Are you a bubbly, confident chatterbox? Or do you sit more in the shy, struggle-to-start-a-conversation box? The crazy thing is, wherever you are on the spectrum, you could find yourself feeling lonely at university. And it makes sense. You’ve moved away from family and friends and you’re living alone on a tight budget. Maybe you struggle with anxiety or shyness. The big thing to remember – don’t beat yourself up about it. Feeling lonely is perfectly normal. So let’s look at easy ways to make new friends at uni and say hello to some of the best years of your life.
1. Help those around you to move in
Whether you’re in a halls of residence, or a self-catering flat, you’ll likely have neighbours on every side. Helping a few of them to move in can be an easy way to break the ice and make new friends. If you’re lost for words, try a simple, “Let me help carry that.”
2. Buy a door stop and a box of tea bags
It’s normal to feel unsettled for the first few days and weeks. But remember, your neighbours are probably feeling the same way. So wedge a door stop under your heavy fire door to keep it open, and greet people as they come past. Maybe offer a cup of tea or a slice of your mums homemade cake. Turn your loneliness at university into a way of helping others.
3. Get stuck into Freshers Week
Freshers Week is the perfect time to try new things. Maybe you’ve always wanted to spin an ultimate frisbee, or imagine yourself as the next Strictly winner – now is your chance to practice. It’s also the perfect way to meet and socialise with like-minded people. But if the thought of going alone fills you with horror, how about asking your neighbours if they’d be up for going with you?
4. Keep an open mind and don’t play the comparison game
It’s easy to make a quick judgement of someone and write them off. But how about giving them a chance. You may find that the person you least expect, actually becomes your closest friend. And don’t fall into the comparison trap of assuming that everyone else is settled. Just because they’re laughing and smiling in public, doesn’t mean they’re happy behind closed doors.
5. Beat those lonely at university blues: sit next to people in lectures
It may sound simple, but it can take confidence to choose to sit next to someone, rather than alone. But it’ll be worth it. So put your phone away, make eye contact, smile and say hello. You could start simply by introducing yourself. You’re studying the same subject, so there’ll be lots in common to chat about. If you feel too anxious to sit beside a stranger, how about watching out for others from your accommodation that are studying the same subject as you. You could walk to and from lectures together, or grab a bite to eat during breaks.
6. Start a conversation
Small talk can sometimes feel like the hardest thing, especially if you’ve had enough of the same questions, “where are you from/what are you studying?”. If the thought of initiating a conversation makes you feel sick, here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Be observant – do they have a particular laptop or phone cover that looks interesting and you could ask about. Or are they wearing something that you could compliment.
- Be honest – how are you feeling about the start of the lecture? If you’re feeling nervous, you could tell them and ask how they’re feeling about it.
- Make a joke – maybe humour is your way to get through awkward situations, so use your personality to break the ice.
7. Turn acquaintances into friends
Making friends takes time, but the best thing about uni is that you have time. Everyday you’ll be bumping into the same people, whether it’s through your living accommodation or place of study. So start choosing who you’d like to hang out with more. If you’re studying the same subject, then why not suggest a regular coffee or lunch time to hang out? It’s important to show an interest by asking questions and listening carefully as they open up, but try to keep a balance by also being honest and opening up about yourself. Finding common interests can be another great way of building deeper friendships – find ways to laugh and share life together.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The reality is that going to university is a life-changing event. You can read an honest account of feeling lonely at university here. But by following the advice above you’ll soon find easy ways to make new friends at uni. However, if you continue to feel lonely at university or anxious, sometimes a little more help is needed. The NHS student Moodzone offers some great advice and links to services. Ask for help sooner rather than later.