Building meaningful friendships at university
Five tips on how to make friends at university by a medical student who, like everyone else, was lost during the first few days.
Having frequently changed schools during my childhood, I was used to changes of scene, meeting new people, making new friends. I’m quite an outgoing and sociable person, so I did not think that those would be challenges at University. I wasn’t really worried about mingling with everyone in my first weeks… but actually, this ended up being quite a challenging time, all through the first few months of uni!
Here is a little guide, with a few tips that I would give my younger self!
In short: five things I wish I had known about making friends at uni...
1. It can be quite overwhelming.
The big difference with school is just the sheer number of PEOPLE. When you're new in the school there are about 30 people in your class, right? Then in first year there were 360 of just medicine. In my halls there were more than 600 people, and if you looked at the whole year group - we were a total of a few thousand.
Yes, that is a lot.
At the beginning, what might be a joyful, babbling crowd, can appear quite intimidating. Don’t be taken aback, don’t let this surprise you, this is actually a huge positive, you're bound to meet someone you get along with. Don’t worry if you don’t click with the first few, you’ll find your people in time.
2. Approach people in the right context.
Especially if you're a little shy. Try to approach people in smaller, more chilled settings.
A big party, crowds of people, noise everywhere, not really your thing? Why not drop in the common room and talk to a small group? Go talk to a few people who look friendly in lectures, or someone sitting in the cafeteria. It will be be less scary and also might feel more natural - remember everyone else is trying to make friends too. Don't pressure yourself like: "Oh, I need to walk in and make friends now." Just try to see if you're feeling the group, take your time and follow your gut feeling.
Don't get me wrong, welcome parties or other events designed for people to meet each other can be very nice, and I do recommend attending the first few! But they can also feel really forced! And that might not be ideal for friendships, spontaneity is best!
3. Be yourself.
Yes, it’s important in the long-term to have genuine friendships, but also in the short-term too; you want to feel comfortable and natural - It's better to find people you really connect with!
I know there will be a pressure to look cool, or to say impressive things, but there's really no need. This is especially true among medical students; I feel they're all very ambitious and smart and some of them don’t stop talking about their achievements.
You don't need to sell yourself to people or make people like you, be natural, be yourself and you will find real, valuable, friendships.
4. Be open-minded.
Don't only look for people who are similar to you, and don't try to compare them to the people at your previous school! People who are really different will be super interesting to talk to and this diversity is always beneficial.
That's also what uni is about: going out of your comfort zone and broadening your horizons.
5. Don't be in a rush.
Rome wasn't built in a day; you're not going to make lifelong friends in the first few hours of medical school.
Take your time, talk to different people here and there... It's OK if you talk to someone and then realise you don't have so much in common - it's fine; you can just go and talk to someone else.
Also, the group you meet on your first day of med school may not end up being your exact friend group in a few months.
You will mingle with lots of different people and slowly narrow it down, as the year goes on, and again meet new people through the course of the year. It's all a very dynamic thing, give yourself time - and, again, no pressure.
Just trust the process!
To follow Marianne's journey click here