University accommodation, whether attached to the institution itself or private, is a strange dichotomy of adulthood and teenage social obligations. Suddenly you have your own space, your own independent domestic obligations - like cooking and cleaning and trying to get your clothes to dry twenty minutes before going out - whilst in this totally liberating, yet utterly bizarre bubble.
"At uni, everyone is in the same boat of confusion, so don't feel as though you face it alone."
One of the most anxiety-inducing things is potentially befriending new neighbours. If you’re moving into a semi-detached with a white picket fence, there’s a weird formality to meeting new people. At uni, everyone is in the same boat of confusion, often sharing facilities in the building or attending classes together. Never wanting to be overly judgemental, or too eager to please, and never knowing whether that new girl or guy who’s just carried their last box into that room next to yours is going to be your best friend or your biggest nightmare for the next year.
Firstly, remember that you’re not necessarily going to get on with everyone. Just because you’re making the effort, it doesn’t mean they are. Some friendships are meant to be - uni really is a place to make friends for life. But they won’t necessarily always be found in your neighbours.
A great place to start is by investing in a door stop. Someone once told me that the biggest barrier to meeting new people in halls was having your door closed. So on my first day, as everyone else moved in, I kept my bedroom door open, in the hopes that someone would pop in and say hello. A few people wandered past, and although it was a step in the right direction, I wouldn’t say it gave definitive results.
"It’s always a good idea to share some of your culture with new people. It means that you can get a better understanding of each other and what defines you."
If you’re moving from abroad, I think that it’s always a good idea to share some of your culture with your new neighbours. One of the biggest barriers to friendship can be a lack of things in common - by sharing a part of your home and your culture, it helps to form those bonds of similarity. Make a dish that you love from back home and share it out in little care packages with your neighbours with a note introducing yourself. It’s a great way to avoid the awkwardness of a first meeting.
Lots of university accommodation provides social events as part of freshers’, as well as through the year. Attend them if you can, it makes a difference to meet people from outside your corridor and you’re more likely to be introduced to someone you have a lot in common with. Socials can range from parties to culture-based activities, meals out and trips exploring your new campus. Throw yourself in head-first to make the most of the first year of university.
"It gives people a chance to spend time together, without the pressure of forced socialising."
Throwing a room party is also an easy and fun way to meet new people. Most halls have group chats for their residents. Segment off a few hours and invite new neighbours to come and visit your room. This way it gives people a chance to spend time together without it being in a crowded environment, and as the host you have an opportunity to meet everyone in person.
Not everyone is going to get on all the time - it’s possible that you and your neighbours will have nothing in common and that’s fine too. If you put in as much as you can into befriending them and you don’t hear back, then don’t worry. If it’s not meant to be, then there’s nothing you can do. Remember, university is full of people, all in the same position as you. It’s a new and exciting environment, and that’s one of the best things about it - it’s a fresh start for everyone.
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