I understand how difficult it may be to put yourself out there and make new friends when you start university since I have battled social anxiety for many years. I know it’s terrifying. Having to get used to lectures, moving to a new city, and then attempting to meet some people to make the rest of it a little more enjoyable. However, despite how terrible it may appear, it’s not that horrible, and you’ll quickly find “your people.”

Finding someone took a few weeks of hanging out with many people who were very much unlike me. But a few weeks later, I was doing great. I found a group of people I liked being around, sharing my interests, and with whom I had lots to speak!

  • Put yourself out there. This is my number one piece of advice for meeting new people. Try some new things and have an open mind. By attempting something you’d never done before, you might meet your new best friend and even enjoy these novel activities!
  • Make the most of freshers week, and I don’t just mean by going out every night to party. There are also many other things to do during the day, such as quiz nights, gym courses, and try-it-yourself sporting events. No matter your hobbies, there is a place for you at university, and those are some of the best venues to meet people.
  • Talk to others. It goes without saying that you won’t make many friends if you don’t talk to others. Again, this is terrifying. However, there’s a high possibility that someone else is also nervously waiting for someone to approach them first as they don’t know anyone else. So try it out and introduce yourself. I guarantee nothing dreadful will take place. Everyone is in the same situation, especially in the first few weeks so a small pleasant conversation will be appreciated. Just try saying hi when you’re waiting in line, whether for coffee at the Student Union shop or for a lecture to begin. That is how I found myself sitting in a lecture hall, waiting for our professor to start with my buddies. Most people will be grateful that you initiated the topic, and I can assure you of that. Also, how can you create friends if you don’t communicate with them? When you start talking to someone, they may introduce you to their friends if they already have any. You’ll quickly and effortlessly know half the people on your course or in your society.
  • Living in university residence halls or a shared house during your first year is a fantastic chance to meet individuals from various backgrounds and interests. Start chatting and getting to know your flatmates on move-in day (yep, that first day!). And besides, you’ll be living with them for the upcoming year, so it can be uncomfortable if you don’t communicate. Consider introducing yourself over a drink in your kitchen. It’s okay if they aren’t “your people,” but at least you tried. Additionally, it usually provides you with one or two (sometimes more) individuals to hang out with for the first few days as you get familiar with the area and begin interacting with other new people.
  • Whatever you do, keep a positive attitude and start chatting with people despite how intimidating it may feel. Within a few weeks, you’ll have forgotten about missing your home and school pals (though not completely!) since you’ll be creating loads of memories with your new friends!!

What did we learn from organising and delivering a multi-site higher education experience day for year 10 students?

In March 2022 we delivered a campus experience day for an entire year group in a school in Leicester city. Year 10 students were assigned to one of five higher education campuses across the county: three universities and two sites at an FE college. Organising a large-scale visit during the pandemic was challenging, and we learnt much about how to organise similar events in the future. Students mostly enjoyed their experience and found it useful, and the school was able to check off that all important Gatsby benchmark 7.

Our infographic Pathways Ready Day gives some more context to the day, and explains our rationale, our evaluation methods, and our evaluation findings and recommendations. Pathways staff considered these findings during a team meeting, and felt that it important to consider:

– Implementing agreements with the school and with higher education campuses about expectations for communication, timing of decisions, and outcomes for delivered sessions
– Scoping out the campus sites, sessions’ content, and delivery methods in advance, such that we can give advice about movement around the campus, timings, and levels of interaction
– Reducing the number of sites to one or two campuses rather than five
– Ensuring that the project leader is well-supported by experienced colleagues
– Introducing a staff briefing document to ensure that all staff (school, higher education campus, Pathways) are informed about their roles and responsibilities on the day.

There was much to celebrate about the day, including:
– Very few behavioural issues from students, despite the school’s expectations
– Students felt that their voices were being heard and valued
– Students attitudes ‘warmed up’ over the day, as they began to see the benefits of higher education and started to gain confidence in speaking out
– Campus tours and practical ‘hands on’ experiences were very well received
– Some school staff found the sessions useful, as well as the students
– We delivered a successful multi-site campus experience during a pandemic!

A two-page infographic is available here Pathways Ready Day to download. For further details, please contact reach@leicester.ac.uk.