Accommodation

How To Move In and Make Friends as Freshers, From People Who Have Gone Through It

friends-with-freshers

When I first got to university, I didn’t know what to expect from the people I’d be living with.

Sounds familiar, right?

No matter how much work you do online to get to know your new housemates, the reality of meeting them for the first time is a big hit for the senses.

Here’s the good news: Moving in with strangers isn’t as hard as you’d think.

The randomness may be scary, but it’s the same for everyone. At least you know you’re not on your own about being on your own.

How do you make new friends and get to grips with your new housemates?

I’ve asked a couple of students’ union officers who have been through these situations and know what it’s like. You’ll find some tips from me here too.

Unique Fun

If you’re not sure how to play it, you’ve come to the right place! Your experience will be unique. And with a bit of calm preparation and a positive attitude, most of that experience should be fun.

As you’ll see, there are two very different experiences here.

Beth Moody, VP Welfare and Community at Portsmouth Students’ Union (UPSU), lived in a house on her own when she first moved to university:


“I loved my house, and being quite a shy individual when I moved to University, I couldn’t think of anything worse than potentially arguing over chicken nuggets or dirty dishes. I bought a Freshers pack, but it meant that I had to turn up to these events not having met anyone.

“That night I met loads of different people, and I ended up being invited to loads of house parties for the remainder of Freshers. Although I didn’t talk to them again after Freshers; it gave me the confidence to approach different people.”


Just because Beth didn’t move in with others, she was still able to go out and make an impact. It doesn’t matter if you live on your own or in a flat with 50 people, it’s important to approach others. Nerves are normal and everyone is new.

The big issue I always see is when someone shuts everything off and doesn’t interact with others. Sometimes they want to engage, but are scared to (more on that in a moment). Sometimes they don’t think the social side of student life is important.

If anything, the social side can have even more impact than the academic. Why? Because you know roughly where the academic side of things is headed. The whole point of activities and relationships outside of the degree is that you’re exploring new things and new people.

I like how Beth avoided the arguments over kitchen duties and who nabbed the food, but didn’t let living alone get in the way of making new friends and having a great time right from the start.

Food…And Parents

Many freshers move in with others, however. And that’s what happened to Liam Bligh, President of Northampton Students’ Union:

liam-bligh-su-promo-shot

Liam Bligh – President of Northampton SU 2016/17


“I lived in Margaret Bondfield halls in my first year, having only known the name of one of my flatmates through the Facebook group. After the 4 hour drive up from Devon and waiting for registration I was exhausted.

“Luckily for me, my parents went straight into the kitchen and introduced themselves to my future flatmates whilst giving out bits of the 3 cakes mum had insisted I brought to ‘help make friends’.

“After attempting to unpack some things and failing I went into the kitchen to then have my parents go around the room and introduce me to my flatmates one by one as if they had known them their entire lives…you can always count on your parents to make it weird.”


Okay, so I’ve long said that dishing out cake and doughnuts will make you popular. Then again, I assume you’ll be doing the dishing out and not your parents…

Anyway, back to Liam:


“Thankfully my parents eventually left and I was able to meet my flatmates properly, we spent the rest of the day chatting about stuff and eventually made our way to the SU for the welcome party, met so many people there, including one guy who I ended up living with for the 2 years after I moved out of halls!”


Liam was lucky to find such a close friend so quickly. Don’t be surprised if it takes you weeks, even months, before you find friends who you end up spending huge amounts of time with. That’s pretty standard.

Some people move out of halls and into a house with the same people they shared the place with. But many others group together with the friends they’ve made elsewhere.

For example, I was well into the first semester before I met the people I ended up living with in my second year. No stress, no rush.

Say Hi, With or Without Nerves

But what’s the secret to making friends?

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Here’s Beth again:


“During Freshers, everyone is in the same boat, no one really knows anyone; so if you are feeling nervous, they probably are too!”


Yep. When you’re all starting fresh, nobody is expecting anything in particular.

Remember that most people are worrying about how they’ll come across. They won’t be thinking about your faults and failings; they’ll mainly be thinking about their own issues.

While everyone is second-guessing themselves, why not take the plunge and say hello to people. No need to judge, and every need to be as welcoming as possible. If you don’t know what to talk about, ask questions and listen to others instead. People will feel relieved that you’re interested in them and you’ll feel relieved that people are so easy to talk to.

Liam has a similar view:


“I would just say it’s really important to try to meet as many people as possible in the first few weeks; you don’t have to get everyone’s numbers (I know loads of people that did this, kind of weird). I’d also say to use the Students Unions sports, societies and volunteering groups to find people with similar interests; I’ve lived with members of the cricket club in both of my 2nd and 3rd year after getting involved, so it definitely is a good way to meet people!”


One of the great things about clubs and societies is that you already have a common interest with the other members. Whether it’s cricket, quiddich, or computers, you’ve got one core subject even when you don’t know what else to talk about.

And once you get chatting, the other subjects come along soon enough.

Summing It Up

Here are the main points to remember for making new friends:

  • Everyone is new – Being on your own means you’re not on your own. Since the Fresher experience is new for practically all students, there are no big expectations of you.
  • It’s good to talk – In other words, don’t be shy. Social gatherings may not be your thing, but all you need is the word “hello” and you’re ready to strike up a conversation. On the other hand, if you’d do better in a crowd, go out to the events and say hi to people that way. Whichever way, get talking.
  • It’s better to be interested – Ask questions and find out what makes other people tick. That way, you don’t need to talk about yourself so much, and people will still enjoy your company because you let them talk about themselves. Us humans are so easy to please!
  • Be social – Don’t stay in your room. Venture out. And at the very least, have an open door so people can see you’re available. You never know, someone who pops their head around the door to say hi may end up being a great friend over the coming years.
  • Be generous – Offering food to others is great. From sweet treats to making main meals, you’ll be amazed at how thankful others are at your generosity. I’ve long said that a box of doughnuts is cheaper than a big round of drinks, yet it’s more memorable. Imagine if you bought a case of Krispy Kremes once in a while. I wouldn’t call it a bribe for friends (unless that’s literally all you do!), but it is a tasty ice-breaker that people will remember you for.
  • Find activities – University activities, SU clubs and societies, local groups, and all sorts of other parties and events are brilliant for making new friends.
  • Go online – Use your phone or laptop to keep an eye on events. Your SU probably has details on their website. Then there’s Facebook groups, regional sites, and other activities on offer through the university intranet and email lists.
  • Relax with the relationships – None of this should stress you out. It can be daunting, but it shouldn’t be scary. Nerves aren’t the same as having a panic attack. Take the plunge and expect a range of experiences. You won’t hit it off with everyone, but who does? Even the most charismatic and social of people aren’t universally popular.

And if you need any more tips than that, here’s some previous TUB posts with the lowdown:

Living Together Through the Years

Living With Others: Be the Genuine Article

20 Hints for Living With Others

And get ready for my new audio show coming soon. TUB-Thump will feature even more short, sharp tips on making the most of your time at university…including tips on living with others and having a happy student home.

How Will Students Live and Learn in the Future? #HEFutures

Last week, I attended the launch of “Living and Learning in 2034” [PDF] about the future of higher education. I was part of the project team, so I didn’t want to miss the event!

The report looks at how the student experience could change in coming years and considers the future wants and needs of students under a number of scenarios.

Visions of the future. Not quite like this... (photo by seemann)

Visions of the future. Not quite like this… (photo by seemann)

There was loads of great discussion on the night, including a great question and answer session that you can see highlights from below.

Student Living

Mark Allan, Chief Executive of UNITE Group, kicked off the evening by explaining why student living is at the heart of HE. Why not simply the student, as the government’s 2011 White Paper suggested? Because the experience is broad and all-embracing. Allan said that it’s important to try to understand and interpret future student interests, especially since students are not all the same.

While there is a current trend of seeing university as a necessity for employability and future success, that doesn’t mean everyone looks to higher education in this way. It also doesn’t mean the future will play out this way. However, this document does recognise current trends coming into play and uses them as a base (ten key trends are described in the report).

Study Patterns and Ethos

Paul Harris, Group Strategy and Commercial Director at UNITE, then talked about the prospect of new stakeholders making a huge impact on the higher education sector in coming years. It is not clear where that will take matters, he explained, because there are already fundamental uncertainties that will make an impact on HE futures.

He also questioned whether shorter and more intensive study patterns were on the horizon. Three year degrees may be the norm now, but shifting needs may speed development of 18-month and two-year courses.

Harris concluded with a strong point on ethos. While general attitudes within society are not always the most obvious consideration, they are a key issue that can make a huge impact, both nationally and globally.

We respond to each other and are aware of opinions that are forming. As such, a local economy could be booming or busting, but the final say on how that is perceived could be down to how the public react and respond to the circumstances. Even a bleak economic outlook can be played positively, so it would be wrong to ignore the ethos in society.

Ruled by Technology

One highlight from the event was one student’s dystopian vision of what could occur if technology pushed our minds (and our time) further away from our control. Does technology drive people or do people drive technology?

An abridged version of the student story can be found in the report. I told Cameron, the author, that I found his portrayal vivid and amusing. However, I continued, I’d stop laughing if his story became a reality.

Continue the Discussion

The end of the evening saw some brilliant questions from the floor. It helped the idea that the document is very much a living discussion. Among the questions and subsequent answers on the night were:

Might students in the future want to study in more than one place in the world?
Climate change may force people to stay closer to home in the future, forcing the hand on this one. But if travel continues to happen as it is, some students may prefer to get a range of experiences nationally and even around the globe. What we see as modular today may expand to single modules in several different institutions, but all part of a particular qualification.

Which scenario is currently most likely to play out?
We have no reliable crystal ball. Even as the report was being researched, opinions on the most likely scenario seemed to be changing. In addition, there’s nothing to say that different parts of the country could see different scenarios based on local circumstances.

These scenarios each impact attitudes to education and lifelong learning. Will universities plot out possibilities based on each scenario?
The hope is that the conversation will continue and expand. We must be prepared for many outcomes and it would not be sensible to assume a single course, no matter how obvious it appears to someone. Ignoring possible risks is a risk in itself.

Students discussing accommodation on TheStudentRoom focus very much on value for money and location. How will this change in the future, if at all?
If environment can bring more success, value will be drawn out and noticed. Success means different things and that can be drawn out from a person’s environment. That hasn’t been cracked yet in this country and there are many opportunities.
With £9k fees, students are now looking much more closely at what type of experience they want. Is it employer based, international, lifelong and learning focused, or something deliberately unique to a person? Universities in the United States are focusing on the student experience a great deal at the moment and some pointers could be taken from there. However, with spiralling costs, it is important to also be careful.

Your Thoughts?

A blog has been set up for the report, which will feature more ideas and content, over at hefutures.wordpress.com. There is already a graphic showcasing four of the possible students of the future.

What is your vision of the future? Leave a comment here or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #HEFutures.

Off Campus Living: Another Learning Curve

Nottingham is helping students to embrace life off campus. The university is giving students advice on what they need to be aware of when living elsewhere, which should help not just the students, but also the local residents.

From the Press Office:

“…student ambassadors will be out with representatives from partner agencies to speak to student residents about waste management, crime and fire prevention and being a good neighbour. Following on from this door-to-door activity, both permanent residents and student residents will be invited to local community centres to share coffee and cake and get to know each other.”

I like this idea. Many freshers find it hard enough to live alone for the first time on campus. Moving into a private rental property is another learning curve, which can lead to problems that could have been handled far better with a bit of help and forewarning.

I’d love to hear what other universities are up to when helping students to integrate with the local community when living in off-campus accommodation.

But would the neighbours like it? (photo by Walter Parenteau)

But would the neighbours like it? (photo by Walter Parenteau)

Living Together Through the Years – Top Tips From Fresher to Finalist

How you experience living with others depends on what year you’re in at uni.

Everything changes each time you move somewhere new. Situations, workload, location, friendships.

Since it’s the start of another academic year, I’ll run through some tips and experiences for each year. Just when you think you’ve got communal living sussed, you’re thrown into a brand new set of circumstances.

photo by David Reece

photo by David Reece

Fresher Year

Support those not settling in so well

I wish I’d done this better. I was experiencing loads of new stuff myself, but I could have tried harder to help integrate those who were finding life away from home tough.

In my first year, one housemate was torn apart from being away from family and it seemed only a matter of time before they would leave. It didn’t take long. But in that short space of time, I could have done more to reach out and show a friendly face. I tried once or twice, but I wasn’t consistent, and that’s key.

Work as a team ESPECIALLY when one or two won’t pull their weight

You could easily adopt a ‘down tools’ attitude when one person isn’t willing to get involved in cleaning and other little jobs. But that makes it worse for everyone. Don’t choose to live with mess and muck as a matter of principle.

Start a conversation. Be kind when you speak to them about the situation. Anger will only make matters worse.

And don’t make it a five-against-one showdown either. Before having a house meeting to vent on that single subject, take a soft approach. One or two housemates could have a quiet word first to find out how things are and discuss the situation constructively. Gently does it.

If you’re lucky enough to have cleaners, you may not have these issues. But please spare a thought for whoever is making good your mess.

Prepare to learn a lot in a short space of time

If you’ve never lived with others, especially a bunch of strangers, you’ve got your work cut out. Some positive stuff, some negative.

Use this time as a learning experience, as you do with your degree work. You’ll face surprises, but don’t react too quickly (y’know, unless it’s a fire, in which case GET OUT!!!). Let each situation sink in and make a measured response.

Branch out beyond your own space

No matter what your living situation, university lets you find all sorts of new people. Now is the time to make new friends, connections and contacts. You don’t have to stick with the people you’ve been placed with in housing. While it helps to be on positive terms with them, there are many more opportunities to make new friends from the outset. Make the most of it.

Learn how to hack your life

Washing, cleaning, and admin. Delightful! It’s no surprise so many students ignore stuff like this until it’s crucial. If it’s not the end of the world, it can be left.

But now is the best time to learn how to make life work for you without resorting to professional help (i.e. Mum & Dad).

Take your laundry, for instance. Washing machines look daunting. They have loads of dials and buttons. But it’s not difficult. At all. I used to panic about temperatures, times, spin speeds, and all sorts of settings just to wash my clothes. In my first year, I only washed my own clothes in an emergency. Most of the time, I just got others to do it (yes, parents again).

This was a mistake. I should have taken responsibility much sooner. Five to ten minutes is all it takes to understand what’s going on. That includes looking up what all the cleaning symbols mean on clothes. You’re welcome. [What, that’s not enough? You want a printable PDF of those symbols now? Oh, go on then!]

So long as the clothes get washed, it doesn’t really matter. Most stuff goes at 30 degrees (40 degrees is the norm, but uses more energy and often isn’t needed) and most stuff can have a good old spin session without worry. Those laundry symbols come in useful to find out those odd items that need special attention. Remember those ones and move on!

So this isn’t much about hacking, more about dealing with the issues from the outset. But it’s such a rare treat that your advanced work will seem like hacking to much of the world around you.

Just be aware that you’ll be in demand as the guru to go to…

Second Year

Typically the year when you branch out to private accommodation if you haven’t already.

If you’re living with more new people, the first year tips apply. Read those first.

For the following tips, I’ll assume you’re living mainly with people you know and that you’ve chosen to live with.

These are good times, but you still need to be mindful. Even friends can be difficult to live with when they’re under your feet 24/7.

photo by Ethan Moore

photo by Ethan Moore

Respect the place

This goes without saying, no matter where you live. But some student accommodation through a private landlord may look weathered and worn from heavy use by other students over the years.

That’s no reason to treat your place without care.

Also, inform the landlord of any problems. Don’t leave them to get worse. If the landlord isn’t helpful, try speaking to your Students’ Union or student services for more advice.

Walls are even thinner

Noise can be a problem. Why? Because you have different deadlines, you come in at different times (including very late at night), you have different tastes in music, you have various ‘romantic’ situations, and so on. Just remember that you’re not the only one in the house. The occasional lapse is forgiveable. Don’t make it more than that.

Have rotas

You’re unlikely to find a way to give each person the same responsibility for particular tasks, especially if they are unpleasant ones.

A rota helps everyone pull their weight and allows you to keep on top of the most important household tasks.

Little and often. That works magic. When you leave stuff, it piles up and gets worse. A few minutes here and there makes a big difference over time. So, little and often.

Understand extreme personality traits

Some people are more fussy about cleanliness than others. It’s not unusual to live with extremes. While one shrugs at massive mess, another gasps at a fleck of dust.

It’s a difficult road to travel, so prepare. And listen. And seek solution at the earliest possibility.

Failing that, seek compromise.

Whatever happens, try to steer away from outright household battles. They’re ugly. You don’t want them.

Pay bills on time

Especially ones where it’s in a single housemate’s name. If bills are all inclusive or you’re all responsible for your own shares, that’s wonderful. If not, please PLEASE do the right thing and pay when you’re meant to. Don’t be responsible for giving someone else financial grief.

Final Year

I was a Senior Student, so I went back to university accommodation. But being in my final year, the game changed and I was working on my dissertation among other things.

I didn’t hide away though. I went out a lot more.

Whatever your circumstances, a few things are different about your final year, because you’re closer to the end of your degree.

photo by _bernd_

photo by _bernd_

Be selfish

You need to knuckle down. If you haven’t already made changes, now is the time. Don’t be swayed to go out when you’ve got work to do. Make decisions for yourself and have clear reasons why that’s your choice.

You may need more of your own space. If you need to make your room off-limits, make it clear why. You’re not being anti-social, you’re being sensible. Of course you’d love to spend every waking moment having a laugh with your mates. But it’s not practical.

Have downtime

You may be busy and getting your selfish groove on, but you need to find some time with your housemates.

There’s something wrong when the people you’re living with forget you’re there…

Continue washing, tidying and organising

The odd jobs are the first to go when you’re trying to find time to fit everything in.

Bad move. You waste time living in a mess. It’s impossible to live when you can’t find anything, you’ve got nothing clean to wear, and everything is a general state.

I went to the laundrette on Sunday mornings, very early. I knew nobody would be around that way. I’d take some work to get on with while my clothes were being washed. The best way to avoid temptation is to leave your phone in your room. At a laundrette, it’s the only thing left in your way between work and procrastination.

With no phone to hand, the prospect of doing reading and coursework is (hopefully) better than staring at a spinning machine for an hour or two.

Final Thoughts

When you live with others, you have to take care of them. And yourself.

Sometimes it’ll be tough. You’re trying to work with the situation while it feels like others are messing you about.

Other times it’ll be brilliant. The group dynamic will work just right.

So you’re bound to go through all sorts of emotions, highs and lows. When things are good, cherish it and don’t take it for granted. When things go wrong, know that you will get through it.

For more tips, check out my 20 hints for living with others. Good luck!