The idea of breaking the ice when moving away to university is a weird concept, or at least, for me it was. I think the idea of consciously making friends in an entirely new environment can be really daunting.
When I left my hometown to go to uni in Leeds, I’d never really had to do it before. I’d had the same friendship group for pretty much my entire life and I don’t remember starting at a new school and consciously seeking out a friend or trying hard to fit in.
I just kind of naturally found my people and had always stuck with them. The idea of moving away from that safety net and having to start entirely again was a scary feeling, and it was something I didn’t really know how to do.
Getting to know total strangers from scratch can feel like the most awkward thing in the world, so I’ve got a few tips and tricks for things that I did and said that helped me find ‘my’ people.
Starting with a very vague question is usually the best way. Don’t jump in with the heavy, personal stuff. An easy one to get you started is to ask where people have moved from or what they are studying, because everybody has an answer for those.
These were my go to when I met somebody new pretty much throughout the whole year. People generally love talking about their hometown and where they’ve moved from, and if you’re at a university that isn’t too far away, you might just find you have mutual friends with a few people (trust me, the world is smaller than you think!), which can be a really good conversation starter.
Asking about what people are studying is a good one too as, generally, by the time people choose to do a degree they’re usually pretty passionate about their subject and have plenty to say about it. Chances are, they’ll then ask you the same sort of questions in return, which seems like a pretty natural way to start a conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, there’ll be some people that you click with more than others, where the conversation flows more naturally. If you don’t find that at first, or if you don’t have that feeling with your flatmates, I’d say try not to worry, because those people are out there. Maybe they’re on your course, or in a society; it’s all about finding them, and this doesn’t always happen overnight!
Obviously, one of the strangest things to get used to when moving into university and starting as a first year is living with other students. Having flatmates didn’t really start to feel like a normal thing for a few weeks, and breaking the ice with those people is really important. You all have to live together under the same roof for a year, so it’s in your best interest to try and get along.
One thing I found that really worked was eating or cooking together. Sitting around the table every evening and sharing stories from our day or about our life at home really made me feel more comfortable and welcome, as well as helping me get to know my flatmates better. After a few weeks it genuinely felt like I’d known them my whole life.
We shared stories of our siblings, our friends, holidays we’d been on, nights out we’d had, what we wanted to do after university, all sat together around the table of our flat setting the world to rights. If you’d have told me that on the first week I wouldn’t have believed you, because the idea of not knowing the people I was living with was a really daunting feeling, but once you've broken the ice it’s only up from there.