In my first weekend as a student, our flat heard a knock on the door. A girl from the flat next door named Laura stood there with a bag of chocolate and a group of people behind her. Laura wanted to meet people and had chocolate, so she started knocking on doors and we joined her. That led us to exploring one another’s flats and debating who had the best view from the kitchen (not me, we had a view of the bins).
All throughout university, the group who opened their doors later lived together in various combinations and made friendships for some that have lasted years after graduation. In the first few weeks, people are unusually open to someone knocking on their door just to make friends. Make the most of it.
It’s hard to strike up spontaneous conversation when you can’t see someone. Using a doorstop to keep your room open says, ‘Come in, I’m free to chat.’
Because of a doorstop, I often saw my flatmate Connor shuffle half-awake into the kitchen each morning for coffee, which was my cue to go join him. We got to know each other well over those sleepy morning chats.
For many people, university is the most diverse group of people they have ever been around. That’s probably true whether you’ve grown up in Britain or have come from somewhere else in the world. Cross-cultural friendships have the added depth of discovering a whole other person’s world while you get to know them as a friend. You can stay connected with people across the globe after graduation.
Ask questions to understand cultural differences and avoid assumptions. Have a humble sense of humour when you get things wrong. Maybe go to international events, whether you are an international student or not.
My friend’s tutor advised their tutor group not to go straight home when they finished but to go hang out with the person sitting next to them. They decided to go for a coffee and said that person ended up becoming their closest friend. Even if you don’t do this, take your time as you leave so you increase your chances of chatting to someone.
Free trial events at sports clubs, the gym or other societies are a great way to meet people even if you know you’re not going to keep going.
Some people meet lifelong friends on their first day. Some don’t. That’s okay! Fill the empty bits of your day with seeing people; some will drift away but others will stick.
You don’t need to evaluate whether every person you meet is going to be a friend or not. Just enjoy your time with people and you’ll soon see what they mean to you.
Take a chance to offer to host a good evening-in with your coursemates or housemates, even if it’s at someone else’s house.
Be prepared with some good ideas that can take you from being a bunch of strangers to a good group of friends: a mini-international food buffet, murder mystery, bake-off, karaoke, or a film night. Check out ideas of how to host a good evening-in or a film night.
The variety of characters you come across at university is exciting. I had some great friends at my accommodation and on my course who weren’t Christians, as well as some solid Christian friends who I knew from church and CU.
Consider the ways you might be able to merge your friendship groups. Our social circles play a big part in what we think about life, so we care about things more when we meet others who share that passion and interest. A helpful thing we can do is to bring our groups of friends together. If your housemates who aren’t Christians hang out with your Christian friends at a party, they might find that they get to understand each other more. Maybe they’ll find going to each other's events more inviting.
A conversation I have regretted having was with a friend at a band rehearsal. She asked what we thought happened after death. As the only Christian, I said, ‘You know what I think.’ However, that ended the conversation. Maybe they didn’t know what I thought! She has gone on to release songs about questions concerning mortality. Perhaps I could’ve asked, ‘Why do you think we wonder about life after death so much?’ or ‘Why do you think I find Christian beliefs about life after death believable?’
A friend from Ukraine recently said that British people appear really friendly whenever they ask ‘how are you?’ until you realise it basically translates to ‘hello’. Sometimes it takes that second question ('So… how are you?') to move beyond formality to friendship.
We believe in a listening God who hears our prayers. Why not pray this prayer now as you start to find friends:
Father in heaven, who created us to not be alone, you have loved me with an everlasting love: please put a new close friend or good group of friends across my path and help me to be a friend to others too; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who called us friends, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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