Friendships: the intangible magic and power of human connection
This blog tackles friendships and how goddamn complicated but also utterly invaluable they are. These are my experiences and thoughts regarding this topic, but I can absolutely guarantee that having friends is crucial because in their company you will experience your highest highs and with their support through your lowest lows.
Friendship is beautiful, now let’s talk about it!
Quick disclaimer: I have never commuted to university. If you’re a commuter, your experience will likely be completely different. My key advice to commuters is to do your best to do the things you want to do and make time for your friends as best you can.
At university I went through everything and more. Financial problems up the wazoo, university workload, housing problems, relationship problems, having way too much on in terms of extracurricular events to attend, death in the family and much more that I have yet to write blogs about. A lot of people will go through many of the experiences I went through and many different ones. What I can say with certainty is that having friends be there for me when things got tough was indispensable. Having friends at university is crucial. Make connecting with people and making friendships a top priority.
Your good mates are going to elevate your university life to another level. You will push each other to do things, have fun and live life. For those 3-4 years you will share many ordinary and extraordinary experiences, go on trips together, go out together, keep each other company, cram for exams, help each other out with societies and bail each other out when you get in trouble.
Making friends is not always easy
When I was an undergrad, I did everything right. I was sociable, put myself out there and I still failed at making many deep and lasting friendships. I joined many clubs at the start: basketball team, creative writing, boxing, politics, the debating society, gaming society. All hoping to make friends, but my efforts failed. I attended each society a number of times but eventually discouraged, after two years of searching, I gave up trying to make friends. What I had were dozens of acquaintances but no one that I felt knew who I really was or whom I could call a friend. for a while I began to feel as if I simply did not fit in anywhere. Even basketball, one of my things to do for my entire life did not gain me great friends and not feeling like I belonged, I quit the team in my second year. Going to social events around campus was the same, I met many people in casual/social sittuations but those interactions did not turn into friendships. In the end, I was friendly with my housemates and I got along with everyone from my course but that was it! I felt bad that I had only about two people I could call my close friends.
Feeling lonely was painful
Much like my weight issue, when it came to making friends, things just sort of spiraled out of control without me really realizing what was happening or how this impacted me. I arrived to uni with incredibly high expectations and a rich imagination for the sort of friends I would make, the things we would do and all the crazy stuff that would happen. This was university after all. I looked forward to meeting people with similar hobbies to mine, people I had things in common with and also people who made me think differently.
I still don’t know whether the people I met were somehow not for me or whether my pipe dream made it hard to connect with those who were there. But here is what happened. Whatever society I attended, sports team I went to, night out I went on, each time around I felt less and less like taking part. Those interactions were not working out the way I imagined them. I either did not feel like I got on that well with the people there, or that I actually met people I wanted to be friends with.
By the end of second year I became a hermit. My social interactions consisted of talking to my housemates in the morning and having brief conversations with whoever was at the library that day. I must have looked sad to others. I was deeply lonely and hurting but I did not feel bad about myself. I just didn’t have many friends.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I want to share 3 things I know now.
1: There is nothing wrong with you
Feeling alone or isolated can be really tough on your self-esteem. You may think that:
- you’re doing everything wrong,
- you are screwing up the best part of your life,
- you are bad at making friends,
- nobody likes you.
I had all of these thoughts. Trust that you’re ok. Approach each potential friend making situation with a fresh mind but in the end, be who you are!
2: Cherish those who welcome you around
At the end of my undergraduate years, I made two friends for life. One was my housemate for my first 2 years and the other I befriended during lectures. What made them stick out over the others? They seemed to want me around and I appreciated that. They would bother to get in contact and invite me to join things. We made plans together. It was clear to me that they cared about me. I cared for them also and with time our friendship grew stronger. We have been there for each other through the toughest, most insurmountable times.
3: Trust that you too will find your flock of friends in time
Having those two friends definitely gave me social confidence but the number of friends I had looked small. What this told me was that while I was able to make friends, I had to find people I could really connect with. But all this changed when I swapped universities between my undergraduate and master degree. For my masters I went to Loughborough University at the London campus. The site was quite new and it came with one interesting caveat, the majority of students were international. Suddenly, everyone I met came from a different part of the world. This diversity vibe was simply amazing. I noticed that I connected with people here far more easily. In fact, I made a number of quite good friends which brought me great deal of joy during my studies. It was completely different from my undergrad experience.
In the end I learned that my instinct was not wrong.
Not forcing friendships as an undergrad was the right thing to do. I eventually found my tribe. There really was nothing wrong with me.
And there is nothing wrong with you too.
Tips for freshers
The beginning phase of university life is a unique moment. You may well find you do not know anyone, but nobody else does either. Also, you can’t expect anyone to take you by the hand and force you to make friends. You’re on your own. Here is a series of things that can happen during the first couple of weeks of university:
- People cling on to each other as if they are each other’s life-jackets.
- Those initial contacts may turn into friendships or fizzle out quickly.
- Some initial interactions can create quite a bit of drama.
- People will be focused on making a lot of acquaintances.
The beginning stages of university feel like the early stages of the big bang. Everything is in chaos. If you are a soon to-be fresher, give things time. Take it easy. Be open. Talk to people and welcome them into your life just a little bit. With each week things will become less confusing.
(1) Course friends
The easiest place to find great friends will be through your courses. As you picked the same subjects, you already have something in common. And, when you are stressing about a specific assignment or an exam, your course friends will either stress with you, help you prepare and/or reassure you. Of course, this sort of help is mutual. You’re in the same boat. If you can meet and make few good mates in your course, you have your work cut out for you.
Many people can be difficult housemates. Some can be messy, chaotic and may not be used to the same level of privacy as you.1 I can’t recall anyone who had a completely positive experience with their housemates in the first year. During the first year you often don’t get much of a choice. That said, this can be a great opportunity to start making friendships that can deepen if you find out you want to room again next year. I was lucky to become close friends with some of my housemates in the first year, so we moved in together for the second year. By then the dynamics were much better between us because we already knew each other and what we each needed.
University societies are a great pool for finding friends. Here you will meet a diverse group of people united by the same interest you also share. Many of them will be people you may not otherwise meet because they are in completely different programmes and courses. Don’t expect you will like everyone. You may well come across some people who come close to ruining your enjoyment of certain things, but keep your focus on the things you like and the people you like and you’ll be fine. Focus on figuring out what interests you and the people you enjoy interacting with.
(4) Home friends
Maintaining older friendship while you’re at uni can be harder but don’t neglect them. You will no doubt miss your old friends at first but after some time you may also forget to stay in touch only to discover you are growing apart. This need not be the case. Drop your old friends a messages or call them to catch up. Staying connected and make time to see each other when you go back home. Having people who can witness your student journey from some distance will give you a whole new perspective on what’s happening.
8 tips for friendships at university
- Forget your expectations and ideas and bring an open mind!
- Show up into different interactions as yourself and trust that whatever happens is ok.
- Trust that you will find your crowd(s) eventually.
- Be honest with yourself and don’t let your closest friends by a hindrance to your education. It is okay to study on your own if that’s what you need.
- Know that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes. Uni will be alienating to most people at some point. It’s a temporary state that comes and goes.
- Ask for help!
- Accept help from your friends. Whether it’s to calm down, leave the house, buckle down and study or do something fun.
- Let your friends know that they are important to you.
You can access other blogs in this series here. Prepare for more practical, very honest and down to earth insights. Feel free to share this blog with people who may need to read it. You can also leave me a comment on MTC social media channels using #MTCBlogNik.
How to balance time with friends and coursework?
Managing fun and responsibilities can be difficult. It’s especially hard when you have friends that are master procrastinators or who excel at finding fun things to do. Many students will feel forced to make a choice between coursework and fun which is never great. But what if there was another way?
At MTC we have a nifty tool to help you manage your time so that there is enough of it for friends and your studies, and a great deal more as well. This tool is called the Grid™.
The Grid is an incredibly accessible framework for life management that will help you stay on top of you studies, life, your well-being and even help you think about what to do after uni. The Grid™ has taken the concept of a to–do list to a whole new level. It applies practical neuroscience about how our brains and bodies like to work to productivity. The Grid is designed to help you approach every important aspect of your life with the same level of importance which is different to how older generations may have done things. Grid™ helps you train focus, keeps you motivated and in control of your agenda so that stress is kept low and you have more time to enjoy your uni experience.
If you want to do well in uni and enjoy it, find out more about the Grid™ here.