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How to Make Friends at University, Before You Even Get There

How to Make Friends at University, Before You Even Get There main image

Yesterday (30 July) was International Friendship Day, so it seems appropriate to mark the occasion with a post about how to make friends at university – but with a twist: how to make friends at university before you even arrive on campus?

(See also, Vickie’s guide on how to make friends at university and Thomas's tips on how to get popular, the lazy way…)

1. Find out about university ‘buddy’ schemes

In the midst of all the chaos of my first day at university, I came across someone who declared he was my ‘father’ (not in a Darth Vader voice, in case you were wondering). He then bought me a drink, introduced me to a few people, and proceeded to plunge me into the murky depths of college gossip. It turned out he’d volunteered to be a college ‘parent’ – a scheme that matches pairs of current students to several new ones.

My two college ‘dads’ also invited me to a dinner at their student house, along with their other ‘children’, which was fun. We’d been matched partly because we were taking the same course, so it also meant they were able to give us a bit of advice and reassurance during the early stages of adjusting to the academic workload. I hadn’t known about the scheme before I arrived – in this case, you didn’t have to sign up for it; you just automatically got matched.

However, a growing number of universities are extending these kinds of peer mentoring schemes so that students can start benefitting even before they arrive on campus. Often these are specifically targeted at international students, with the aim of making the whole transition to a new country a bit easier.

Information should be available on the university website and in information packs sent out to you – but if in doubt, ask the international student office. Even if they don’t usually match people up before term starts, they might be able to do so if you ask!

2. Use online forums and social media

Another option for how to make friends at university is simply to search Facebook for the university’s official page, and also pages run by groups of students at the university. For example, student unions and clubs often have their own Facebook page, and sometimes there are also pages specifically for international students at that university. This provides a kind of online community, where you can start getting to know students with similar interests to yourself, and maybe even arrange to meet up once term starts.

Similarly, some universities host discussion forums on their websites, which are open to both current and future students. Again, here you can start getting to know people, seek reassurance about anything that’s been worrying you, and start finding people with shared interests who you might like to hang out with. And of course if you use Twitter, you can also have a go at finding fellow tweeters either already at the university or about to start.

3. Sign up for the orientation program

Most top universities are pretty good at helping international students to settle in, and one of the main ways they do this is through an orientation program. This usually means international students are invited to arrive on campus a week or so before everyone else – getting a chance to meet each other and acclimatize to their surroundings before the madness really begins.

Orientation programs usually include a mixture of informative events on how to make friends at university. For example, there might be a workshop about the local banking or transport system, guided trips around the local area, and group activities such as sports and quizzes. OK, I admit, this isn’t making friends before you get there – but it is still before the real chaos of Freshers’ Week and term-time!

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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