Help a shy girl recruit a wingwoman
October 22, 2012 2:55 PM   Subscribe

How to make a best friend in university

Hi Askmefi! (Apologies for the tacky username) basically, I have just started university (it is my third week here) and I am living in like a giant hall building but have missed most of the orientation activities even though I have been around university, so I am in the awkward position of vaguely knowing everyone but not really knowing them

I've always made friends in every school I have been in, but it hasn't always been easy and it usually takes me like most of the year! Which sucks because it means that the first part of the year is lonely and painful and sometimes for a long part I forget who I am. I have also been depressed in the past for this reason, and while I have support systems in place and know how to manage my moods better, I just wish the first part of the year could be easier! I think I still might have low self-esteem and have panic attacks some mornings when I think about how I don't yet have friends and just spend the morning worrying and end up missing lectures.

I talk to people whenever I see them but I can't always think of things to say because I'm very very shy, and I try to go to meals and am interested and like people, generally speaking, but I don't feel witty or cool enough to be able ot make friends. I think I am capable of being witty and cool but only when I am relaxed, and I don't know how to relax around people or hang out with them without seeming desperate or clingy!! I guess I shouldn't try and rush things? But I don't want to seem too standoffish either?

I think what I really need is just a best friend figure, beyond that I don't think I will mind how many friends I have.. I just need someone who I can talk to and be myself around... I know this has become sort of a ramble about my worries but I guess what I really want to know is:

how to make friends in university? Specifically a really good best friend type figure who I can trust and hang out with in social situations?

Alternatively maybe you could share with me how you settled in to university and made friends, or how you became best friends with your best friend?

Thanks so much!! Sorry for the long post
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Be proactive. Join groups/activities! Invite people on your hall to lunch/dinner at the dining hall! Organize study groups for your classes! Worst case scenario it's a little uncomfortable occasionally. Best case you start to make friends and eventually good friends.
posted by brainmouse at 2:57 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd say the number one thing is to learn how to make eye contact with people and SMILE, freely :) I swear, it's such a great ice breaker!

Overall though, on't focus on getting a best friend (ironic because of the Q I just asked, I know!) but focus on being your *own* best friend by doing things by yourself and gaining confidence.

Make good friends, first, by smiling, being approachable (eye contact, open body language, etc) and also participating in as many of the school activities you can!

you're at a good place--so many new students at your university are in the same position. So, take advantage of that by putting a friendly, open, safe persona out there. People will respond!
posted by rhythm_queen at 3:01 PM on October 22, 2012

Physical proximity. The people I'm still very good friends with, decades after college, aren't the ones I was on the fencing team with or (mostly) the ones I shared a lot of classes with. They're the ones I slept one or two rooms over from. They're great people, but I recognize that the reason we're friends isn't because they're great or I'm great, it's because we were physically close together a lot.

I guess the practical advice from that is "don't spread yourself too thin".
posted by gurple at 3:01 PM on October 22, 2012

I went to the same university as my best friend. When I did my study abroad, I made a very, very close friend because we shared community kitchens. If you hang out in the common areas long enough, when people are there, you'll get to meet people. I really got to know my friends through playing card games all hours of the night.

In order to make a good friend, you need to meet them regularly (frequently) for other reasons. That's why hanging out in common areas and going to activities work. And why going to that one friend of a friend's party once will not.

Also, for the tough love portion: Shyness is just a habit, not a personality trait. And it would probably be beneficial for you to break this habit sooner rather than later.
posted by ethidda at 3:03 PM on October 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Definitely by joining groups and activities that are engaged in things in which you are interested. And don't worry about trying to be "cool"...being "cool" is so overrated. And being witty isn't terribly important either. Just be yourself, and you and the people who have the potential to make for good friends will find each other.
posted by Dansaman at 3:05 PM on October 22, 2012

Take something neat that you don't really need from your dorm room. Go next door and offer to trade it for something. Whatever you get from your neighbor take to the next room and again offer to trade. This is just a great way to meet and chat with the people in your dorm. Hopefully you'll get a bite or two on the superficial interaction and find someone you can chum around with. At the very least you'll wind up with some trinket you didn't have before.
posted by carsonb at 3:08 PM on October 22, 2012

Just start knocking on doors of people in your dorm and introduce yourself. Like, "Hi, I'm ___, I was just wondering what the haps is with you. How you doin'. Okay, welp, that's cool, let me know if anything rad happens later on, I'm down in room 32-a"

Maybe ask what their favorite bird is? Or ask what kinds of bread they prefer? Ask fucking anything, man, the content is less important than the out-of-left-field friendliness.

Is this a weird thing to do? FUCK YES. But you're in a situation where tons of people don't know each other, so going balls-to-the-wall with it actually ain't too bad a strategy; they'll likely think you're cooler than you actually are. HA HA! TRICKED 'EM!

I did this when I first started college, because I had terrible social anxiety and real bad tendencies toward self-isolation that would lead to depression. So I thought I'd try something new and freaky. When I realized I didn't really have much dignity to lose in the first place, following the ABSOLUTE MOST NIGHTMARISH PATH I COULD THINK OF at least had the virtue of novelty to it. It worked out pretty well! I didn't get a best friend out of it, but I always had someone to, like, go to lunch and stuff with during my freshman year.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:14 PM on October 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't stress too much about making a bff right away, just try to meet people and get into new social situations and don't worry too much about what people think of you. It's scary, I know. It takes me a while to get to know people and feel comfortable with them, but university actually really helped me relax and learn to do better in new situations. I'm still not like, the best at being outgoing as an adult, but I'm WAY better than I was at 18. I would say a) try to talk to people who live in your dorm, even if you don't feel like you have a ton in common right away, and join in when they do stuff together, and b) join some clubs or activities and talk to the people in them. Clubs are a pretty easy way to meet people, plus sometimes you get to do cool stuff, plus you'll kind of have an automatic conversation starting point.
posted by SoftRain at 3:20 PM on October 22, 2012

"I talk to people whenever I see them but I can't always think of things to say because I'm very very shy"

Without addressing the rest of your post, not having anything to say is generally not a result of being shy. The shy thing to do would be to have something to say and then not say it, because, you know, you're shy. So some reflection on this point (what's the REAL reason you don't have anything to say?) might be an enlightening exercise.
posted by blue t-shirt at 3:56 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a student lounge in your dorm? When I lived on campus freshman year, every floor had a TV and study lounge. People would hang out in there and watch tv, go on their laptops, play Guitar Hero and just talk. It's really easy to meet people if you go in there and just ask if you can sit next to someone or use the outlet to charge your laptop.

Also, do you have any required field trips for your classes? For an English class, I had to go to museums and write papers on certain exhibits. I asked the girl sitting next to me if she wanted to go to the museum together- we both had to go and it's not much fun going alone. She's been my best friend for 4 years now!
posted by lovelygirl at 4:09 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a junior in college right now, so your question is still pretty real for me. Looking back on my time so far, I can tell you that for me and the close friends I have now, many of us have followed roughly this timeline:

- Freshman year, it's a bit unlikely you will find any ~*~one true and best friend~*~. You're all just figuring out who you are and who you want to be, and getting to be really close friends just takes a lot of time. My freshman year, I had many acquaintances and friends I could talk to about homework and stuff, but no best friend. It was kind of a lonely time for me, but I got through it. Even just having borderline-acquaintance friends was a huge help for me during this time.

- Sophomore year, you'll realize who your "real friends" are. Right away when you get back to campus for the beginning of the year, you'll notice which of your friends you kept up with the most during the summer, and which are the most excited to reconnect once the year starts again. You'll also realize during the course of this year that some of the people you thought were really awesome freshman year are actually boring, or are assholes, or both. I'm glad I didn't try to get myself to "stay true" to any one group of people during sophomore year, because some of my best friends now were sort of peripheral during the end of freshman/beginning of sophomore year. I think by the end of my sophomore year, I started realizing which of my acquaintance-friends were the closest to me.

- Junior year, you'll have a lot of fun because not only do you know who's close to you, but you also have some seniority on campus, so the frosh and sophomores think you're really cool (at least, that's what I tell myself haha). This is the first year of college I've had a "best friend", and while it's great and I'm glad I'm as close to her as I am, I realize that I still rely on my other friends A LOT. I think it's better to have "tiers" of friends rather than putting pressure on just one person to be your "everything", so don't discount the relationships you build with your close-but-not-best friends.

Now, while this has been true of me and many of my friends, this timeline could be way different for you. You can do different things (like asking for advice on ask mefi) to speed up this timeline for yourself, but it still will take some time and effort no matter what. Try to be patient, and don't give up hope! :)

Also, while I have made some good friends while participating in clubs, I've found that taking math or science classes that require (REQUIRE) weekly study groups (that are either part of the class or just necessary because the material is so hard) are a great way to meet people (even if you don't become best friends). Same goes with on-campus jobs... even if it's a boring, unglamorous one like working in the dining hall (the only jobs freshman can do on my campus). Even if you don't like math, or don't like your job, having that mandatory weekly time with other kids your own year forces you to get to know people. You can bond over how hard the homework is, how boring the job is, how intimidating the "cool kids" are, etc. The key thing is that you make yourself interact with the same people repeatedly so you can build up a rapport with them, whether by mutual dislike of the thing you're working on or by collaborating to solve problems (applicable to both jobs and homework). If you can find a way to do that by skipping the bad job or hard classes, then that's great! This is just what worked well for me the first year or so.

(As a side note, I don't know if you're religious or not, but I know many people who have acquired a large friend base by regularly participating in their campus or local religious groups and services... might be a good option if you are religious!).

Hopefully this was helpful and/or coherent (I'm in the middle of studying for a math midterm so my brain's a bit scattered)! If you want to hear more about my experiences so far, or if you just want to talk about adjusting to college in general, feel free to send me a memail! :)
posted by Oliva Porphyria at 4:16 PM on October 22, 2012

The simple and most straight forward answer is: seek a great boyfriend.

It will be easier, and not as much work on the "finding" part.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:31 PM on October 22, 2012

As someone who is a little shy, who went through undergrad and got my degree, went through grad school and got my degree, and now teaches and works with undergrad students, the correct answer is: join groups, extracurriculars, associations, etcetera. Any one or two or few. Doesn't matter which, as long as you like it: intermural sports? Great! LGBT Alliance? Great! Improv Theatre? Great! Sustainability Club? Great! Underwater Basketweaving Aficionados? Great!

College is a time for learning and excitement, but also awkwardness and loneliness. This so, so common. So many new students go to school and realize they don't quite know how to make friends without being in their structured, childhood context.

The vast majorty will eventually acclimatize to their new, adult life and will make friends. But how quickly or comfortably that happens varies, and the students involved in clubs and activities seem to be the ones who do so with the most ease and speed.

Also, FYI, when you graduate from college and are looking for employment, 4 years' of various officer and volunteering positions at Underwater Basketweaving Aficionados Association will look good on your resume, AND will give you experience to take to your job. Double-win!

Seriously - groups and clubs. The only thing about undergrad I would do again. Join some, for reals.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:04 PM on October 22, 2012

It's funny--I was just thinking about my freshman year of college today, and how, during the first few weeks, I thought I'd never find any friends. I'd go from class to the dining hall and feel uber alone and OMG dramatic.

Then some guy chatted me up in line at the book store, knocked on my door that night, and introduced me to all of his friends. Many of those friendships didn't outlast that first semester, but by the end of it I was feeling much more comfortable and confident and managed to find other friends.

So one thing to know is that it won't always be like this. You won't always be alone; this is just a temporary state and nothing intrinsic to you.

If you want to help things along, I'd say that the easiest thing to do is go to an on-campus coffee shop or hang out in some other packed gathering place wearing the band t-shirt of a band you like, or a nerdfighter shirt, or carrying a doctor who bag. Something that announces "HEY EVERYONE, THIS IS MY THING!" People in college are all about bonding over common things. Every time I'm in my local coffee shop with my doctor who purse, college students chat me up (and I'm six years out of college).

The other thing I'd recommend is complaining. No, really! Are you standing in line at the registrar's office? Or in the book store? Or in the dining hall where something gross looking waits for you? Is there someone else alone standing nearby? A well placed "oh man, this sucks!" can be a surprising way to open up conversation. People like decompressing and often bond over things they dislike.

I like all of Olivia Porphyria's advice about shifting friendships. That's all true. But right now, just work on striking up a conversation. I know it seems impossible, but you'll be surprised in a month or two how easy it was, promise.

Also, meh on finding a boyfriend. I think that's even harder than finding a friend, and I don't think you really need those stakes to be any higher right now.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2012

I'm a senior in college right now and I think I was incredibly lucky in the friends I made freshman year. I like to say that when I came into college, I was looking for someone jsut like me who also liked geeky stuff because there had been no one like that in high school. I ended up with a group of people unlike me, but one friend loves reading books and another will go running with me and a third and fourth watch Doctor Who with me every week. If you look for the one best friend, it's putting a lot of pressure on you and on them.

First of all, it's still pretty early in the year, so while people have friend groups, no one is going to feel like they have too many close friends already. Talk to people after class, sympathize about the professor or how much you like this class, but X is so much worse. Get phone numbers for studying together. Find people on your floor in the same classes/majors and do readings together.

Don't be afraid to text people to do stuff. Dinner in the dining hall is especially good because everyone has to do it and it's free and can be short or long. I hated doing this because I felt like everyone else was doing fun stuff and would have texted me if they wanted to do that. A year later, I was talking about this with friends and we all assumed that the others were doing cool stuff without us. Show that you want to hang out with them, because they might assume you already have plans.

I really disagree with the advice about getting a great boyfriend. Not only can it be really hard to find one at all (practically no one dates at my school.) but it makes breaking up much harder when he's also your main friend and you know everyone through him. Maybe he'll be your one and only but that is really unlikely at this point. And the feelings of limerance you get in the beginnings of relationships mean that you will want to spend a lot of time with him, not meeting other people. I started dating a girl around this time freshman year and I had to work really hard to make sure I didn't lose touch with the friends I had made but wasn't particularly close with yet. And when we broke up a few months later, I was incredibly glad that I had done that because they were awesome.

Finally, it's okay to be awkward. Try to be cheerful even if you don't feel it. There are a lot of people at any college and you will find friends.
posted by raeka at 6:29 PM on October 22, 2012

Pursue your own interests enthusiastically and with great friendliness, relax, and the rest will follow.
posted by keasby at 7:36 PM on October 22, 2012

Make sure you are looking for a friend and not a crutch. Don't depend on another person to make you happy or guide you through the social scene. You've got to walk that road by yourself.
posted by 1smartcookie at 8:27 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The good thing is that most of the "really close awesome friends" that others make during freshman orientation do not end up being their long term best friends. I think people are just super excited about starting college and about finding anybody to hang out with, so they give off the impression that they're all super close and having a great time. Of course, some of these friends turn into best friends, but most don't. Seriously, I haven't stayed in touch with 90% of the people I met and hung out with during orientation and the first few months of college, but I made other long-term friendships over the next few years. In the grand scheme of things, you're not in any way "behind" any of them.

As far as actual tips.. Do people keep their doors open in your dorms? If yes, then the easiest thing to do is to stop by some of your neighbor's rooms and say "hey, I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm ______ and I live down the hall, so feel free to say hi if you ever want to grab lunch." If you see them watching a show you like, say something like "oh I love that show! I usually like to watch it with some snacks (and drinks?). You should come over tomorrow night when the new episode comes one!" or "I just downloaded season 3 and was going to watch a marathon, if you're interested!" Just be super friendly and open to conversation. Keep it short, but at least now you'll know these people in your hall. Keep your door open too, play some music, people will come by and say hi.
posted by at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2012

I'm getting the feeling that you're not in the US. But no matter.

I moved into the Dorm mid-semester, and my roommate seemed kind of annoyed about it. (oh well). So your dorm roommate is a good place to start (and discard, as in my case).

Then I hung out in the lounge. I met a ton of girls. Then we went to happy hour together. Or ordered the $5 Dominoes pizza and 4 Pepsis (this is when they still came in cups--so right after the earth cooled.) Or went around to the other dorms to see what boys were hanging around. Or went to Frat parties. You get the idea.

I went to ASU, so it was kind of a party atmosphere anyway.

Ask a couple of folks in one of your classes if they want to do a study-group. (Like Community).

You're young, you have tons of stuff in common with the other kids, just be open to anything and roll with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:57 PM on October 23, 2012

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