The University 411: Step Outside the Bubble

While I’ve been talking about study tips and other practical advice, I’ve neglected to talk about an important part of the university experience: everything outside of the classroom. Whether your starting your undergrad or (post)grad degree, DON’T get so caught up with the idea that you constantly have to study that you miss out on some amazing friendships. Your university will likely have a diverse range of opportunities and experiences. Check out the sports groups or social clubs on campus – or start your own! Social clubs and groups are a good way to meet people who have similar interests and/or identities. Take advantage of it while you can: Making friends as an adult is HARD; don’t look back at your university experience and regret not taking advantage of all the avenues for social exchange.

I also suggest instigating conversation with your classmates. While this can be difficult in a lecture hall of 100-300 students, your module might provide bulletin boards or other techy methods for students to interact outside of the classroom. There may also be different instructional components with smaller class sizes alongside or in lieu of your lectures. These include: seminars (a focused discussion led by an instructor); labs (usually a 1-3 hour block where you’re required to perform an activity with results); and workshops (where you bring the material you’re working on such as project drafts or sample questions).

Introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you. Strike up a conversation and suggest a study group. If you’re too shy for any of that, that’s okay! Smile. Make eye contact. If you keep your eyes down, you’re presenting the message that you don’t want to talk and people will respond accordingly.

Once you make (verbal) contact, suggest exchanging contact info. You can frame it as exchanging info for practical purposes if the idea of “let’s be friends” is putting yourself out there too much. A study group or a class group is a good way to exchange notes and questions. This can mean a regular physical meet up where you all sit down to work on the assignments together. Or instead of regular meetups, you can suggest a Facebook or Discord group where you pose questions about the content alongside practical considerations. For example, what the heck is MLA vs Chicago style? If you are handing in a physical copy, do you know where the hand-in box is? Have you figured out printing on campus? There will likely be a whole host of practical questions on your mind. If your new friend(s) don’t know the answer either, it’s still nice having someone with you so you can figure out the answers together.

Once you’ve established a relationship as classmate and colleague, it’ll be easier to suggest a more casual meet up like coffee or lunch or a drink at the university bar/pub/cafe. Social relationships are an important part of mental health. Having someone to vent about your finals with can be therapeutic. That being said, I know some of you have too many other responsibilities and thus dedicating time into making and maintaining friendships might seem like a luxury. In these cases, make sure you’re still taking care of yourself! We’ll talk more about good mental health and hygiene tomorrow. Until then, take care and (try to) have fun.

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