The Guardian: How to make friends with a Fresher

Are you a final-year whose social life has hit the skids? It’s time to say hello to the new kids on the block. 

Everyone talks about how tough it is to be a fresher: the alcohol, the poverty, the whole making-friends thing, the list goes on and on.

But spare a thought for the silent victims of university cliquiness: final-year students, especially people on longer courses, and those who’ve returned from an Erasmus year studying in Europe. This year, almost 13,000 students will have returned from a stint abroad to face the grim prospect of a final year with no friends.

Being at the “top” of the university doesn’t have the same “ruling the school” thrill of sixth form. It just means all your sophisticated older friends have left and you’re pretty much left with that weird kid who scratches himself in lectures.

The obvious answer is to make friends with some of the new brood. The problem is, when you’re 22 and the freshers are 18, trying to connect is a challenge. This is because standing in the union shouting “Hey guys! Let’s all do shots!” to a bunch of high-heeled halls-of-residence kids makes you look like the child snatcher, not a fun-lovin’ fourth year.

So how then do you make friends in your final year, when all your friends have left?

Learn to introduce yourself, says Emily, who went on Erasmus last year: “People tended to forget that I’d been away and didn’t make the same effort with introductions that they would with freshers.”

As a final-year student, you should have developed a confidence that younger students still lack. Use that to your advantage and don’t be afraid to make the first move, whether in a tutorial or on a night out.

Make an effort to socialise. Faced with impenetrable fresher cliques, it may seem easier to resign yourself to a lonely year in the library. But don’t do it. You’ll regret it three months later when you’ve read all the books for your module and worked your way through everything on the iPlayer, including all 43 episodes of Homes Under The Hammer.

Making the effort to go out with people you hardly know is worth it – you’re bound to bond with some of them. And you should make sure you enjoy your final year of freedom before facing the big, bad, real world.

Avoid getting obliterated. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know people that well, you’re probably going to need a bit of Dutch courage. But drinking yourself into becoming the life and soul of the party will quickly compromise your dignity. No one wants their new best friend to be the person collapsed in a heap on the dancefloor.

With any luck, freshers will be riveted by the inane small talk you’ve perfected in your years of social experience, and might even be hoping to learn something useful from you about how to go forth and prosper. So don’t panic. If you get really desperate, you can always ask about their gap years.

 First published on the Guardian 4th October 2012.

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