Meeting people and making friends
Every year thousands of new people arrive at uni from all over Australia and from all over the world. With so many people around it should be easy to meet people - right? Well for some that's true, but for most, meeting new people and making friends takes quite a bit of effort and courage.
Meeting people and making friends is easier if you are motivated, open to new people and have plenty of interests yourself. Friendships take time and effort to grow.
Think about the close people in your life: they may be family and/or friends, but usually they have been built up over many years of contact, doing things together, having conversations, attending functions, parties, events, through good times and hard times. The same is true of making friends at uni.
Making friends and feeling like you belong on campus is important and will enhance your uni life, help you feel happy, connected and motivated, all the more likely to improve your chances of success at uni. You are not wasting time spending time getting to know people - but with everything, balance is the key.
Tips on how to make friends at Uni
- join in, be active
- take and make opportunities to have conversations,even brief ones
- remember that it takes time to make friends
- if at first you don't succeed, hang in there, keep trying
- it won't always be easy or comfortable but when it happens it's great to have friends
Most people come to uni motivated to meet new people and make friendships that hopefully last a life time. Sometimes these friendships can form quite quickly, but the closeness that makes the friendship last a lifetime, takes time to develop.
Generally people are more comfortable in social situations when there is something obvious to talk about e.g. a task to do together. It is hard to make conversation with nothing in common to begin the conversation- we all need these aides to help the conversation flow and to keep it going.
Look for opportunities when there is something in common to focus on.
- If you are in a queue to buy a text book try asking 'what you are buying?'
- When looking at the food in the cafe ask 'what looks good to you?' or 'what do you recommend?'
- In a practical class with a task or an experiment to carry out, discuss the work or ask the person next to you about the task
- In the library using a computer terminal don't be afraid to ask the person next to you for help.
- At a social, sport or cultural event ask for explanations 'why did that happen?', 'why did they just do that?'
These contacts may not lead to lifelong friendships, but they build on your skills of conversation, the number of people you recognise and can say hello to and help you develop a sense of belonging - being able to say hello to familiar faces is so important, especially in those first few weeks.
Take an interest in what's going on around you. Join in on activities, clubs, groups and societies. If you have a special interest or would like to develop a skill, look for clubs, classes and events that allow you to meet with similarly interested people. The uni has lots to offer and you could also look at opportunities in the local community around the uni or near where you live.
- Most people find it easier to make conversation when there is a task or reason to be speaking.
- Say hello to the person next to you. Ask them what they thought of the lecture. Tell them a bit about you - 'I have just come from Hong Kong' or 'I missed the first part of the lecture, the bus was delayed, did the lecturer say anything important at the beginning?
- If you are new to Australia ask about our way of life and culture. 'Do you follow a football team? Did they win the finals last year?'
- Say 'see you next week' or ask if they are coming to the lecture on Thursday. It can take a few weeks to build up a social acquaintance, so be patient.
- When group work tasks are set, try joining a group of people you haven't worked with before, or don't know well (yet).
- If you are in a course that has laboratory, practical classes or tutorials, then the smaller group and regular meeting times, makes it easier to speak to the same person week after week, and gradually build up the relationship to a point where you may feel comfortable about asking them to join you for a coffee or for lunch.
- Form a study group - perhaps ask the tutor for help to publicise the group or your interest in forming a study group.
Getting a job helps with the finances and can introduce you to a new group of people and provide you with experiences that contribute to making you an interesting person. Deakin Career Education is a great starting point for finding work.
It can be rewarding to be a volunteer with community organisations, at the zoo or other environmental or social organisations. The uni offers opportunities to be hosts, mentors, guides, peer support leaders etc. Consider one of these options - ask at DUSA or your Faculty. Look out for notices around campus.
Feeling misunderstood by others can be about many things, and it's worth talking about with someone as it's not uncommon. Take the time to talk with a Deakin counsellor who can listen and help. If English is your second language, you can also explore your options on the Study Skills website.
It can be hard at times to share the bathroom, but it may be fun too, to have contact with different people in a close living situation. You meet their friends, get to know them very well, maybe share the load of cooking, cleaning and bills. Find out more about alternative accommodation through the Off Campus Housing Service.