University is a unique experience where you will very likely meet people who will become life-long friends or contacts. Here we’ve put together a few key tips to help you make the most of the social side of being in University.
Become a Joiner
Uni offers so many opportunities to join societies and experience new things while also making friends. So you might never have done any rock climbing, paddle boarding or debating but what’s to stop you joining and finding out if these are new hidden passions? The thing to remember is that getting involved takes a bit of commitment. If you go on a regular basis you’ll soon start seeing friendly faces and building a rapport.
Here’s a great quote to keep in mind
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin.
If you get invited somewhere that you feel nervous about or it’s not 100% up your street, challenge yourself to go anyway. If you always go into something with the mindset to get something positive out of it you usually will. Weigh it up - stay in flat watching rubbish TV or go out socialise.
It’s also OK to say no to things that you don’t want to do, if you’ve given it a fair shot and you’re not hiding from social situations. The more social events you experience the more you’ll have a clear idea of what you want to focus on and build shared experiences with other like minded people through your Uni years and beyond.
Take the Initiative
Don’t wait for other people to ask you. Why not make the first move. Find some things that you think you and people you have met might be interested in and reach out to them to see if they fancy going? You might not be successful all the time but it beats waiting in for someone to ask you. Take control of your social life.
Choose to live somewhere where there are regular events where you can meet new pals and perhaps invite existing friends. At PGSV for example we run regular quiz nights, open mic nights, seasonal celebrations, movie & pizza nights and random events like bringing an, ice cream van in for the residents to cool down when the sun comes out. Great, no hassle way to be social in your own space.
This probably goes without saying, but make an effort with your flatmates. Arrange to have a dinner together, go out or watch something together. Remember it’s not the sharing the flat that makes friends, it’s the building of common experiences.
No matter how honed your social skills or how self-confident you normally feel, there will be times at Uni that you will feel nervous, an outsider and just plain socially awkward. The good news is that everyone feels this way from time to time, especially in Fresher’s week and throughout First year when you are a newbie at everything 3rd level.
You might be dying a little inside, but on the outside check what your face and your body are saying to those around you. If you stand forlornly looking into your beer don’t expect people to come over for a chat. Keep your face relaxed and your stance open. Avoid slouching and folding your arms. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, some studies have shown that adopting a positive stance fools your mind into thinking you’ve got the situation in hand. If you are really nervous try chewing some gum. This works because we’re hired wired to think that if we are able to eat then there is no danger from marauding Wildebeest. Chew with your mouth closed tho!
Be A Listener
One way of overcoming this is becoming an interested Listener People love to tell their stories and talk about themselves.. And they love people who are listeners. If you are feeling shy ask questions and cultivate a genuine interest in other people. Try asking open-ended questions and practice slightly unusual questions, for example instead asking of “What are you studying?”, try “Why did you choose the subject you are studying?”. This approach helps in moving a conversation past the more mundane to interesting.
Everyone likes a compliment. The trick to successful complementing is to make sure that it is genuine and appropriate.
Remember - Everyone is Nervous
Even the most confident person feels socially nervous or excluded at some stage. When you are at a social event, make it your business to chat to people who look a little uncomfortable it’s a great way to meet new people and immediately give a positive impression.
Avoid Too Much Alcohol etc
If you’re a little nervous socially, then it’s very easy to use alcohol as a way of garnering some courage. Some people become the life and soul of the party after a few drinks however your new friend might be surprised to meet the sober real you in contrast to the person who was dancing on the tables. On the same note, you really don’t want to get the reputation of the one who always leaves a party drunk and incoherent. Have fun but don’t use alcohol to medicate social anxiety.
Everyone feels nervous at some stage, challenge yourself to join up and get involved, be the person who is kind and approachable and genuine, keep the head… and you’re all set for a great social experience.
NOTE: If you find that you are struggling with social anxiety and it is affecting how you are feeling about yourself, Universities have trained people that you can talk to.