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6 ways to not to screw up your social life in your first year of university

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Looking back on my first year at university, academically it’s gone incredibly well.

First year does not count for anything on my course, but I need to average a 2:1 to keep my options open. I should get that.

But let’s be honest, nobody came to university just to learn. They also come for the social aspects. My attempts at having a decent social life have gone down about as well as Judas Iscariot turning up at a Disciples’ reunion.

Instead of crying about, I’m going to tell you the exact opposite of what I did, so you don’t make the same mistakes.

1. Be confident

I’m naturally incredibly shy, so I don’t naturally approach people without reason to talk to them. If someone approaches me and I get to them, then I transform - but it’s that first conversation that is the hardest.

Looking back, spending the first meeting at induction starring out of a window like an extra from a 1990s grunge rock video was a tad counterproductive.

If you act like a bit of an emo, people think you don’t want to talk to them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that could be a problem.

The worst incident was at a pub. I was with four people I hadn’t really spoken to at that point, I offered them gum, that was about it for my interaction.

I really didn’t want to butt in on their conversations.

Looking back, I can’t think why. I doubt they were discussing national secrets.

Four seats were available, there was five of us. A girl kindly offered me her seat but I said no out of politeness.

Without a chair or reason to speak, I stood there watching Wolves v Chelsea in the FA Cup. West Ham had already been knocked out by this point, so I didn’t really care about the result. I pretended to, anyway, so I didn’t have to sit awkwardly.

I even pretended to be angry when Chelsea went 0-2 up and left the pub, then I realised that I was left alone outside a pub with nothing to do, I went back in.

That definitely didn’t seem weird, right?

I think the advice I’d give to counteract this is just try not to worry, especially at freshers, no-one really knows anyone. It’s a clean slate to show people the kind of person you are and learn more about them.

2. Don’t Get Paranoid

Within a month, I was convinced everyone on the course hated me - including the three or four people I was closest too.

Really small things made me convinced people hated me. Like not replying “Thanks” or “you too” when I told people to have a nice day.

I can only imagine if someone had signed off an email saying “Regards” instead of “Kind Regards”, I would’ve completely lost it.

No one actually did hate me, because I hadn’t spoken to anyone and given them a reason too. Although, there’s an argument to be heard that was wishful thinking on my part.

You should try not to worry; all that worry was in my head. Remember not everyone will like you and that’s life; just avoid the people that don’t and try not to think about them.  There are bound to be people who enjoy your company, so focus on spending time with them and showing you appreciate them. They’re far more important than the haters.

And they could introduce you to more friends.

3. Have somewhere to crash for late nights

CBeebies stays out later than I do.

Living 45 minutes Tube journey away from university, I can’t really afford to stay out.

Which is annoying, because you can really get to know and bond with people on late nights. Not even club nights; sometimes simple nights in are fine.

Perhaps, I could’ve found a friend, who’d let me sleep over? Would help if I actually spoke to anyone who didn’t mind me crashing.

Try to find someone as soon as possible who will let you stay over if you need somewhere to crash and can’t get back to your own place. Try to think of alternative routes too: night bus, night tube, share a taxi with someone going the same way.

4. Show some forward thinking in your leisure time.

I never plan social activities in advance, and often find myself with nothing to do on evenings, weekends and days off.

Indeed, I’ve lived out the same weekend over and over again for the last eight months. Like a really, cheap rip-off of Groundhog Day.

However unlike the film, I’m not making $70.9 million in the process.

Maybe, if I planned things in advance, I could talk to people about them? That’s a good idea, actually.

Always be in the lookout for things to do. Sometimes you’ll see on event pages, people on your course who are also interested in the same sort of things that you never knew you had common interests with.

At the same time, by open to trying new things. Take up a new sport, for example. This will lead to more opportunities to have fun and make friends.

5. Actually turn up to society meetings.

I actually signed up to five societies. I’ve been to two meetings for two of those societies this year.

Societies are good because they’re a fantastic way to meet people with the same interests as you.

I’d like to give you a reason for not turning up, but I don’t actually have one.

It’s a worry sometimes.

This one is quite simply a case of organisation. Take a good luck at the societies you’re interested in and consider if you can actually take part in their events.

Can’t find one for your interests? Start your own!

6. Invite people for banter

I’ve spoken to more people towards the end of term.

Rather late due to deadlines, though. “Do you want to be friends?” “No, I’m busy”.

But when I spoke to them, I realise I wasn’t actually in a situation that far removed from the rest of the cohort. A lot of people still haven’t spoken to a significant amount of the cohort, and ours is actually really small.

I guess I was worried. What if they said yes? How much effort do I put in – don’t want to look too cheap or flashy. What if I left my wallet at home? What if they didn’t reply and I spent days agonising other it? What if they said no - do I ask again in case it was circumstance? Does that seem clingy?

Again, these people may be in the same boat as you. I wasn’t aware others had experienced the same issues. The worst that can happen is that they say no. You won’t turn into some sort of pariah and a casual coffee with someone you’ve never spoken to before could turn into a beautiful friendship. If they say yes, great. If no, don’t worry, it happens.

In the end, I have three close friends, I ring at least two of them every day due to the boredom of not having a social life. They’re probably sick of seeing my name, which worries me. I could be calling them as I’m in a life-threatening situation and they’ll see it and go “not bloody Gursimran again!” and decline the call.

Hopefully, now that I’ve identified these issues, I can fix them for second and third year and fourth year, if I choose to do it.

I hope this helps anyone else who has had difficulty fitting in or might find it difficult in September. The most important thing is you’re not alone.

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