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How to make friends at University

By JamesRLA 13 Nov 2020

Friends are a big part of our lives, and for many, making new friends can be very intimidating. Coming to university is an exciting chapter in your life, and part of that is moving somewhere new without knowing anyone. Thankfully, everyone is in the same boat which makes it the perfect opportunity to make new buddies. But if you are feeling unsure about how to make new friends, then I am here to help. 

3 friends looking into the distance

Types of friends

It doesn’t matter if you’ve already got a best mate at uni or haven’t met anyone yet, making new friends is good for everyone. But before you make new friends you should decide what kind of friends you’re looking for. Broadly speaking, there are 3 main types of friends:

1. The Hi-Bye friend.

Often referred to as acquaintances, these are the ones you’ll spend time with because the context calls for it. This can be at uni or work, but you won’t meet up outside of that.

2. Regular friends.

Could be you know them from a club or sport. You’ll probably meet up every now and then to catch up or hang out.

3. True friends (BFFs).

Here your relationship is strong, even if you don’t meet up every day. You can talk about anything, will belly laugh and go the extra mile for each other.

Your next friend could be there at your wedding or just to kick a ball about with, whatever the level you are looking for, they are all important.

Ways to make friends;

1. Start with the old

The first step to making new friends is… don’t. Instead, reconnect with old friends. This is much less daunting than approaching new people as you already have a history. If things go well this may be the confidence boost you needed to feel yourself and go out and make new friends.

It doesn’t just have to be old friends, you can also make the most of existing networks. If you know anyone from back home at the same uni as you, hit them up. You might get on well with their friends too plus you already know someone in common.

2. Join societies or sports clubs

For many, societies are where their best friends are found. They are sociable by nature and they focus on a common interest, so you'll already be off to a running start if you're looking to meet new people. Societies range from book clubs to afro-dance, there really is something for everyone.

If sport is your thing, you can join a sports society. Levels range from pros to absolute beginners so you don't have to be amazing at it to get involved. Often there is more than playing sport involved and big nights out and varsity are highlights for many.

Plenty of societies are based on day time activities where you don't have to drink. Although sports teams can be focused on heavy drinking at socials, if you want to take part in the sport and not the drinking, this is absolutely fine.

Course societies are the perfect way to get to know your course mates outside of uni. There are course specific sports teams too and you will get to know people from all year groups. This can be a great way to network and meet people you don't necessarily see in lectures.

Cultural societies are perfect for international students who want to meet people from home or for anyone who is interested in celebrating Cardiff's diverse student population. 

Don't have a hobby or play a sport, but want one? Why not try something new? Societies really want you to come and give it a go regardless of whether you're an expert or a first timer. You never know you may just find your new favourite thing.

You can find a list of what Societies there are here. If you've checked them out and aren't really feeling any of them why not set up your own?

3. Join fresher groups

Social media is perfect for connecting with people. There are heaps of groups for freshers, returners, postgrads or whatever your situation. These are really active pre uni and after so don't be afraid to get stuck in.

4. Make friends with people on your course

You'll soon recognise the same people in your lectures and seminars, this is still one of the best ways to meet people. Everyone is in the same boat here and they'll appreciate having a friend to discuss work with just as much as you. You'll be spending a lot of time with these people over the next three years so don't be surprised if you become very close with your course mates.

Study groups are a great way of bridging the gap between meeting someone in a lecture and spending time with them outside of university. This can be a lot less formal than in a lecture and is often more fun. You wont just be getting the notes you missed, you'll be starting to build a friendship.

Top-Tip: Try not to miss any days of uni for the first 2 weeks. Even if its super hard to get out bed in the morning or you don't fancy the walk in the rain, just remember this is when friendships will start to form and you don't want to miss out on finding a fun group.

5. Make friends with people in your halls

Be really friendly with your flatmates. This may seem obvious but you may well be spending the majority of your time in the same building. A great way to break the ice is to make cups of tea for people or if you're good at cooking/baking use those skills to bring everyone out of their rooms and get to know you.

Make sure everyone knows you've moved in. Students are coming to university at different times this year so if you or someone else moves in late leave your door open (don't forget to pack your door stop) or knock for someone you haven't met yet. Decorating your door also lets people know that you've moved in.

Although that microwave dinner with Netflix on your laptop is very cosy, try going old school, cook with your flat or just eat at the same time as them. This is a great way to save money and loads of fun. If you're not sure when people eat try listening out for when people go into the kitchen and investigate what is going on the communal areas. You can also bring games with you (cards, Jenga, Dobble etc) and this will make activities like 'pre-drinks' much more fun.

6. RLA events

If you live in Cardiff University Residences, then good news - you have a whole team of dedicated students who are running events just for you. We'll be doing everything from cookalongs to movie nights and it's the perfect opportunity to meet other students on campus.

7. Volunteering

There are plenty of opportunities to take part in volunteering at Uni, check out the Student Led Services to see what's going on. It's a great way to do something worthwhile (which feels really good!) and meet loads of new likeminded people at the same time.

Res Life Team walking

Tips on making friends

If you’ve got this far you may be thinking; I have a small group of friends, I’m quite shy and not really confident enough to go out and meet new people. Well, fear not, I was in the same boat when I first came to university (many years ago) and I can assure you that this doesn’t matter.

Here are my 8 personal tips to get new friends:

1. Be friendly and happy

Who would you rather talk to, a happy person or a sulky one? I thought so. If you can stay upbeat and be the happy person you will attract good energy and people will want to be around you. Remember to empathise without moaning, you'll be a really positive influence for those around you and people will enjoy your company.

2. Smile

Scientifically proven to make you more likeable and approachable, use this secret weapon to help you start making friends. When you smile at people, they will be encouraged to smile back and before you know it you'll be chatting away. Not everyone will smile back but that's ok, the ones who do are probably the friendly ones you wanted to talk to anyways.

3. Use people's names

One of the best ways to build a connection with someone, but only if you can remember it! Don't worry if you can't though, you can always laugh about saying the wrong name later. Top-Tip: Try and catch their name and then use it in a sentence at least once (ideally three times) the first time you meet them. This will help you remember their name later and shows people you paid attention to them which will solidify the connection you make.

4. Pay people compliments

Who doesn't like a compliment? Tell someone you like their outfit, or the song they've chosen at pre drinks, it will show people you have interests in common and you'll be more likely to form a bond. When complimenting someone, however, it's important to remember to not be too personal or you might risk making them uncomfortable. 

5. Listen to others

Don't forget to listen when talking to your new friends, if you do, they will do the same for you. Everyone needs someone to talk to and if you can show that you listen you'll quickly form trusting relationships.

8. Seek similarity and celebrate differences

This isn’t Mean Girls; you don’t need to be part of the plastics - be friends with whoever you want. University is a very diverse place. By being yourself you'll feel good, build your confidence and you're more likely to find similar people. By being accepting of others you also will find you'll get on lovely with loads of different people. A great tip is to show interest in other peoples interests. You might learn something new and develop your tastes, plus you'll make that person feel good, a sure way to make friends.

a group of people standing in front of a sunset

Other questions:

How long does it take to make friends at uni?

It varies for different people. Some lucky ones will find their best friends straight away, however most people wont find their close mates until much later in the year or even the second year. So it is very normal if you don't feel like you've made any close friends yet. Stay positive and keep reaching out , it's never too late to make friends.

It's not working out with my group of friends

Not getting on with your current friendship group? It could be time to find a new group of friends, which is much easier than it seems. You could move into a different group of people when you change house in second year, or take up a new activity, join a society or sports club. Remember many people don't find their permanent group of friends until after first term, or even into second and third year. Don't be disheartened if you don't feel like you're in the right group, you can always make new friends.

Feeling lonely at university?

University can be the best time of your life but can also feel like one of the loneliest. Perhaps you're feeling homesick, are worried about work or the pressures of having to look after yourself. You've moved away from your family and friends and your new work load is XL, so if you feel lonely or anxious please know that this is very normal. Whatever your situation, the university is here to support you and you can always talk to your friendly RLA team.

Top-Tip: Spend less time on social media. Everyone living their best lives except you? The truth is it's not an accurate representation of what their lives are really like. It is easy to be convinced that everyone except you is having fun with their new friends, but in actuality they're stuck in their room binge watching series too.