Uni know-how: Being social in a new environment
One of the biggest concerns anyone has when going away for uni (or going anywhere new, for that matter) is navigating the social minefield of new people, a new study, and sometimes a new city.
Everyone has that little voice in the back of their mind that asks: “what if no one likes me? What if I don’t meet anyone I get along with?”
The short answer is that you will make friends, and people will like you, no matter what the little voice says. Unfortunately, the short answer doesn’t feel too convincing and doesn’t usually quell the concerns you may have.
So, in this article, we’ll be breaking down some of the things to think about when trying to be social in your new uni environment.
The thing is, everyone is in the same boat. When you move into a hall, there will be some people that may have a couple of people they already know, but for the most part, everyone is a stranger.
What this means is that everyone is worried about making friends. Standing around with your new cohabitors on the first day doing an uncomfortable ice-breaker (get used to them early, it won’t be the last one) is just a step into getting to know everyone. Don’t worry, after a while, you’ll probably wish to be left alone more.
Halls put together a bunch of different events to try and ease the awkwardness of a bunch of strangers living together. Get amongst those if you’re keen to meet people. If you don’t want to, then you know what to do as well.
It doesn’t take long for people to start banding together, group chats will appear with some common lines like: “Anyone at uni?” “Anyone getting dinner soon?” Or the family favourite, “Maccas run anyone?” Before you know it, people that you’ve only known for 2 months will feel like lifelong friends.
Everyone wishes that someone else will make the first move and be the first to introduce themselves. When you realise this, it becomes a little bit easier to be that person. Not because you’re scared they won’t like you, but because you know that they’re just as nervous as you are.
This kind of thing goes beyond just the halls as well: tutorials, extra classes, uni events. Everyone can be a nervous bean and it takes some guts to muster the social courage to introduce yourself.
At the end of the day, what’s the worst thing that can happen from introducing yourself? It remains as one conversation and you don’t talk to them again. That can sound a bit grim but at the end of the day, if they’re not willing to talk to you, is it really someone who you want to be friends with? That’s up to you, but the important thing is that you tried, and no one can blame you for that.
But what if I’m not in a hall?
Starting our tertiary study means most people will be moving away, but for some, this isn’t the case. You may be going into flatting, or staying at home so you don’t have to pay the ridiculous hall prices (smart move).
In this case, meeting people is going to be something you do more through your courses and tutorials. Becoming friends who are studying a similar (if not same) field as you can be a huge help in motivating you to stay at the library until 1 am to complete that assignment due tomorrow.
It can be a little trickier though, and some courses are much more social than others. Our tip is to involve yourself in things beyond a lecture because you’ll be in a room with up to 400 other people, not exactly a social situation.
The beauty is that there are heaps of opportunities to involve yourself in things that will let you meet people with similar interests as you. This may be something like joining a social sports team, or a club, through the uni. Just like high school, you have extra things you can always sign up for that will allow you to meet new people, and build new relationships.
With the sheer amount of different clubs and teams that each uni has, you’ll be sure to find one that you vibe with.
The beauty of staying in the same city as well is that you may still have some friends from high school around. Keeping yourself open to social opportunities and enjoying the time you have with the people already around you is a luxury your homesick homies don’t have, so enjoy that perk.
Good things can take time
There’s no one sure way to meet people, and you may find that the groups you band into at the beginning of the year may not be the people you hang out with at the end.
This is so normal and so okay. Especially when you consider that a lot of friendships form from proximity (e.g. being in a hall).
University is a place where you will find yourself being challenged from all angles: different lifestyles, different beliefs, different interests. It’s an opportunity for you to discover the things that you like and the personalities you want to have in your life.
There’s someone out there for everyone, and you should consider what you want from the people around you before forcing yourself to be around people you don’t actually like because you feel obliged. Put your wellbeing at the top and look for the people who you align with. They’re the MVP’s.
It may not happen instantly, but it will happen. Be brave. Do your best to put yourself out there (if that’s what you want to do), and you will attract the kinds of people who challenge you, lift you up, and help you in the best ways they can.