Meeting new people

I have another guest post to present to all you lucky readers of TheUniversityBlog.  A warm welcome to Ali Hale, a Cambridge graduate who has a fab new student blog called Alpha Student.  Ali has also written for other blogs, including Dumb Little Man, ProBlogger and Pick The Brain.  Among other things, she is still enjoying student life, working on an MA at Goldsmiths.

Today, Ali presents us with tips on meeting others at uni.

photo by lusi

photo by lusi

One of the givens of being a Fresher at university is that you’ll be meeting new people. A lot of new people. Unlike school, where you probably knew at least some of your classmates at the start of each year, you may well not know anyone at your university when you first arrive. If you’re on the shy side, this can be quite a daunting experience.

Here’s a few ways to make the process of meeting, greeting and getting to know people a bit easier.

Remembering names

One of my worries when meeting a group of fellow students is whether I’ll be able to remember people’s names. I have an awful memory for names; couple this with feeling awkward and self-conscious when meeting people for the first time, and I often manage to forget a name within five minutes.

Some tried-and-tested ways of remembering names are:

  1. Repeat the name back to the person (this also lets you make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly);
  2. If you’re in a seminar where everyone’s introducing themselves around the table, jot down the names in the order of people’s seating position. You can glance at this if you’ve forgotten someone’s name half way through the seminar;
  3. Concentrate when people are introducing themselves. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s all too easy to nod and smile whilst your mind is on something else (usually worrying about what you’ll say next).

Breaking the ice

Don’t be afraid to break the ice. If you’re sitting around with a group of people all silently waiting for a class to begin, say “hi” to the person next to you. You might be feeling shy, but as soon as you’ve greeted them, they’ll say “hi” back and you can get going on a conversation.

When you’re milling around in a room full of people, look out for someone else on their own, and strike up a conversation. There are a few questions which you’ll hear a lot in your first few weeks of uni, like:

  1. What A-levels did you do?
  2. What subject are you studying?
  3. Which halls are you in?

These are all easy ways to get into a conversation, but to keep things going, try some more in-depth questions too. Ask what they hope to get out of the course, or what they do when they’re not studying.

photo by shanissinha

photo by shanissinha

Don’t pre-judge

You’re likely to be exposed to a very different social mix at university than at school. Perhaps your uni has a strong international community, or students from a different educational background to yours (I went to a mixed comprehensive school, so meeting lots of people at uni from all-boys’ boarding schools was quite interesting!)

My big tip here is not to pre-judge what people will be like. We all make assumptions, even though we know we shouldn’t, and it’s easy to apply a stereotype to someone before you’ve even exchanged a word. I know that I had some fairly negative ideas about public school students; try to put any preconceptions out of your mind when meeting new people, and be open to making friends in unlikely places!

By Ali Hale, editor of Alpha Student – a blog aimed at helping you get the most out of uni life.


  1. Your blog in general is quite interesting, and would certainly help first years get through some of the tougher times at university. Had I learnt some of the ways of remember names I would probably have been slapped less and liked more, but alas I am already finished my 1st year, so until next year…. Coping with first year is something we all go through, it’s a big change and some people can’t deal with it. In my blog I have made a Boot Camp theme on helping students through first year, and in a less academic more joking way.
    Check out my blog-

  2. Thanks, Tom. You’re right, the first year can be a real eye-opener and not everyone’s prepared for it.

    Good luck with the Boot Camp blog. I hope you train up some fine first year soldiers, Sir.

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