At times, university can be stressful or overwhelming. When that happens, you, like me, may want someone other than a fellow student to talk to and support you through whatever’s happening. Older people – maybe only a few years, maybe a lot – with more experience of life.
I’m used to a robust support network of family and family friends who I can turn to in times of crisis. Be it meeting up for a drink and a chat or sharing a meal, being around people I trust when things get tough is a blessing.
But here, at university, over 200 miles from them, I can’t simply walk over to theirs. However, I have managed to create a similar network in York. These are the places and ways I found the people who have helped me through wobbles and shocks.
Search through the family address book
This is the easiest one to do and doesn’t involve finding an entirely new support network. It’s a small world, so you never know which old family friends and distant relations have moved to North Yorkshire over the years. Introductions are easier; and more often than not, someone else can make them on your behalf. Don’t worry if they’re not in York; the trains here are wonderful and it’s easy to pop across to Leeds or Hull.
I was lucky enough to have two families that I already knew living in the area. It’s been wonderful knowing there are people nearby who I can ask to meet up with or go round to dinner. It means there is a core of people even at the beginning. This is particularly useful if you’re feeling homesick.
Look for clubs around hobbies outside of university as well as within
University societies are wonderful in how many interests they cover and the communities they bring. You can also find similar groups outside the university and be members of both.
Be it sports or hobbies, a simple google search and taking the courage to attend the first meeting can open worlds of opportunities to meet new people. The most reliable, safest places to look are the official websites of a sport or hobby’s national organisation. I’ve found several amazing friends through non-university groups who have been rocks through rough patches.
Volunteer with organisations
Similar to the previous point, volunteering with local clubs are a great way to find people. Be it helping at a school or the local scouts gang, you will find an immediate community among them. I find that volunteering, the shared act of serving local communities, creates some of the strongest bonds as you muck in to run a club.
For those who have a faith, the York faith communities are wonderful ways of finding a support network. They can provide great advice thanks to the range of ages and experiences within the congregations, as well an immediate family-like feel because of those shared values at the heart of faith. Most of my London-based support network are members of my church, and the same is true of York.
Contact your existing support group
We live in an interconnected society, so it’s easy enough to contact your existing support group should you struggle to find the right people for the situation. A phone call to a family member or a social media message to a friend means you’re never alone. It’s not the same as meeting in person, but they can still listen and advise.
Where have you found your support group?