I’ll be honest with you. Most students can’t make friends on their first day because simply put, the most effective ways to make friends at university are the most intimidating ones.
If you are more of an introvert, it will be challenging. Feel your heart beating fast already? It’s normal to be nervous. If you make your first moves right, this stage of your university life will be over soon. So, are you up for it?
I was such a shy person at home that no one believed I would make it on my own abroad. I came to Malaysia, with a bunch of other Mauritians, yes, but no one I was close to.
I never used to speak English AT ALL, because Mauritius was a French-speaking/Creole-speaking country (although writing in English was not a problem at all, thanks to our academic system). I was scared to be misunderstood or to appear like a dumb girl.
But my goal was to be independent and self-sufficient in that new country, so I persisted. Eventually, I made three new Malaysian friends on my first day at university.
Now, here’s my advice.
Make friends at university in 5 simple steps:
I’ve said this in my previous posts but I will keep saying it so you never forget it: be self-motivated. You must be willing to do it to make it happen.
Nothing can be more effective than you pushing yourself beyond your limits. Your parents or high school friends can provide support, but you are the one making the final decision.
Are you desperate enough to make friends at university? Okay, let’s move on!
Start small. Say ‘hi’ to people you come across as you walk around. Hearing your voice and seeing even a small reaction from someone else (‘hi’) will make you feel less nervous.
Better: ask for directions or for any clarification on things about the campus you don’t quite understand or are not familiar with.
My first interaction with a stranger was when I was trying to find my way from the campus to the shopping mall, where my parents were waiting for me. The girl pointed out the way; I said ‘thanks’, she replied with ‘you’re welcome’; we smiled and parted ways.
That short interaction had boosted my confidence. I can do this! I told myself.
Side note: this happened before my ‘official’ first day at university when I was still settling down. So, if you can, interact as early as you can.
Go to every Orientation activities!
Your first day at university is finally here. As a new student, this signals the start of Orientation week, when the school gets you to familiarise yourself with your department and the campus.
My advice to you is: don’t. miss. anything.
My first day was filled with a talk from every HOD (Head of Department) in the School of Arts & Social Sciences and a tour of the campus. Sounds boring? Well, I had free lunch and three new friends!
How did that happen?
During the meet-and-greet or lunch time, sit on a table where you don’t know anyone. Sit next to a total stranger every time.
In Malaysia, eating is a cultural thing. It’s a social thing. Lunch or dinner that’s when you get to make friends.
So, grab your food and go back to step 2: say ‘hi’! Introduce yourself and slowly, you’ll be having a great conversation with the people next to you.
When you think about it, everyone around you on that first day of Orientation is in the same boat as you: they’re new students in an unfamiliar environment who probably want to get to know people as well.
Do the same in class. Come early and interact with those around you. Let people know about you.
Soon enough, you’ll develop meaningful friendships with at least one or two. Frankly, that’s more than enough.
It’s quite straightforward, isn’t it? It may be intimidating at first if you are shy, but you need to push yourself to do it.
That’s how I survived… no, that’s how I lived through my first days at university.
Don’t expect everyone you approach to become your friend. Many will remain acquaintances or familiar faces in a crowd, and that’s fine.
High expectations on your first days at university may leave you discouraged for the rest of the semester.
A note for current students:
You can follow these steps even if you have been in university for several semesters. Things don’t always go as you’d like and sometimes, you’ll find yourself looking for new friends all over again.
Just keep going.
D. K. Waye.
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(Hurry up! If you’re enrolled in an Australian university, orientation week is around the corner!)