I’m not saying I have any answers: as a Masters student, there’s a tendency to think you’ve suddenly become a well-rounded, worldly individual. If only this were the case.
Parents will dish out heaps of well-meaning but outdated and misleading advice. For one, you don’t have to attend every single event and talk to as many different people as you possibly can. And if you feel anxious at any point that you aren’t doing enough to make more friends, the chances are you shouldn’t be.
I moved to York recently to complete an MA and didn’t know where anything was, or even where to start looking. But probably the best part of the Postgrad Fresher’s experience is that it’s understated. There’s the GSA to organise events and meet-and-greets, but the rest is up to you. Gone are the days where people will judge you too harshly or feel they have something to prove. Plus, it’s more laid-back – which is perhaps because of the increased workload.
Of course, the need to make new friends doesn’t leave as soon as you graduate. But by your second degree you’ll have learnt from your mistakes and the sense of urgency will have left, which allows you time to socialise. This isn’t the first time I’ve pitched up in a strange city: I studied in Belgium for a semester during my second year, which taught me many things, including the importance of actively seeking out events and opportunities. Even now I spend a long time sending e-mails, checking event listings and organising events on Facebook. And it’s not just because I don’t care much for clubbing: if you have a short time in a city that’s bursting with opportunities, it’s got to be worth taking some time in order to seek them out.
Start with the local newspaper. From there you have access to all manner of useful things, such as events listings. Next, check out the pubs within walking distance. I love British pubs: the good ones can offer anything from weekly quizzes to food and drink festivals, and you can get free entry to a lot of live music events.
Perhaps you’ll want a slightly more challenging way to broaden your social horizons, though. Studying abroad with other students not only gave me command of another language, but also friends and contacts from all over the world. Now we’re all on Facebook it couldn’t be easier to keep in contact with fellow students, and my experience is that people are delighted when you show an interest in their culture or language.
So the important thing is to think of yourself not just as a student at a university during your studies, but also as an inhabitant of a city. If anything, this is easier for undergrads, thanks to student loans and a friendlier workload.