone.’
Amy McMullen, 21, from the UK, English Literature at Cardiff University
‘No one cares what you wear, where you’re from, how much money you have, how smart you are or if you have brown hair or blonde. The first week of lectures, don’t be afraid to sit next to a different person every time, make a joke, smile and wave at people you’ve met before. Take note of names! That was my fatal flaw; calling someone the wrong name for a few weeks. Lecturers aren’t all scary either; some are even more crazy than you think, but respect them and they’ll respect you. Just smile, relax and enjoy yourself. Oh, and make sure to start assignments far in advance; trust me on that one!’
Katrina Long, 19, from the UK, FdSc (Foundation Degree) Equine Science and Management at the University of the West of England
With thanks to Education UK’s 2012 Student Journalist competition winners.