How to be yourself and make friends at uni

What a year 2022 has been so far! To say it’s been full of changes and challenges would be an understatement.

On top of all those, starting uni presents another period of massive life change – which can be both exciting and daunting.

Living away from home for the first time, managing your money, time and workload, while making friends from scratch in a new setting takes courage, skills and effort.

It’s totally normal to feel nervous about this time and the prospect of meeting new people – and the reassuring thing is, pretty much everyone will be feeling the same.

That’s why iQ has teamed up with leading relationships charity, Relate. Here’s one of their amazing counsellors, Sam, with some tips on how to be yourself and make new friends.


Think of some conversation starters

Try preparing some opening sentences and practicing them. This will help you approach people confidently and open up a dialogue.

Here’s some suggestions but you can switch them up and use your own words and details (obviously):

  • Hi, I’m Adam. I’m from Bournemouth and am studying drama. How about you?
  • How are you finding it so far? I’m excited but obviously it’s a bit strange with everything that’s going on.
  • So, who have you met so far on this floor?
  • I love your shirt/ shoes/ hair/ sunglasses etc.
  • Hey, how’s it going? I’m making a cup of tea. Do you fancy one?


Use positive body language

Of course, it helps to say the right things but body language can also reveal a lot about your feelings and emotions and will help you to connect with other students.

  • Smile – nothing beats a smile for spreading positive vibes!
  • Make eye contact – this helps you to seem interested and to build trust.
  • Put your hands by your side – an open body position makes you seem more approachable. If you don’t know what to do with your hands have something small to hold like a stress ball or Blu Tack!
  • Relax your shoulders – this gives the impression that you’re feeling comfortable.
  • Mirror – gently matching the posture of the person you are talking to can help build rapport.

These methods are effective for virtual lectures too. Remember, body language speaks volumes, even when you’re not there ‘in person’.


Keep an open mind

We often judge people based on their appearances, their interests or their background. Try to cast these things aside when meeting people and keep an open mind. People with different perspectives can enrich your life in wonderful ways.


Take an interest

Listen to what the person is saying rather than focusing too much on what you want to say next. Be inquisitive and ask them questions. People like it when you take an interest in them.


Be honest if you don't understand

If English isn’t your first language and you haven’t understood something, don’t be afraid to ask the person to slow down and repeat it. Also, don’t be afraid to have a go at another language – people would rather you try and mispronounce something than avoid talking to them.


Don't put too much pressure on yourself

Remember that friendships take time to develop. If you don’t connect with somebody, understand that’s OK and move on.


Stick to your guns

It can be tempting to let down your boundaries or do things that just aren’t you in a bid to fit in. If you don’t want to drink or stay up late, politely explain this. If people are eating your food without asking or want to copy your work, don’t accept it.


Attend events

Whether it’s held by your iQ, arranged by the students’ union or is a community-run gathering, accept the invitation to attend events – it’s a great way of meeting new people.


Join a club

Whether it’s our iQ Clubs or the curry appreciation society - whatever you’re into it’s likely there’s something on offer. Friendships tend to develop naturally and organically through shared interests.


Don't look for perfection

Not every friend has to meet all your needs. You may make one friend who you prefer to confide in, another you like to play sport with and somebody else who you have wild nights out with.


Bond with your household

Get together in the social spaces and catch up over a a game of pool with your mates. Or why not start up an outdoor exercise group with your housemates in a bid to keep fit or even a start a walking tour group to get to know your new local area?

Remember you're not alone

Everyone else will feel lonely and homesick at some point. Share how you feel with others. It may be a conversation starter and lead to a connection.

You could also plan to have regular video calls with your loved ones back home, to check in when you’re missing them – maybe even bring back the quarantine online family quiz?


Give yourself some love

Taking care of your emotional wellbeing is important. If you feel you need some extra support, contact the student wellbeing centre. They usually offer free counselling and some run classes on confidence building.

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