University is all about discovering yourself and your interests. While this is most frequently said with regards to broadening your academic and career horizons, friendship groups are an indispensable, yet often forgotten, part of this path to self-discovery.
Welcome Week can be overwhelming: you suddenly live away from home, share a flat with people you didn’t know until a couple of days ago, and tons of information is thrown at you. On top of all that, you must meet people, understand how your degree works, and get involved in societies so that you ‘don’t miss out’ [sic everyone giving freshers advice ever].
However, you’ll soon realise that it’s not half as bad as you might have initially thought it would be and that everything is going to fall into place rather quickly. The good thing about university is that you can choose what you want to do and what you’d rather leave aside. And while you may think this is self-explanatory when it comes to planning your Welcome Week schedule, picking optional modules, or deciding which societies to join, it may not come as intuitively when choosing your friends.
Everything is going to fall into place rather quickly
Over the first few weeks of university, you’ll probably meet more people than you’ve met in your entire life so far. Flatmates, people from halls parties, seminar mates, older students, and even people you can’t remember meeting. Many of them, you’ll never talk to again, and that’s pretty normal. During Freshers’, we’re all trying to be a slightly more sociable version of ourselves. It’s an opportunity for reinvention and a fresh start after 12-13 years stuck in school with the same old people.
I’d definitely advise you to talk to as many people as you feel comfortable; your future best friend could be sitting next to you, wouldn’t it be a shame if you passed up the opportunity to meet them? However, it’s one thing being open, and another feeling stuck in a friendship group after a few weeks.
It can happen quite unexpectedly. For example, if you go out with your flat on the first night, you may feel compelled to stay with that cohort and think that everyone else is already consolidating their friendship groups. Likewise, if you see people sitting together in lectures by Week 2 you may feel you’ll be left out if you don’t sit with the people you met during Induction. Or, if you’re international, you may think you stand no chance with people from other cultures. What if I were to tell you that none of these assumptions is true?
I’d definitely advise you to talk to as many people as you feel comfortable
As a rule of thumb, I’d say that any friendship in Term 1 is not an everlasting one; this doesn’t mean that it can’t develop to be the best friendship of your life, however some reordering is highly expected after the adjustment period that is Term 1. After you’ve figured out how the next three or four years are going to work, you will also realise what kind of people you want to have with you on this journey, and by then you will have had the chance to get to know some people better and to understand whether you’re compatible with them or not.
Staying in a friendship group just because it’s routine or because you’re scared you won’t find other friends can have negative effects on your mood and mental health, especially if it’s a toxic friendship we’re talking about. It’s pivotal that you find friends who respect you and your thoughts, and that you don’t settle for anything less.
As for the abundance of potential friends, believe me when I say that you’ll still be meeting new people in your final year. The people I now call my best friends, I met way after Freshers’, and as you will hopefully realise, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. You can start talking to a person you find interesting in your seminar or get involved with a society at any point in the year.
So if you wake up one day and realise you don’t click with your friendship group, please don’t force yourself to stay in it; seize all opportunities to meet new people every single day and slowly distance yourself from any relationship that doesn’t fill you with joy!