Taking a structured approach to making friends

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

If you’re a new student, you might be worried about the impact of coronavirus on your ability to make friends.

Making new friends and feeling a part of your university are crucial in helping you to have a good university experience. There is no denying that, this year, the impact of coronavirus will affect the way you meet and spend time with other people at university. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t meet new people or find new friends.

When we move into a new environment, like a new university, school or workplace, a lot of our initial socialising and relationship building tends to happen in the soft spaces between formal events, like before or after a meeting or class.

Obviously, much of this will be different this year. It is unlikely that you will be on campus, as much as other years. There will also be fewer parties and physical events. This means you won’t have the chance to use these ‘soft spaces’ as much.

As a result, it may be necessary to take a more structured and deliberate approach to meeting people.

Making a plan to meet new people

Yes, it can sometimes be easier to put yourself into a social situation and then join in the general flow of conversation, than to directly approach other people. But remember, this year everyone will be in the same situation, so people will be much more accepting and understanding. In fact, they may even be grateful to you for making the effort.

All of this means that it makes sense to make a plan for how you will meet new people. This will help you to take control of the process and increase the likelihood of finding good friends.

There will be someone in your student community who will make a great friend for you – but give yourself the opportunity of finding them, rather than leaving it to chance.

You can plan to meet new friends in a number of ways. Think of all of the opportunities that you have open to you. These opportunities might include:

  • online forums and class discussions
  • Students’ Union societies
  • volunteering opportunities
  • people in your hall or house (if you’re moving into student accommodation)

Try to remember that this is a process. If you don’t meet anyone you like in the first few tries, that doesn’t mean you won’t make friends. It just means you haven’t found them yet. Keep building and acting on your plan and use the support in your university and Students’ Union to help you get there.