Hello again! Congratulations! You survived your first week of university! I think you’ll soon find it’s a wonderful place to be.
This week is a bit of a departure from my increasingly longer overloads of information. While all that stuff is important and it’s great to know what to expect, it’s also important to find a balance with the social side of university: by making friends. You may find that fellow La Trobians are great for talking to about assignments, classes, lecturers, how study time ends up being lots more time on facebook, how great that café is in the Ag… you know, the regular stuff. The truth is that finding your fit in university and succeeding here is a lot easier if you find like-minded individuals to meet up with, or have someone to chat with in class. Uni, like anything, is always more enjoyable if you know you will be catching up with a friend at the same time. This blog is centred on how to do that.
I am a person that sees university as a place for more than just classes. It’s a networking tool, a place to gain experience in my new career, a place to hang out with people who like the same things as me, and a place to just enjoy. We are truly lucky to have a beautiful campus. You only have to walk down Swanston Street in the city to be thankful for our spacious campus, the squawks of the cockatoos, the Simpson Lawn, the moat. When I walk around campus after all these years, I feel rewarded by my efforts to get the most out of this place. Because I have two cafés where I know both staff and patrons. I can usually bump into people I know in the library or near the entrance, or wandering the halls. I know several friends on campus on any given day to meet up for lunch or coffee with, and there are even quite a few staff I might stop and say hello to in passing. And usually with each new class if I look at the names on the tute lists I will recognise a few familiar people.
I wouldn’t call myself popular like in high school or a social butterfly. But I would say making friends takes a bit of effort on your part to get yourself out of your comfort zone and meeting new people. Everyone has their own life. They won’t come looking for you, like they may on facebook. There are things you can do that will help you start meeting people through uni, and with a good effort over the years, you too will have a solid group of mates to graduate with.
In first year my language classes were probably the easiest stepping stone to making friends I think. This is because we had to talk to each other all through class, as you would in beginner French – learning greetings, my name is, my age, what I’m wearing, you know, simple stuff. By comparison, getting to know people in the other classes was slower, a chat in class this week, chat as you walk to the Agora together a couple of weeks later. Looking back, three of my closest friends that I still meet with regularly were from my very first tutorials. I think the tutorials where you break into groups makes it easier, as does choosing to sit in the same seats each week which brings familiarity and therefore lets down the barriers to chat with each other. Conversely, in the tutorials where I missed a lot of classes in second semester when I was ill, I didn’t really make any lasting friendships at all, because I wasn’t there to invest the time.
Taking the next step would be to find those people you sit with in tutorials in your lecture, and sit with them there. Get there a few minutes early to spot them, or save them a seat and wave to them when they come in after you. This way, being early means time to have a brief chat before class starts.
I think it’s important to remember though, to mix it up a bit, and don’t just befriend one person, but try to get to know a few different people in each class. Listen to people’s opinions and the things they say in class, and those whose ideas align with yours, you can catch after class for a chat. This way come next semester, you are more likely to know more people in your classes than if you just befriend one from each class this semester.
I think there a lot of similarities with these three groups, so I’ll keep the message simple: similar interests. Join up with groups on campus that share your interests, whether it be the winter ski group, the tennis club, LIRA, the French Club, a religious group, whatever. Look the lists up (click the subheading links above). Then find them on facebook. Like their page and take note of what events they have coming up. Try to get to any meetings they have and consider joining the committee. Or just support their fundraisers and attend their events. If it’s a sport, go to as much training as you can, meet them in the gym or poolside for extra training, hang out for a drink after the game – whatever you need to in order to get to know members better. The more ‘present’ you are, the more you will be welcomed in, and that requires effort on your part. But at the same time, everyone has uni – classes, assignments – so don’t overdo it; if you have an assignment to write, they will understand if you stick your head in the sand for a week.
I hope you made a friend or two during O Week, especially from your mentor group. Use their email address from your mentor’s email to get in touch – if you haven’t already befriended them on facebook – I think sending a polite email asking to meet on campus could only be met with a yes or no, so there’s no harm in trying. Get to one of the catch-ups your mentor holds and use it as a chance to not only ask questions of your mentor and let them know how you are going, but also to catch up again with your tour friends, and see how they are getting on. You never know who will end up being lifelong friends – when I was 17 I met a girl during my orientation who to this day is still one of my closest friends, you know, the sort of person who just ‘gets’ you from the moment you meet. Jus’sayin.
GET INVOLVED! (click link)
Student Enrichment is a great source of extra activities worth checking out. There are opportunities for mentoring, volunteering, doing a La Trobe Award – which requires training, a leadership program, to name a few. All of these have other students doing the same thing. Getting involved with things on campus, community-based opportunities, is a great way to meet with other students of similar ambitions. Challenging and motivating each other is a great way to build up bonds.
I have made friends in all of these different ways, many who have helped me out with classes and assignments, advising on potential subjects they may have already done or saving the day when I’m stuck on an essay. Some inspire me about my career aspirations. Some are good old-fashioned drinking or café buddies. And some are just great for a catch up and a laugh in the Ag or on the Simpson Lawn on a sunny day.
The thing to remember is, many of you are coming from rural or regional areas, interstate or overseas (like me), or even from the other side of Melbourne. Not everybody comes to uni with some friends from high school or someplace else. Some of you will be the first one in your whole family to go to university, and your parents won’t understand what it’s all about. Many of you will be feeling alone and daunted by this massive campus, all these classes and work coming at you. Don’t underestimate that feeling of connecting to La Trobe beyond the books and essays. We want you here; we want you to love La Trobe as much as we do, because it is a great university. Fitting in requires a bit of effort, and especially for the shy folk, takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. But it will pay off. Just think of me now, after four years on campus. And then picture yourself in that place, saying hi to people and having friends to catch up with regularly. Belonging.
All that starts now, this week, with a hello to the person next to you in your tute.
PS Next week: learning about the library!