I was like you, not long ago. I had just arrived at my allocated college, feeling what you will probably be feeling – nervousness, excitement, bewilderment, confusion, thinking where am I, who is this, sorry what?
I had just experienced a bout of food poisoning the night before and had been throwing up the whole time, so wasn’t exactly feeling ‘fresh’. Nevertheless, I strapped on a smile, and tried to be as friendly as possible to anyone I came across. Suffice to say, it all turned out fine.
Settling in to a completely new environment is not exactly the easiest of things, especially leaving what has been your home for most of your life (which is likely to be even tougher for students coming from abroad). However, whatever college you are allocated to in Durham, the current students and staff will do their upmost to make you feel welcome and to ease you into the Durham student life. I certainly felt that way with my college (shout-out to Stephenson), who were very friendly upon arrival. Yes, it can be a daunting experience at first, but it really is so much easier than you think. I find that the majority of students are most worried about making friends, so I’m going to give you a few tips on how to do this and settle into university:
1. Smile. A smile goes a long way. Being open and friendly to anyone you meet shows that you are a nice person and that you want to make conversation with them. Soon you will have made so many acquaintances that you will have lost track of quite a few names, if you’re as forgetful as I am.
2. Go to social events. Every college will have a fresher’s week for a reason. This is your opportunity to be sociable and to go to events that you like, in order to find people who have the same interests as you. I have to admit that at Durham, the drinking culture does dominate, however there are evidently events that do not revolve around alcohol.
3. Get a door stop. Meeting your flatmates for the first time, knowing you’re going to be spending an entire year with them, but knowing nothing about them, is actually the weirdest thing. Getting a door stop will welcome them into your little habitat so you can break the ice over simple things such as the random stuff you have in your room. Trust me in that you will get to know your flatmates little by little and will soon feel comfortable around them.
4. Don’t hibernate. The worst thing you can do after fresher’s week is to decide to stay in your room, locked in forever, for the rest of the year. How is this the way to make friends? Get out of your comfort zone and hang out in the JCR (Junior Common Room) – the easiest place to meet people.
5. Join societies. At the fresher’s fair there will be numerous societies which will be on trial for free, and without a doubt there will be one of interest for you. I cannot stress enough how important societies are for meeting like-minded people. Plus, socials are fun and often include free food.
6. Explore Durham. Admittedly, there’s not much to explore. You will soon know the ins and outs of Durham city and will be plodding off to Newcastle for more adventurous nights out. Saying this, I highly recommend going with a few friends to look at the shops, to experience the night clubs, and to eat out at one of Durham’s own restaurants (they are so delicious but please don’t spend your whole student budget on this!).
Overall, there is no need to worry if you don’t find your best friend(s) in your first year. I, personally, have found it challenging to make good friends this year – getting past the ‘name, college, subject’ stage to the deeper connection stage doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But the main thing I’ve learnt this year is to be open and kind to everyone, to socialise as much as possible but remember to study as well (it’s called balance), and most importantly to enjoy your first year!
Don’t worry, you’ll have a ball (and you’ll probably go to a few too!).