Moving into University accommodation is incredibly exciting. You have your own space to personalise and a new college to explore. Plus, you get to experience living independently. However, it can also be incredibly daunting when it comes to finding friends in your accommodation and getting along with your new housemates.
Many of us have spent the past couple of years in and out of lockdowns, socialising mostly with our families. Whilst it was great to have that time with them, especially before moving to out, it massively increased how anxious I felt when I first moved in at university. I was faced with a group of people and the only thing I had in common with them was the fact that we had all picked Alcuin College. Apart from that, we couldn’t be more different. Our lack of common ground made me believe that I would never be able to make friends with any of them.
I’d like to preface that I am by no means an expert on flat friendships, but I hope that some of my tips help alleviate any moving anxiety you may have!
The Kitchen is your Friend!
Now this one may seem obvious, but getting out of your room and into a communal space is a crucial first step. Everyone reacts to move-in day differently. I just wanted to hide in my room and phone my mum (that is completely normal, so don’t worry if you feel like that). Then I gave my face a quick wash, put some comfy clothes on, and ventured into the kitchen.
On the first day, not a lot of people were actually cooking. Most of us just chucked a pizza in the oven and hoped for the best. However, by being in the kitchen we could start the basic (but essential) conversations. Like finding out what course we were all doing, where we’re from, and why we picked York. I can tell you that these conversations can be a bit stilted and awkward, but please remember that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone adjusts to moving to uni differently and people may be tense during freshers’ week and more themselves are after they’ve settled in a bit.
On the topic of settling in, the kitchen is still your friend after those first couple of weeks. Even if, on the surface, you have nothing in common with your housemates, you all still need to eat! A great way to bond is to do a food shop together (this can be an actual trip or an online order). Why not also try cooking together? It’s the little things that can make all the difference!
Freshers is better Together
Freshers’ week is one of the things everyone is excited about, so it’s another thing you can all bond over! I found it really helpful to sit down with my flatmates and talk through all the events we were thinking of going to. You don’t have to go to all of them, but it’s great to know who likes the same ones as you – chances are you’ll have more in common!
During my Freshers’ week, we had a board game night. It was a lot of fun and most of my flatmates ended up going. We had a task to focus on, which meant we could focus on the game together without the pressure of having to maintain a conversation. Luckily there weren’t many awkward moments! It was a way for us to spend time out of the flat, but still get to know each other and create memories.
You don’t have to do every freshers’ event. On the Saturday of freshers’ week we were all feeling exhausted, so we set up a projector and watched Doctor Who. There is a mix of home and international students in my flat so this started the conversation of what TV shows they watched growing up. If Doctor Who isn’t your thing, try a film night! The Great British Bake Off started the week we moved in – that would also be a great one to watch!
Your Accommodation isn’t just the flat
No matter what college you live in, you will always have other people around you who aren’t your flatmates. In Alcuin I live in a block, meaning there are two other flats in the building. If you are really struggling to bond with your flat, you still aren’t alone. Why not try catching someone as you’re leaving or going? Freshers’ week will also give you the chance to meet everyone in your building.
Whilst accommodation is not the be-all and end-all of friendships, it does make a positive difference to your university experience if you can get along and do things together with your flatmates. One of my best friends is one of my flatmates, someone with who I thought I had nothing in common. University is all about trying new things and opening your mind. This can start in your accommodation, so go in with an open mind and see what happens!