“Hi, what’s your name? What are you studying?”
As someone who is staying at home for university, my main concern was making friends. People who stay in halls are almost guaranteed an immediate social circle to call themselves a member of: a group of strangers are thrown into a flat together, and told to survive. I imagine it would be quite the bonding experience. Despite the fact that two of my good friends are in Dundee, and there are a number of other people from my school who are attending the university, I hated the thought of being an outsider. And yet somehow, this awkward idiot who is fuelled by bad puns and a love for orange juice managed to make friends. And this is how I did it:
I spoke to people.
No, this is not a joke. This is my genuine advice. I know, shocker. But hear me out.
I know how hard it is. I’ve been there, I’ve rolled my eyes when given the same advice and resigned myself to standing in the corner – until I walked into a freshers event and decided that for just once in my life, I would listen to the advice given to me. Every ounce of my being believed it wouldn’t work, and I was very much expecting to be the ‘quiet one’ once again.
And I was very wrong. Everyone is in the same boat. It was a tight, hot space, and the small talk hung heavy in the air, but I truly believe that to be the Holy Grail of university friendships: small talk. The conversation will typically go something like this:
“What’s your name?”
You exchange names. Neither of you remember.
“Where are you from?”
You exchange hometowns. Nod and pretend to know where they’re talking about.
“What are you studying?”
This is the point of the conversation where they reveal they are studying something that harbours very little interest to you, so you say, “Ah, nice” in the most genuine voice you can muster, and the conversation ends. Move onto your next target. Out of a hundred conversations where you awkwardly analyse the weather, only one true friendship may be gained, and yet without those one hundred awkward conversations, that friendship may not have been found.
My greatest mistake when I started university was comparing newly forged friendships to old ones. I once found myself walking the streets at night with only the company of a chocolate orange as I lamented over the fact I would never click with the girls on my course. I had known them a week. Friendships are never refined in a matter of days – it takes years of shared experience to cement a bond. Old friends are the much loved books on your shelf that are worn and battered; you’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly together. You know their story, and they know yours. Your new friends are uncharted land; a new story you are not familiar with, and must be explored. It will not feel as comfortable in your hands as your old book would, but with repeated reading, it will certainly become just as loved and just as treasured.
To acquire a new book, one must enter the bookshop and pick up a copy. You will learn its name, the shapes and designs of its cover, and get to know a little of who it is. At first, you are not very sure. Is this the right book for you? Will you enjoy your time reading? Will it interest you? But as you begin to read, you learn more and more about the story, the characters, the texture of the pages and the shape of the font. There comes a time when you little remember the reservations of that first encounter and place the book on the shelf with your others.
Which brings me to my final word of advice: talk to people, and keep an open mind. If at first you do not struggle through the awkward, stumbling stage, you will not progress into the deeper plane of friendship. You will also never reach that deeper plane straight away; this will take months and years, which is entirely natural and you should not beat yourself up for not being instant best friends. With patience and bravery, you will reach squad goals in no time!