When coming to university, one of my (and everyone else’s) main fears was the following question that kept haunting me until my arrival: What should I do if I don’t make any friends, or what if people don’t like me? Two years into my degree at the University of York, I know that it is a common fear, but also one that is not worth worrying about. There is no way in which you can prepare yourself for settling in or making friends as that would mean that you had to change who you are. It sounds basic and simple, but really all you need to do is to be yourself.
Sports and societies
The University has 200+ societies – from the Anti-Racist Collective to the Hummus Appreciation Society and Yoga Society – all looking for new members and people with similar interests. If you have had a specific hobby for years, keep it going; if you have been curious to try out something new, now is your chance. Societies are a great way of making friends outside your flat, college, and course. If you’re more a person for sport, there are not only University-run sport societies, but also college sports that you can join which are slightly less competitive in some cases.
On the off chance that you cannot find a society that you would like to join, you can fund your own. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually really easy as you only have to message the Students’ Union (YUSU) – they will provide you with all the necessary information and instructions. Just this year, the St John’s Ambulance society was founded, and it already has 100+ members, proving that there will always be people who are interested in your new society. My personal recommendation would be to sign up for as many societies as you can, giving you the chance to find out more about them in their weekly newsletters and making the decision about which one you want to join easier.
Make yourself at home
Settling in, on the other hand, is unfortunately slightly harder, and it might be easier for some than it is for others. Nevertheless, settling in as a whole is about accepting that you have moved out from home and officially started your life at the University. It sounds easy, but it doesn’t always feel that way. One way in which you can make yourself more welcome in your new room is by decorating it. You like plants? Bring one with you (but remember to water it over the holidays as well). You love a band? Put up a poster of them in your room. You like your room to be extra comfortable? Bring a few cushions and blankets, extra posters, and pictures of friends and family with you.
Within the first week, your room will not only look like yours, but it will also start to feel like it with all your familiar objects around. That extra change will help massively when moving to a new home.
Bit by bit, your room will become more familiar; York as a whole, however, won’t. So, going on various trips around the city will help. There is a lot to see in the city centre, in its parks, and even on both campuses. You will quickly figure out the routes to the supermarkets and other tourist places, making yourself familiar with your surroundings and reminding yourself that this is your new home. And once friends and family come over to visit, you can show them all the cool features that York has to offer, and what they are missing out on.
So, if you join different societies (whether those are new ones or not) and pack lots of designs for your new room, it should help it all to feel nice and homely within the first few weeks that you have moved in. And if it doesn’t, there is support available around the University that will help you through what is a difficult time of transition in anyone’s life. Remember to explore York as a whole as well, and that all you need to do is to be yourself. And if you are homesick, don’t worry: all of us are at times, and you are never alone!