As you’re handed your key to your new room in your halls of residence you think, “This is it, you have been handed your freedom”. The freedom that you were dreaming of during you’re A-Levels and college exams is here, the idea of looking after yourself and being in control was the motivation that got you through those late night revision sessions and panic cramming, and your success and congratulations for all that work has now taken the form of your new key, to your new room, in this new time of your life. But now that you’ve made it to University the realisation that you are alone, with no one to worry about but yourself has finally hit you, but perhaps it is a little more daunting than you first presumed. As you see your parents drive away you suddenly realise that possibly being alone is one of the most terrifying things you could imagine. There are now seven other people (who are most likely feeling exactly the same as you are right now) waiting in the corridor to be introduced to you. The best thing to do right now is to confidently walk out of your room, (despite maybe wanting to test out the comfort of your new bed and eat the cake your mum baked for you) and get to know the people who you’ll be living with for the next year.
This day will be a blur, so although first impressions are always important one thing to remember is, is if you come across a little shy by awkwardly avoiding someone’s handshake, or perhaps maybe a little too enthusiastically grabbing and shaking your new flatmates hand, do not panic and automatically and dramatically assume that “This is it, you’ve already blown your chances of ever making friends and fitting in”. So much happens on your first day that it’s hard to really remember how others came across to you and how you came across to them. All that matters here is that you show yourself to be approachable, and perhaps offer some of that cake that your mum made you to your new housemates as a way of breaking the ice.
There may be some awkward moments, so prepare yourself for that, everyone’s trying to fit-in in their own ways. So be prepared if the boy in the room next to you introduces himself by telling you that he’s studying “Sexology, so watch out tonight”, because you may find in a few months that he’s actually a great guy, and this story works as fantastic leverage in the future. Also, the girl in the room opposite you may drink a whole bottle of Sainsbury’s Basic Gin to herself and will require you to help her stand up for the rest of the night, but don’t worry, she’ll end up supplying you with tea bags when you’re desperately trying to finish an essay in the middle of the night. Basically, people may not be themselves during this settling in period, but give them time. Everyone adapts and changes to this new found freedom in their own ways, and once people begin to find their feet their truer selves will be apparent.
Also, the fact that you may spend most of your first week in this new environment dressed as a ‘Geek’ (not that any geeks at your school ever looked like the queue lining up outside the union), or a life guard, or dressed head to toe in camo means that it may be harder for you to actually see the real sides of people. But with most things, give it time. With books you have to get through five chapters to know it’s the one for you, with a film give it forty-five minutes, and the same applies to Uni. It may seem strange at first to be all alone with complete strangers, but give yourself till Christmas to find what works. You may need a term to settle in properly, you may need days, but all that matters is that you give it time, and don’t mistake your apprehension and homesickness with the idea that you don’t like where you are.