Welcome Week is a time for madness and a time for mayhem. It is about throwing yourself in at the deep end and not just paddling around in the shallows. In your first few weeks at university, it is important to make new friends. However, this is also a nerve wracking time for everyone and you will have friends all over the country starting their new adventures at university, travelling or in a new job.
There is an old rhyme that I have known since I was a child – ‘make new friends, keep the old, one is silver and the other gold’. I think there is a slight inaccuracy in the inference that new friends are only silver to your old friends’ gold though; in your first week at university, there is the possibility that you are making friends you will have for life. And yet, it is important to remember those golden friends you have had for years. Bright shiny lights reflecting off the glitter-bathed cheeks of your new friends at the Freshers’ Ball may momentarily blind you, but maintaining long distance friendships is important.
Whilst you may be too busy over the first week or two, it is good to keep in touch with friends from home to maintain a solid network to rely on if university pressures get to you. However, it is important to work out your expectations of each other from the beginning, as you might want a few weeks to settle in first without any contact with people from home. Send them a quick message to establish how often they expect you to talk. Maybe this is unspoken: some friends may be able to keep up messaging each day, maintain a quick phone call before bed or know that a couple of Skype calls a month is enough.
Maybe this is not the case; individuals react to university in different ways and it is better to talk to your friend in the beginning to understand how they feel about keeping your communication going. If they want space, give them space. If you need space, tell your friends you need space.
Sometimes, using social media all the time and not seeing someone face to face can be difficult. By varying your form of interaction, it can become easier and more interesting to communicate with friends from home. For example, I found the postal service extremely useful. It is becoming an ever more archaic form of communication, but receiving a postcard from your friend living 300 miles away in a different city? Really cool. Birthday present packages? Yes, please. Mince pies in the post? I am not complaining. You are putting in the effort to contact them, without being forceful in receiving a reply. A letter in the post is a token of goodwill and a supportive hug from afar that is not necessarily overbearing.
On the other side of the situation, it is important to not over-rely on your friends at home. Strike the right balance between focusing on developing your relationship with your new friends as well as making sure your friends at home do not feel left out. Phone calls between lectures, even if it is just for a few minutes of chat, set a time limit, but ensure you are ‘showing your face’ as such and putting in the effort. Planning visits to each other’s universities however far away they are or inviting your friends at home to come and visit if they can can give you positive things to look forward to if you are finding the distance too much of a struggle in the interim.
Moving away from home is sure to inform you who your real friends are (it is always impossible to keep in contact with everyone) but what is important is that you do have a group of people around you to rely on in your first few months away from home. This could end up being your flatmates, who are on hand for a hug and a midnight chat, or it could still be your friends from home, making a group Skype session the best remedy. Ultimately, it is up to you to make sure that you do not need to separate your friends from home and university into groups of silver and gold and that you leave none of your friendships to sink.
[ Image: Pixabay @ CherylHolt ]