This week when I wandered into Tesco I happened to notice that the entire shop was filled with nervous looking young people and their parents buying frying pans, door stops and coat hangers and I realised it must be fresher's season coming up. Just seeing their frantic faces brought all those crazy-nervous emotions back of that weird weekend and so I thought I would write a post full of advice for all you younguns just about to embark on a new chapter of your life. This is all the stuff I wish I had done/done better/did.
Remember, everyone is feeling the same.
If you're feeling nervous and anxious and scared to be away from home, that is absolutely fine. Literally everyone you meet will be feeling like this, some will feel a little better about it or hide it better but everyone is unsettled. This is a good thing, it means that everyone is in a weird state of confusion and desperate to find comfort in making friends- friends like you! Take advantage of this, there will never be another time in your life when you can approach anyone and just say hi.
Buy a doorstop. Keep your door open.
Before you arrive at your halls make sure you have a doorstop packed at the top of your things. Now, as soon as you move into your room, shove that thing under your door and start making friends. There will be people passing who will say hi and come in but also be pro-active. Unpack your bedding and a few things and then go around offering to help people.
Ask people for coffee.
If you're anything like me, then before uni your friends were made mainly due to proximity; they were the best people in your village or class or club. That meant that you didn't really have to do much to actually make them, they were just sort of there and then friendship happened. Uni is the first time that won't really happen. Sure, there will be people in your corridor and in your classes but you need to take that adult step and go beyond. Ask if people want lunch or coffee or to do something. It's the only time this won't seem like a date and also it'll make you seem mature and impressive. Sound good? Good. Go on loads of coffee dates with loads of people, get their numbers and text them. Fresher's week is a weird artificial bootcamp where you make friends really quickly so just kind of go along with it.
Make lots of DIFFERENT friends.
So, this is really important. When you find a group of friends there is going to be a lot of internal pressure to stick by them and not really seek new people. You're settled and happy now so why would you plunge yourself back into the stress of finding people, right? Try and ignore this urge and get back out there for your own sake.
The reason this is really important is just incase anything goes wrong. My boyfriend was really lucky, he met this big lovely group in fresher's week and three years later had essentially exactly the same group of gorgeous people smiling at graduation. It can happen! But it's always best to assume that won't. In first year I made my little friendship group and in second year we moved in together. Pretty soon after, cracks started to appear and I realised I really didn't get on with these people any more. Luckily, because I had made distinct groups of friends, I still had a few people to call and get back in contact with who weren't related to this group. It was a complete life saver. If you talk to people who've had issues with Uni 80% of the time it's due to falling out with people you're living with and so if you can provide yourself with different options it's going to make life a whole lot easier.
Be nice. Don't judge.
A very quick and easy way to make friends is to bitch. I'm not being controversial here, gossiping is the human equivalent of monkey grooming; it cements the bonds of friendship between the two involved and creates a them-us divide between possible outliers to the tribe. So there you have it; it's natural, it's easy, it's incredibly tempting. But that doesn't mean you should do it. Friendships forged through negativity are shaky at best and you really don't want to gain a reputation for being a bitch in fresher's week.
Don't get me wrong, I still gossip. Of course I do, everyone does. But it completely pays to choose your partner. After half a week of knowing someone in the social pressure cooker that is fresher's week, you're going to feel incredibly close to them but, if possible, hold off on the gossip until they're firm friends and you've given it some time.
On the other hand, rather than trying to repress bitching, you could try and beat it all together. A personal mantra of mine is "You don't know the struggles of others." How great is that!? Basically if there's a girl on your corridor who's acting really weird, who are you to say that's strange behaviour when you have no idea what could be causing it? Kindness is better than judgement 100% of the time. Look at me getting all hippyish! But seriously, kindness to others is the best way to calm your soul and improve your life. Throw that stuff around like confetti!
So there you have it, freshers! Go forth and make friends.
If any of you second and third years have some golden advice, please leave it in the comments below.