Updated: Sep 8, 2021
We have just left our safe haven - the comfort of home and our friendship groups -, feeling the instant need to recreate the social relations that we are used to in a new setting. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are craving human connection.
Our bodies are itching with the need to bond with people. I am not going to lie – I enjoy peace and quiet. My own rituals. A good night in. But after a year and a half spent in seclusion, I believe anyone would be ready to dive into the social scene. But, as it turns out, trying to bond with people that you have never met before can be very overwhelming. Even in “normal times” striking up a conversation requires a lot of energy, thought, and patience. Yet, now the majority of people feel out of practice in the art of conversation. How can they not? When was the last time you went for coffee, for drinks, or started a random conversation with a stranger without the fear thought “OMG, what if I catch COVID” clouding your mind? This Freshers' should be a great starting point for bonding with others: with most students vaccinated and following the current regulations, it should be safe to put ourselves out there. Hence I offer a few tips that I wish I had known at the start of my own Freshers’ Week.
Reach out before the start of the semester
I met one of my closest friends over Instagram – a modern story, indeed. At the end of August, she made a post, and I did a very uncharacteristic thing: I swiped up and DM-ed her, saying “what a pretty view”. Deliberated unsending the message -then, actually did. But, I sent it again. Afterward, I immediately turned off my wifi and Instagram notifications, and had a deep conversation with myself regarding my life choices. Luckily, she was a bit more confident and responded. A conversation sparked. Once she got out of quarantine, we met for a walk and coffee. The entire affair was so effortless, it felt like I was meeting an old friend rather than an online acquaintance. Hence, my first piece of advice would be: if you get good vibes from them, reach out. What is the worst that can happen? An hour of silence while the two of you sip on your coffee, a polite smile, and then you never see them again - except for maybe at 10pm in front of Tesco, exchanging pleasantries and setting a coffee date in the foreseeable future, both of you aware it will never happen. This is the beauty of making friends at university: there is no obligation to maintain contact just for the sake of preserving it. Be picky. Your time is valuable, so spend it wisely.
Do not try on a different personality every day
You are not the 16 personalities quiz: offering a different answer every time you meet a new person, slightly altering your beliefs, your style, withholding your thoughts because you do not think they will like your opinion. Once again, we are too old for this. (Funny, is it not? The summer before starting university, one is still considered a child. Then within two months, we are expected to undergo a metamorphosis and emerge as confident, wise-ish young adults, as if the short period changes anything). Alas, this is an opportunity to form genuine relations with individuals you share similarities with. Just be yourself.
Take your time
Even if Freshers' Week is over and you do not yet have a friend group, or even if the first semester is over and you do not have a group, do not fear; you will not end up alone. Some people are better at forming individual relations rather than connecting with three or four individuals at a time. I wish I knew that before I spent the majority of my first semester forcing myself into the company of a group of lovely people who were sadly not my vibe at all. It took me a few long calls, a few conversations with my best friend from home to realise that I am simply better at individual connections and then bringing them together in a perfectly mismatched mosaic of people. Because if anything is true, everyone in St Andrews has a link to everyone else. It is implausible to meet someone in the street with whom you would not share a single acquaintance.
Hence do not worry. You do not need to make friends instantly. or a lot of them. You do not need to be friends with your friends' friends (God, that is a lot of friends). You can be picky. Take your time.
All in all, there is no general formula that would work without fail, for humans are not predictable; even if a person matches every point of your criteria, they may still surprise you, and you find yourself back at square one. You will not necessarily bond with the girl whose yoga mat always ends up next to yours, despite sharing more than a few similarities with her. But you may find your all-time best friend at that one random party you almost skipped because you asked them out for coffee afterwards. General advice for finding new friends? Be courageous. Do not rush. Trust.