Taking a structured approach to making friends

Gareth Hughes

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 your social opportunities are affected by the pandemic, learn about proactive ways to meet people and make friends.

Whether you’re a new or returning student, you may be concerned about how your social life will work, as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.

Making new friends and feeling a part of your university are crucial in helping you to have a good university experience. However, it is likely there will continue to be uncertainty about what social activities will be available over the coming months.

Different universities are likely to have different arrangements and these may change over time.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t meet new people or find new friends.

How we normally meet people

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

We don’t know how much that will be different this year and so we can’t rely on 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.

Why take a structured approach?

Of course, 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, everyone is in the same unusual situation. In fact, by reaching out to other people directly, you are probably helping them.

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. By planning, you’ll give yourself the opportunity of finding them, rather than leaving it to chance.

How to plan to meet new people

You can plan to meet new friends in a number of ways. Visit your university website and look for all of the opportunities that you have open to you at your institution. These opportunities might include:

  • Online forums and class discussions
  • Students’ Union societies or sports clubs - online or in person or a mix of the two; depending on what is available
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • People in your hall or house (if you’re in student accommodation)
  • Some universities have created online social opportunities for students to engage with before the start of the academic year

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.