30 September 2016

Facing the Fresher friendship fears

How are people already best friends? Why does this all feel so false? What if I hate alcohol? Where is my Blair/Serena? WHAT IF I AM A SOCIAL OUTCAST?! 

Believe it or not, it's okay to have these fears. In fact, they make you completely and unexceptionally normal. I sincerely apologise if this rains on your Unicorn parade, but it truly is okay not to feel okay. What isn't okay is to react by hiding away in a wardrobe. Unless, of course, your wardrobe is Narnia. In this  case I suggest you ignore my rambles and be(aver) on your way... .

However, if the most magical item in your wardrobe is a hogwarts scarf knitwear, read on! Disclaimer: I'm not the most qualified person in the world for fresh advice. My Friyay night drink of choice is green tea (with Googlebox), I thought a Jaegerbomb was a German pretzel and I wore panda mittens to my first nightclub... Yet I still made friends.

So from one under-granduate to another, here are my home truths on the fear of fitting in...


photo credit: buzzfeed.co.uk
In the first few weeks of Freshers, you will inevitably encounter the FBFFs - Fresher Best Friends ForeverVery soon, the comparison trap will swing open and smack self-doubt in your face: how can one campus hold this many Helens?
You thought you were a tough cookie, but by week 3 you are in the midst of an existential crisis. 
photo credit: buzzfeed.co.uk
Breathe! Step outside the fresher fog and breathe. As a new student, I had my fair share of friendship fears. I constantly compared to those around me, worried that was doing freshers 'wrong'. So if you're feeling the same way, here's a little story from my own time at University.... I hope it can offer some perspective! 

Hiddle and Swift were two girls on my my corridor. Within 24 hours, they were virtually inseparable. Hiddle and Swift watched all the same TV shows, joined all the same societies and were soon sharing  wardrobes, vodka, boys... we'll come back to that one later! Before you know it, they're meeting the parents, house hunting and signing up to the next ski society social: nothing says friendship like being stranded on a mountain...

... then the inevitable. Hiddle realises that Swift is texting the guy they both like. Swift realises that Hiddle has a course friend outside their squad. Hiddle sees red and sleeps with the guy. Swift also sees Red and signs a house lease for 2nd year... without Hiddle. By Christmas, it's official: they're never ever getting back together

The moral of this story? Love-ins are deceiving. Not all fresher friendships crumble like a Bridesmaids cookie; however, true bonds build over time. So turn off the timer and, above all, don't compare... 
photo credit: cosmopolitan.com


Before going to University, I bought into the "best week of your life" hype. I psyched myself out completely: what if I don't find my  forever friend across the corridor? What if fate doesn't drop her in a week 2 club queue? Why does Taylor not want me in her girl squad? Why am I not Cara Delvigne? Okay, maybe that last one is just me... 

Here's the truth: freshers want to fit in, more than anything, but this can make people selfish. So  always look out for yourself and don't let anyone tarnish your University experience! Of course, this is easier said than done. I lost friends who I thought would stay the course. In most cases, we just drifted apart; however, I was really shaken by an incident with my two 'closest' friends. In short, they decided it was time to move on.... but forgot to give me the memo! 
photo credit: tumblr.com
What followed was a flurry of "what's wrong with me" and "I'm not good enough ?" thoughts. It was the perfect storm for anxiety, as I instinctively placed others on a pedestal and questioned my actions. Not helpful! With hindsight, however, I've learnt how I could have responded. Using the "friend in my shoes" perspective, this is what I would say: Other people can drop the ball! Besides, if they could move on so quick were they really worth your friendship? NO. 

So next time you turn to self-blame, be your own advice. I am the first to be guilty of over-thinking and internalising, but the "friend in my shoes" method really can work! In terms of feeling isolated post #freshxit, this is when perspective is your best friend. University is filled with students, thousands of them. Beyond University? You have an entire planet and the rest of your life! At some point, you will find your lobster. Until then? Be your own cheerleader... 
photo credit: tumblr.com


Everyone wants to belong, everyone has the same fears that you had; you are not alone! Next time you see that "Central Perk sofa" group on campus, remember that behind the picture are a thousand unspoken words; the girl who wishes she was sitting on the middle sofa, or the boy who is worried about skipping the "next night out". Everyone has worries and fears; as the wonderful Bianca puts it in her Letter to you, from the World, we all get it. You are not alone.  

Nevertheless, the comparison trap is everywhere, which is why you keep Mr Perspective on speed dial. Happiness isn't measured by the number of Facebook photos in a "Freshers Week" album. Anyone can caption a selfie with "soul sister" and social media will believe it. Yet, just like Instagram, there is a freshers world beyond the filter.

Finally, remember that even Elle Woods and Queen B had their moments of doubt. It's called being human!
photo credit: vogue.com


Please don’t be a hermit! There is a time for that; the summer holiday, for example, so I hope you booked some prime time in with me, myself and I. Come freshers, it's all about meeting your fellow muggles. So please avoid this... 
photo credit: exepose.com
... for one thing, Harry had Dobby for company. We (most regretfully) don’t have a cool house elf with a tea cosy hat. I will hold my hands up and say it: I was not the most sociable person pre-university. Okay, that's an understatement: one time, I moved my watch forward by an hour to make an early bid for freedom... my friend caught me and has never let me live it down!  

Suffice to say, I arrived in Exeter and was every so slightly terrified. So what did I do? I took a leaf out of Elsa's book and tried to LET IT GO. Looking back, I'm so glad I did; from gaining my cheese stamps, to belting out “Angels” at 2am, I have some great moments to look back on. 

I may never understand the logic of going to sleep at 4am - if I wanted to be an Owl, I would become an animagus - but I honestly did surprise myself! Still not convinced? Just ask Neville... 
photo credit: exepose.com


Student Minds have launched a brilliant campaign, which is designed to counter the night-out narrative of social media: "It's time for us to stop feeling like we are missing out every time we choose to stay in." Exhausted by the endless club selfies or pre-drink tweets? Tag your Bake-Off evening or Blanket Fort with  #BestNightIn  and post! Okay I really want to make a blanket fort right now... 
Trust me, the majority of freshers are secretly longing for a night in; for starters, who wants to miss Mary Berry? With 15 million views, I can guarantee you won't be the only bake-off fan on campus, so host a viewing! Who needs sambuca shots when you have soggy bottoms? The blanket forts and  Pillow fights are optional, but encouraged... 
photo credit: cosmopolitan.com


Be yourself. I admit this statement has more cheese than a fondue party, but it's true! While it's important to have an open-mind, you can't ignore 18 years of experiences, likes, dislikes, memories... everything that has made you you.

The first people you encounter are usually in your accommodation; while you may just click, don't be disheartened if this isn't the case. Don't feel an instant bond with the people on your course? There are other opportunities to meet people. I really encourage Society Tasters; try that Harry Potter or Disney social, as you're guaranteed to find like-minded people! Conversely, if you meet anyone who hates Dobby and Olaf...
Moreover, don't be afraid of unchartered territory; just think of yourself as Neil and or Buzz (Aldrin/Lightyear, I'll leave you to choose). One small step could lead to wonderful thingsExepose was the giant leap of my University experience... but I didn't even join until November. 2.5 years on, it gained 2 editorial positions and 90% of my friends from  this wonderful society. Not bad for a wing and a £5 prayer.

Exepose It provided a ready-made family, where socialising was about more than getting smashed - blessing: people actually wanted to have a conversation... about more than guys and getting smashed... hallelujah! I'll be honest with you, there is some truth to the "down it fresher" stereotype... especially at the start. My best advice? Stand your ground. If Marge and Rita aren't your jam - or you'd sooner bolt jam than a jagerbomb -  it's okay. For starters, we all saw what Margaritas did to Ross Gellar:

Moreover, it does get better. Truly. So please be patient! It may seem crazy right now, but as long as you're Sasha Fierce and say no from the start, you will get through it and find your feet. As a certain Oscar-worthy playwright reminds us, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken". So go Wilde with  whimsical, witty and wonderful YOU.
photo credit: tumblr.com
What are your thoughts from Freshers? 


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