What a year 2020 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.
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):
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.
These methods are effective for virtual lectures too. Remember, body language speaks volumes, even when you’re not there ‘in person’.
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.
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.
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.
Remember that friendships take time to develop. If you don’t connect with somebody, understand that’s OK and move on.
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.
Many of the usual uni events will look very different this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
iQ has launched a virtual events programme to help keep the sense of community and human connection, including HIIT, yoga and boxing classes, music evenings, cooking nights and productivity workshops.
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.
Whether it’s a sport club 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.
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.
Social distancing measures may mean you’ll be spending much more time with your house/dorm/hallmates. Why not start up an outdoor exercise group with them in a bid to keep fit or even a start a walking tour group to get to know your new local area?
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?
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.