Dear new kids,
So, you’ve just come out of the comfortable bubble that is high school and now you’re facing the daunting task of entering the biggest, most exciting school there is: university.
You probably already have a couple of goals in mind, and one of those goals is almost certainly meeting new people and making friends.
In theory, making new friends will be enjoyable but, in reality, it’s an ordeal for people who have difficulty adapting to new situations. Plus UNSW is a very big place – as big as a city – which is exciting but can also feel impersonal and scary, especially to shy people.
But you can’t do university alone. You simply have to make some friends.
Feeling disconnected when you start university is a given considering you might not know anyone. But developing a network of friends and acquaintances on campus should be taken seriously – a necessity, if you want to succeed. Establishing a social network at university is vital for your happiness and mental health but it’s also important when it comes to efficient, effective studying habits.
However, making friends can be very challenging to accomplish. You’ll need to be proactive and dedicated and go out of your way to make friends. You also need to maintain a positive approach when doing it.
Too long didn’t read? You’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone and find a way to talk to people.
How? Here’s the go.
Note: this ‘How To’ won’t be explaining how to perform basic human interactions like starting a conversation.
1. Attend O-Week events, faculty welcomes and information sessions.
These are typically held just before the start of the semester during or around Orientation Week (aka O-Week).
ATTEND O-WEEK. IT IS THE BEST. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.
You are bound to meet other new students there who are in the same boat as you.
Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid.
Try to strike up a conversation with someone. You can always leave if the event / session is too much for your introverted self to endure. But you should at least GO.
2. Have I mentioned Societies? Join as many as possible.
UNSW (specifically the student organisation ‘Arc’ ) supports nearly 300 clubs and societies by providing funding, training and resources. Joining a society is a great opportunity for you to develop a social life outside of class. From my knowledge, there’s a society for literally anything – no matter how niche or popular your interests are. Some of these are advertised by the university, others may slip under the radar and take a bit of seeking out.
To save trouble in the future, you can check out most society stands during O-Week. Many different clubs and societies set up stalls to give new students the opportunity to talk to existing members and sign up. If you’re looking to get involved, make sure you hit up these stalls.
As an example, I’m a member of the UNSW Film Society (UNSW FILMSOC). Check out our Facebook group, we are quite popular 😀
The film society holds weekly film screenings on campus during semester and also have meet-ups to watch newly released films at the cinema. For anyone passionate about film I highly recommend this society.
3. Join a sports team or just play for fun
UNSW (via Arc Campus Life) supports all kinds of sports and players of all levels – even the laziest, most uncoordinated, most reluctant of players – and so they provide space, facilities, equipment and funding for teams.
Playing sport or just doing an activity is a great way to make friends and have fun while you do it.
There is even robo-sports competitions, for those ultra competitive high achievers among us!
4. Get involved with stuff at the start of the semester.
The first few weeks are the ideal time to meet other people in your courses.
The important thing to remember is that most other new kids are in the same boat as you. Some will be feeling shy and awkward and possibly overwhelmed, others will be wanting to make a splash. But all are wanting to make some new friends.
Tutorials are much smaller and more intimate than lectures and give you a chance to see the same people on a more regular basis – which gives you an opportunity to learn a little bit about each other. Embrace these opportunities! Exchange timetables, exchange phone numbers, add each other on Facebook, whatever. Getting friendly will come in handy when assessments that involve group work come around – and trust me, they will. You can scope out likely friends or group members and get to learn a bit more about the people you’re with.
Also, if you see people in multiple classes, then it is reasonable to assume that they are studying for the same degree as you. In that case, you’re likely to see them on a regular basis so it would be worthwhile making an effort to get to know them. Just make sure you’re not weird in going about it. The person sitting alone next to you is most likely feeling awkward as well, so introduce yourself. Who knows, you might even become friends.
And for the savvy, career-minded professionals out there, remember it’s important to network with future business associates who are interested in the same things you are – ie, people doing the same degree as you – both for now and into the future.
5. Check out the Peer Mentoring programs.
Being part of a Peer Mentoring program gives you the opportunity to attend a range of social events, helping you meet and mix with other first year students. You also benefit from hearing how others are managing their transition to university and will get the chance to consult with a more experienced student (the mentor) which is great because settling in at university is definitely made easier by talking to someone who has travelled the road before.
6. I guess, remember to be yourself?
There are approximately 55,000 students on campus from all over the world. You are encouraged to express yourself, explore your creativity and be whoever you want to be.
Basically, you can let your freak flag fly. Chances are you will find a group of people who are just like you (or, who at the very least appreciate you).
“Trying to be someone else is the waste of the person you are.” – Kurt Cobain
By Dennis Yu