Being away from home and making friends at university can sometimes be tough. While some students love socialising and meeting new people, others may struggle to find friends in the same way. But with the new term soon starting, the ongoing pandemic may make socialising difficult for everyone this time around.
Certainly, the usual Freshers Week plans will have to be put on hold. Rather than parties and the opportunity to meet a load of new people, students across the country will now have to get used to socially-distanced hangouts, Zoom chats and closed nightclubs.
Although unis have laid out their plans for lectures and teaching, there’s been less information on another important aspect of going to uni: making friends. With all-things virtual set to replace the typical Freshers events, how can new starters get to know others as term approaches?
Here, we’ll offer up some ways you can meet new friends, stay safe and have fun at uni in these unprecedented times.
For the most part, outdoor activities are a safer bet than indoors. Once you’re settled in your accommodation, why not get to know your new flatmates outside? This is where on-campus universities are sure to help out: green spaces and outdoor areas designed for socialising will make excellent venues to meet fresh faces safely.
If you’ve got your face mask on, there’s plenty to do outside too, from yoga to casual sports. You could even turn to social media and create events for people who share similar interests that you can do outside, helping to form an all-important community in the process.
Social media is going to play even more of a role in making new friends than it usually would while the pandemic continues. If you’re on Facebook, get following your course mates and any uni organisations that might announce events designed to meet new people. Likewise, following your university newsletter is not only a great way of staying up to date with any announcements, but it may also be something you’d like to get contribute to; another way of getting to know like-minded students.
Additionally, platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be a godsend if you’re concerned about catching Covid. They’re a good way to gauge whether the people you’ve followed are taking the same level of precaution that you are. You can still keep in touch, but if face-to-face contact isn’t something you’re ready for just yet, then remaining online-only for the time being isn’t going to be a problem.
If you’ve been used to using Zoom during lockdown, then you’ll probably be a pro at holding virtual hangouts at this point. With Freshers events either on hold or drastically restricted, it could well become the new go-to when meeting new people in a safe, socially-distanced way. Whether it’s those you’re living with or course mates, it can be a hugely valuable means of socialising in the new normal.
Make it a routine to hold weekly quizzes and other icebreaker-type activities. Many prospective students will have lost a degree of their regular schedule, so give your week structure with some much-needed chit-chat over your laptop. When it’s time for things to return to normality, you’ll have a set of friends who you can hang out and catch up with in person.
You could even form virtual study groups with those on your course. Set an agenda, and take regular breaks to chat with each other. Even if you’re working in silence, it’s nice to be around others virtually who are studying the same things as you. Why not reward yourself by ordering in pizza and eating it “together” when you take a break? Sure, it’s not the same as eating in person, but who can say no to pizza?
While it’s hard to tell just how clubs and societies will operate once term starts, it’s still worth joining any that pique your interest. Clubs and societies are an easy way to meet like-minded students and can be a huge part of the uni experience if you commit to them.
And though we don’t know the exact status of every uni club and society across the country and how they’ll be operating forward, you can bet that they’ll be adapting their operations to be as socially distanced and safe as possible. In a recent email to students, St. Andrews unveiled plans to include “socially-distanced society events” in its Freshers Week, so we’re confident that students will still be able to join societies and meet friends who share the same passions. And because there are societies for just about anything you can think of, finding your people is easier than you might think, even in the current climate.
It’s obviously a case-by-case basis and each institution is going to be different in their approaches. For example, the students’ union at Swansea University has mentioned plans to bring in shipping containers decked out to resemble night-club booths that flatmates can socialise in.
As we said, some people take to socialising differently than others. If you’re a little more reserved, then take solace in the fact that every student is going to be in the same boat this September. You already share some common ground with everybody else.
Because a lot of universities will only be allowing socialising amongst flatmates, you’ll be sharing your time with them in a “bubble” for the first few months at least. Make a positive, fresh start and keep your door propped open; that way, your flatmates are more likely to pop and say hi. And from here, you can begin making new friends, 2020 style!
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