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Surviving Freshers': Breaking the ice

You will meet loads of people in Freshers' Week, but where do you start with someone you know nothing about? George Wood gives his tips for adjusting to your new social life and making friends.

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Credit: zealous
Credit: zealous

The biggest part of you that will change at university will be your social life. For some, it's exciting; others, intimidating. Everyone is anxious to make friends that they'll keep for the rest of their lives. Suddenly your small, sleepy life at home seems like it's going to explode into a world of parties and opportunities. And then there's the expectation that by the end of your degree, you'll be living a life taken off the set of Friends, hanging out and drinking coffee in Central Park with your new five best mates for life.

Unfortunately, life doesn't work out that way. Most students experience a slight panic when they realise they have to drop the fresher spirit to let reality kick in, but I find that it's the quieter moments of university where I've started to make some amazing friends.

Essentially, social life is about finding the right balance. Going out on socials to meet people or finding those who share the same interests as you through societies is not an obligation at university, but an open door to making new friends. There might be some compromise involved at first, for instance, clubbing tends to be the way most students socialise during Freshers', but it doesn't appeal to everyone. Alcohol as a social lubricant will be tricky to avoid, and even if you choose not to drink, you have to accept that a lot of students want the liberating and often inebriating experience of going on a night out. But once you get past this stage of making acquaintances, building friendships becomes easier and easier.

It's okay to be nervous - don't forget that even the most confident-appearing people will be in the same boat as you. Just be open, honest and friendly. If you're a naturally shy person, don't feel burdened down by expectations that university students are outgoing party animals. However, there's a difference between being shy and being reclusive - don't let anxiety stop you from having a good time.

My experience of coming to university started with a blank slate. Having moved from abroad, I wasn't in a position to fall back to my friends at home for socialising. I was determined to make new friends (though I come across a bit too keen at times!). Being British meant that culture shock was never going to be an issue, though I was as much a stranger to UK's drinking culture as many international students. Like many, I was excited but nervous.

What I can advise most from my own experiences as a fresher is that setting aside the safety net of home is essential to having a fulfilling social life at university. That's not to say you should cut off your home ties, nor to say that it's wrong to feel homesick from time to time. But you should make an effort to get to know people, and this can mean venturing outside your comfort zone - which is after all what university is all about!

As a fresher, the thing you will hear a lot from second and third years will be about making the most of your first year when your grades don't count towards your degree. I agree - your first year is the best time to join societies and go to social events. But don't feel the pressure of having to maximise every opportunity. Freshers' Week is the time to get out as much as possible; afterwards, take a relaxed attitude and find a balance to socialising, and you'll make friends in no time. While no life is like Friends, university is a great place to meet and forge bonds with plenty of young, interesting people.

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