How to survive at university if you're shy or socially awkward
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University is a very different place for those of us who are shy or suffer from social anxiety. The idea of entering a new world where you are forced to confront one of your biggest fears is terrifying. People often forget about the reticent student and they can often slip between the cracks. Having experienced this myself I always wished someone would have given me some ideas about how to cope with the change and what I should have done to make it more bearable, especially at the beginning of my first year. It took me a whole year to feel comfortable at university so I have compiled a list of things that I found to be the most effective ways of creating friendships and maintaining them that will be helpful to those who find socialising a bit more difficult than most. Magical elixir Perhaps the most obvious (but not the most effective long term) suggestion of them all is the (mostly) wonderful invention of alcohol. It lowers your inhibitions so you’re more likely to feel relaxed and able to talk to people. The only problem with alcohol is it is easy to overdo or become reliant on in social situations so it’s best to limit it as a social lubricant to fresher’s week and nights out. It is also awkward if people get to know the outrageous drunk version of you and are confused as to why you aren’t talking to them when the last time you saw them you agreed to be their BFFL and buy a flat together in Paris. “Laughing yoga? SOUNDS GREAT!” I often found myself being asked along to activities in fresher’s week that I rejected due to lack of interest, but soon I realised that those who did go were bonding so I began to feel more left out than ever. You should take a leaf out of Danny Wallace’s book and become a "yes" man, accepting invitations to things you may feel no passion towards yet allow you to build ties with other people. Even if it turns out to be a disaster at least you can laugh at how disastrous it was and vow never to do it again. Even going to the gym together with someone will strengthen your existing friendship and give you a point of common interest that you can always fall back on if conversation dries up. “I’m vaguely familiar with the fact that ski slopes exist in Vermont...” Find some common ground and milk it for all it’s worth. This is vital in getting to know new people and there’s always going to be some, be it watching “come dine with me” or a passion for collecting 18th century eggs. If you find something that people are passionate about do some research so you don’t come across as completely clueless in conversation and if you do it will make you seem thoughtful which, it turns out, people really like in a person. Soc it to me! There is bound to be at least one society you are interested in and no matter how hard it is you have to force yourself to go to at least one meet-up of your chosen society.
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