How to make friends in your first year of university

Students sitting in the JCR

Are you worried about making friends at university? You’re not alone! A really common fear freshers have is that it will be hard to make friends. But, rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth.

Make the most of student and university life

There are so many different ways to meet people at university that by the end of your first year you’ll have expanded your circle of contacts. Here are some ways that worked for me.

Students sat on the steps inside SOAS

1. Join student societies

Joining a society is a great way to meet other SOAS students, one’s that aren’t necessarily on your course but that you’ll have shared interests with. For some societies, you don’t even have to be a committed member. You can sign up for their mailing lists and attend any events you’re interested in. For example, I attended a knitting workshop by Kemi’s House (@kemis.house on Instagram), and soon enough discussing what we were knitting, led to further conversation.

The SU usually holds a Fresher’s Fayre during Welcome Week, this is the perfect time to ask society representatives any questions you might have. You’ll also be able to sign up for their mailing lists or WhatsApp groups. Plus, they’ll probably have freebies too!

During Welcome Week, most societies will also hold taster events where you can see if it’s something you might be interested in. Try to step out of your comfort zone and go to as many as possible. You might discover a new interest and meet a fun group of people.

Follow @soassu on Instagram or head to the SOAS Students’ Union website for a full list of societies.

2. Take up a sport

SOAS has a number of sports societies, from team sports to martial arts and dance. As well as team bonding through exercise, most of them also organise socials such as going to the pub after playing. The best part is, you don’t have to be super sporty to participate! Most of them are very beginner friendly!

You can find a full list of sports societies here.

3. Attend Welcome Week

Welcome Week takes place the week before lectures start, and features a whole host of events. Try to attend as many as you can! The departmental welcome sessions are usually followed by casual conversations with snacks and drinks. As everyone will be new, you can approach people and ask about their expectations for the upcoming year, or what inspired them to study for their degree.

Also, the SU usually organises a late license (themed late-night event) at the SOAS bar during Welcome Week or the first month of term. It’s a fun night where you can dance and strikes up conversations with other SOASians.

4. Go to London-wide freshers events

Follow accounts like @freshers2022 on Instagram to find inter-university events held in London in September and October. There will be a range of options (including non-alcoholic ones) such as rooftop parties, themed nightclub nights, and fresher’s bingo. These events are a great way to mingle with people from other universities, and although the “where are you from” or “what are you studying” small can seem repetitive, it’s a reliable method to approach new people and get to know them.

5. Join social media groups

If you want to connect with other students starting at SOAS, there are a number of social media accounts/groups you can follow. Join the SOAS Offer Holders 2022-2023 Facebook page or follow @soasunifreshers2022 on Instagram. Make sure to join any WhatsApp groups linked there and don’t be afraid to message people.

These groups/accounts are really helpful as you can get to know people before the first day of university. If there’s someone who’s going to be on your course, you can arrange to go to the departmental welcome events together in Welcome Week.

6. Sign up for email newsletters

Starting in your first week and continuing throughout the year, you’ll receive a few newsletters:

  • The SU’s Activities and Events newsletter
  • Student Services Advice and Wellbeing newsletter

Many students overlook them, but I’d really recommend keeping an eye on these, as they’re often full of opportunities for social events where you can make friends throughout the year.

7. Get to know your flatmates

Getting to know your flatmates is probably the easiest place to start when trying to make friends at university. Offer to share a meal or watch a movie with your flatmates, or maybe you could suggest visiting places together. For many people, it’ll be their first time in London, so they’ll be eager to explore. For example, in my first week at SOAS, I went to a silent disco at the Natural History Museum with a group of flatmates.

8. Meet people in lectures and tutorials

During your first tutorials, try to talk to people sitting near you before or after the class starts. Introduce yourself and maybe suggest getting a coffee after class. if you click, you’ll have a seminar buddy for the future and you discuss readings and assignments.

If your department has a mentor programme, sign up for it and you’ll be matched with a student in one of the years above. This is a good way to befriend someone older than you, who can provide some guidance and advice for your course and uni life in general.

Students talking outside SOAS

Top 2 tips to make friends in your first year

Using some of the opportunities above, I’ve put together a couple of tips you can follow to help you make friends in your first year.

Tip 1: Be Proactive

If you meet someone briefly using any of the ways above but didn’t have a chance to interact properly with them, try messaging them and asking if they’d like to meet up. Remember, all freshers are in the same boat and they’ll be happy to accept your invitation. On a similar note, approaching someone you don’t know at an event can seem nerve-wracking, but reaching out can really pay off!

Tip 2: Don’t panic if you didn’t click with anyone at Freshers

It’s never too late to meet new people! Keep on going to as many events and activities are you can, and you’ll keep on meeting new people throughout the year. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t click with anyone in your first year. You still have two more years, and more people actually form their strongest friendships in their second and third years.

Good luck and enjoy your first year!

Agustina Villalba is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and second-year BA Social Anthropology student. She is from Argentina and enjoys reading, trying new types of tea, playing tennis, and travelling. If you want to know more, she is always up for a chat, or follow her Instagram @agustina__villalba.

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