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


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 – 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.

6 Big Reasons For Second Year Woe & How To Wash The Woe Away


In my last post on getting motivated when you get back to uni, I said about the shock of the second year.

We need to talk about more than motivation… We need to talk about conquering your Second Year Woe.

Yes, Fresher life can push you in every direction until your head is spinning. That’s covered.

But it can be just as much of a whirlwind for second year students too. It’s not fair to expect you to take everything in your stride when you’ve still got so many new challenges of your own.

So let’s address a few of these things right now. Get it sussed before you get stressed.

Like my previous post, I’ve asked Bethany Wren, VP Academic Experience at University of Brighton Students’ Union for some help with this. You can reach Bethany on Facebook and on Twitter too.

So, here are 6 Second Year Woes and how you can deal with them:


1. The honeymoon period is over

When you start anything new, everything is shiny and exciting and woo. By the time you finish your first year, it’s easy to feel that the freshness has gone.

This is where you need to be proactive. There are loads of activities to explore, new situations to dive into, and many ways to rekindle your excitement.

Attitude makes a huge difference to how you feel. When you decide something is boring or you feel like your situation won’t be as exciting this year, you set yourself up for a foregone conclusion.

Continue where you left off. Write down what you want to achieve and experience in your second year. Commit to something you were meaning to do, but never got around to in the first year.

Try to get others involved if you can. The power in numbers will spur you on.

And with ALL THE THINGS going on, it’s easy to forget about YOU. One of Bethany’s personal student survival tips gets you to focus back where it counts. She says, “Look after yourself. Sounds simple now, but it truly [is] the most important thing to do”.

Simple–but crucial–things like food are worth thinking about, explains Bethany:

“Your diet will change how much you can study and how positive you’re feeling, so don’t forget your veggies!”

For more healthy foodie hints, check these TUB links in the archives:


2. There is more housing admin and travelling to do

If you’ve been living on campus (or near to it) in your first year, everything was practically on your doorstep.

What’s it like now you’ve moved further away? Got a longer walk or a bus journey to add to your plans? Sigh.

And what about those housing issues you’ll have that you didn’t encounter in your uni accommodation?

All this takes time.

So factor in something productive when you’re commuting, even if it’s only a few minutes extra walk. Listen to audio of a lecture as you walk, or stick on a relevant podcast. If you take a bus to campus, do some reading or writing so you’re not just looking at your phone doing nothing in particular.

And keep a communal diary for stuff to do with your home. When the bins go out, cleaning rotas, bill payment deadlines, and so on. A bit of joint legwork when you first move in will save you a lot of time over the rest of the year.


3. Work/Life balance is hard to organise

I don’t like the term work/life balance, because it’s not about finding equal amounts of the two things. What you really need is a personal stability that keeps you happy and productive in all aspects of life.

Arrangement is crucial. You can’t wing it any more. Sort out your time, your schedule, your social life, your research, your priorities, and so on. If you go with the flow and let other people dictate when you go out at the last minute, you’ll have less fun than if you had your social time mapped out.

You don’t have to be too strict, but you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you go with the flow all week. An impromptu get-together is fine every now and then. But every other night? Danger.

Then you’ve got extra-curricular activities. It sounds like a lot of extra bother, but it’s not as bad as you’d think and it’s worthwhile for all sorts of reasons. Here’s Bethany:

“Use second year to gain some really valuable work or volunteering experience! I myself did this and am now able to not only say it was one of my greatest memories of university but I can also use it practically for anecdotes in interviews.
“For those who are going into second year who had taken out a year for an internship and are potentially feeling like they have lost touch with peers they made friends with in the first year, I urge you to join a society or a sports team or look at the huge range of activities that park life put on. Amber our Activities and Participation SABB at Brighton will be around putting on loads of great events and activities so watch out for them. You are guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy!”


4. You were hit by “First year doesn’t count-itis”

Yep, you’re not alone. This still happens to SO many students.

Your Fresher year is a great time to get to grips with university life and meeting new people.

But that year is also useful for getting to grips with degree study and meeting new concepts.

If you didn’t put in as much effort as you wish you’d done, prepare for catch-up time.

Okay, it’s painful.

And yes, it’s frustrating.

But don’t panic just yet!

All you need to sacrifice is an hour or two each week. Spend that time revisiting the content and textbook material from your first year. Read up on academic essays. Prepare in advance for the work ahead of you. See lecturers at the earliest opportunity if you’ve got any concerns so you can get them dealt with and out of the way.

Basically, get clued up now so you don’t continue playing catch-up all year.

You can make up for lost time, so long as you don’t choose to procrastinate and ignore it.

First year doesn’t count-itis may be inconvenient, but it’s no disaster when you grapple with the issues head on.


5. No more “cute, fluffy, first year subjects”

Even if you took the work in your Fresher year dead seriously, your next challenge won’t be more introductory modules. By now, your tutors have taken off your stabilisers, removed the safety rail, and disconnected the sat-nav.

But fear not, because your tutors are still on hand to help you where you need it. They’re not monsters, even the scarier ones.

Don’t feel shy or weak when you feel lost. Be honest about your situation and ask for advice.

Here’s more from Bethany:

“Remember what you have learnt from the first year. Look back over the feedback you got. Can you identify any trends coming up for example, ‘lack of structure’ or ‘undeveloped area’?
“I would suggest that you seek out your personal tutor in the first semester, to not only touch base with them but to also ask if they can advise you on these particular reoccurring themes in the feedback and how to develop or work on them in your assignments this year.”


6. Second year doesn’t get the dynamic focus as first and last years do

There’s so much focus on Freshers and final year students who are about to graduate, that the in-between years are sometimes left behind.

Speak to your students’ union and get the specific issues of second year students heard. That’s why Bethany and other Sabbatical Officers are there at your SU…To listen to you and help take action where it matters.

What do you feel is missing from your second year? How could you be supported better? Are tutors fully aware and supportive of your second-year circumstances?

Basically, don’t suffer in silence. The more voices that can put their point across, the more likely second year students will be seen with just as much importance and not as those in a forgotten year between first and final.

Own your second year with confidence. You’ll go from ‘Woe’ to ‘Grow’ in no time.

Many thanks to Bethany for the great advice. I’ll leave the final word of encouragement to her:

“From me and the SU, I wish all students the biggest and best of luck this year! Go for it!

10 Things To Know When You Start University – A Fresher Tip Sheet


Ah, the joys of starting university! Always room for surprise, even when you think you’ve got it all sussed out beforehand.

I can’t list everything that’ll happen. Nobody can do that.

But here’s a start.

Now you’re a fresher, here’s a list of 10 things to expect. Time to get relationships (with others and with yourself) in check.

In no particular order:

1. First friends aren’t always your best friends.

The pressure to impress is huge. When you find new people, you may form a lasting friendship.

But don’t be too cut up if it doesn’t work out. New people come into your life all the time at university and you’ll get to know all sorts of characters. Some will turn out to be friends for many years to come. Just not necessarily the people you meet in Fresher’s Week.


2. Everyone is coping except you? Don’t believe it!

No matter how out of place and clueless you feel, there are other students just as overwhelmed as you.

It’s easy to think you’re the only person with issues, because you only know your own mind. Starting out at university is not a walk in the park and there’s so much to get to grips with. But remember the first point…people want to look impressive. Not everyone is being totally honest about their difficulties.

If you think you’re the only person who’s not coping well, you’ll feel even worse about it. All those teething troubles are standard.

3. Homesick is standard.

You don’t think you’ll get over it, but you’re likely to have shaken off the sadness within a few weeks. For some, it takes until after Christmas to settle down. It is rare for the problem to be so bad that you have to leave.

For tips on combating those blues, check out my Help for the Hopelessly Homesick.

4. Give new activities a go, so long as you don’t go against your personal opinions/likes/beliefs.

If you don’t drink alcohol, a Fresher pub crawl won’t be your activity of choice. But what if you want to get involved and be a part of the fun with your new housemates?

No problem with joining in. Just don’t feel the need to defend yourself. Peer pressure goes away quicker when you don’t get involved in other people’s fake debates. And the start of a pub crawl (or halfway through it) is a bad time anyway. Bat conversation away and say you’ll explain another day. If someone is too persistent, it may be best to cut your losses and safely remove yourself from their presence.

Stay confident in your identity. As you settle in over the coming weeks, you’ll find situations to suit your lifestyle. The people you get to know here will at least accept who you are, and may even share your core values.

Oh, and if you just want to limit the booze, here are some tips to tame the spirits.


5. You are yourself.

You can’t work out how to make other people like you, because there’s no way for you to befriend yourself. Besides, you don’t need to fake it at university. There are an almost limitless number of choices, options, opinions, likes and dislikes to explore. As with the point above, find the people who will accept and love you for who you are.

6. Everyone pulled except you? Exaggeration only upsets you more.

Everyone did it except me…

So and so ALWAYS happens…

You don’t need to follow the crowd or succomb to peer pressure, as hard as it feels to go against the grain. And I can assure you that not EVERYONE pulls during fresher’s, even though it can seem a bit in your face at times.

7. What do you want to be known for? Be careful.

Do you want to make a big impact on campus from Day One? Getting exposure is great, but you don’t need to do it straight away. Playing the long game is safer than trying to be a hero before you’ve worked out the lay of the land.

Known to be known, no matter what…Is that enough?

8. “If I think the worst, then things can’t get any worse. They’ll only get better.” NOT TRUE!

With this attitude, you’ll only ever think the worst. No matter how good it gets, you’re fixed on the worst outcome, which blinds you to what’s happening.

Prepare for the worst, but don’t think it. Preparation is different to expectation.


9. You’ll work out most things sooner than you think.

The impossible struggle only feels impossible while you’re struggling. Beyond that, it gets better.

It practically always gets better. In all my dealings with freshers over the years, most start with issues that feel insurmountable and nearly every one recovers without fuss. Of the few who find it more difficult, most of them still manage to get over that hurdle.

And if you think your case is different, just remember Point 2. You’re much closer to the side of hope and recovery and success than you think.

10. SU activities are great, but don’t dismiss them if one doesn’t work out.

I made this mistake. I signed up for clubs at the Freshers Fayre, went to my first meeting for one of the clubs, found it disappointing, and decided clubs and societies weren’t much good.

I hardly bothered for a while after that. Yeah…well done me. Sigh.

I’m one of the first people to tell you to look beyond first impressions. Dig deeper, even if your opinion stays the same.

I didn’t follow my own advice here and suffered a little for it. Don’t be quick to dismiss!


There’s a lot to think about settling in as a fresher.

And as soon as you’ve calmed down with these lifestyle issues, then comes all the studying!

If you’re worried about the academic work for the year ahead, I’ve got a great freebie for you…

Get the upper hand and learn to appreciate what’s expected of you and how to prepare for it. Download my ebook ‘Live Life, Study Hard‘ right now.

Farewell Facebook? Au Revoir Apps?


For those who move away from Facebook entirely, there are no doubt many others who haven’t left, but do far less on the site than before. Talk to parents, share unproblematic content, organise a few events…’harmless’ use can continue.

For everything else, new tools do the job. Students go where the family aren’t. They seek out specific communities of people. They form private networks away from prying eyes so they can keep in touch with their offline friends.

You don’t need to pretend to be several different personalities online. All you need to do is share particular types of information in particular places.

Say you buy a meal at McDonalds. You don’t explain to the cashier that you sometimes go to Burger King too. You don’t go to Nandos with your mates and announce that you also went with your Mum when she was visiting.

Your actions are public, but you keep the situations apart. Ever had one of those times when stuff clashed? Awkward.

A More Private Public?

When you’re online, you have new safeguards to consider, but it works in a similar way. Information, status updates and messages tend to linger. Plus, it’s easy enough for people to piece the information together and get a better picture of your actions. But when it comes to backing away from family, old school friends, and casual acquaintances, most bases are covered.

Information that you want strictly limited and kept away from particular individuals must be handled away from public services. If you broadcast stuff that you don’t want certain people to see, the safest option is not to broadcast it at all or do it in such a way that (almost) guarantees privacy.

And I don’t mean posting an embarrassing two-second Snapchat photo to someone in the hope that they don’t take a screenshot and share it with others. It means not posting the photo in the first place.

To App Or To Interact?

Facebook shouldn’t be concerned solely about young people who stop using the site. They should also think about those who have changed the way they use the service. Why? Because it changes the way they engage with the stuff that makes money. Everything changes…the way they see adverts, how long they spend on the site, their opinion of the service offered, the quality of the information they transmit, and so on.

When interest dwindles further, or if parents migrate to other services where their kids are hanging out (whether the kids like it or not…?), the knock-on effect could see older users moving away from Facebook too. This is all long-term stuff, which means the company won’t be resting on their laurels.

But is there a truly viable way for any social media players to keep up momentum and remain a solid player for many years to come?

I no longer think in terms of the sites and apps that people use. I’m more interested in the way they interact and the type of things they want to experience. Changes in these areas are potentially more telling than a service that’s popular at that particular moment. All it takes is one minor update or the next big thing to come along and all bets are off.

What are your favourite apps?

Now think about your answer. Will they still be your favourite apps next month? Next year? In a decade?

If you want to influence young people and connect directly with them right now, the big apps of the day matter.

But if you’re more interested in the overarching psychology behind the choices people make and the way people like to engage with each other, it’s time to look deeper than today’s top performer.

We’re Not Stereotypes, But We Share Similar Values

One thing you don’t want to do is assume that young people are wildly different to those in older generations. We all do things differently, but that doesn’t mean we want different things in the end.

People act the way they do because they have developed into that state. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. No matter how hard we try, we can’t form an accurate picture of each individual. We boil personalities down into stereotypes. But look closely and you quickly see a more complex reality that’s not so easy to summarise.

A Communispace survey found that people’s values stay roughly similar, no matter how old you are. Issues that were important way back are still pretty important now.

And younger people aren’t sharing their life stories online. Most of their private and personal matters are not broadcast. Mistakes can be made and promises broken, but we’re not witnessing a rise in explicitly open individuals who don’t care what others read about them.

We may be happier to communicate online that in years before, but the tools weren’t previously available. Advances in technology allow us to do things we couldn’t do a year or two ago, let alone decades back. These technological advances change actions and experiences far more than they do values and opinions.

No matter where you end up in years to come, the app won’t change you, but you might change the app.

Actions and Experiences