An introvert’s guide to surviving freshers’ with crippling social anxiety.
Do you ever feel helplessly puppeteered by a grave sense of FOMO? Like putty in the hands of a creative toddler, adolescent society is moulded, chewed up, and spat back out by that hegemonic dictator – Sir Fear of Missing Out.
If you answered yes, then there is a high chance that the prospect of Freshers’ week is a rather daunting one for you. You’re practically ordered to “have the time of your life!”, as this will be the “best week in the history of ever!” – a unique excuse to indulge in alcohol-fuelled hedonism that quite simply cannot to be missed. What is less dwelled on, however, is the undesirable companion of such hype; nerves.
For those of you who identify your spirit animal as, say, a hermit crab (guilty as charged…), the prospect of that introductory icebreaker week of Freshers’ must loom, a veritable iceberg on the horizon of your future. And you’re the titanic, heading straight for destruction.
However, this is not the case; here are a few tips I learnt along the way, to help you overcome your fears and approach university brimming with confidence:
• Everyone feels the same way. You are all starting this new – daunting – chapter of your life. You’re overwhelmed, a little bit homesick, and scared about making friends. Missing your family, and craving a homely hug, does not make you weird. It makes you human.
• You are you – no one else. Don’t alter your personality to please another person; as above, you are a human being, not a chameleon. If this person you’re trying to impress is worthy of your friendship, then they should appreciate your true colours as they are.
• Comparison is the thief of joy – avoid comparing your university experience to the golden life of “back home” (which, chances are, you’re picturing in a rose-tinted light). Give it a month, and you’ll start seeing how university can be just as great as home. Different, but great.
• It may seem like everyone has loads of friends, and you’re the lone wolf in the tangled jungle of popularity; this isn’t true! Remember, you’re all in the same boat. The majority of the people you see have probably turned up to university completely alone, and no matter how many hundreds of people they seem to be hanging out with, they still worry about being alone too! Just plaster a smile on your face (no matter how wobbly you feel inside), introduce yourself and hey, people will probably look at you and envy your popularity, just as you were doing yourself!
• Try out as many societies as you can. From pole-dancing, to quidditch, to the wine and cheese appreciation soc, there’s sure to be something that tickles your fancy. However tiring it may be, it’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people (whilst gorging on grigio and gruyere!)
• Buy a doorstop! If you’re in university accommodation, this is such a simple – but effective – way to meet people on your corridor. For all you know, your new BFF is just the other side of the hall from you! Just prop open your door to show you don’t bite, and the rest will follow.
• Managing money - it’s great to get a job early on before they’re all snapped up! Aside from the usual café/bar work, what else can students do to make ends meet?
o For a fab student job – and with the added bonus of increased fitness (no need to splash non-existent cash on a gym membership!) – Deliveroo is often looking for cyclists to deliver their take-out orders. If you fancy earning money whilst doing some hardcore cardio, definitely try applying for one of these jobs.
o Club promotion (and this will help you up a rung on that social ladder towards being a BNOC – Biggest Name on Campus!) You get free entry to (and often drinks in) the club you promote for, and can make heaps of money by barely lifting a finger. All you need to do is get a bunch of people to say your name on the guest list and voila, Aloe Blacc may need a dollar, but not you!
o If you’re bringing a car with you to uni, you can get paid simply to drive! Yep, you read that right; companies will pay you to advertise their business – all you need to do is stick an ad on your car bonnet, and you can make roughly £100 a month. Easy as 1,2,3.
So – hopefully these words of wisdom will help you on your journey from school kid to undergrad. If ever you’re panicking, it’s worth standing in front of the mirror and repeating a morale boosting mantra to yourself; you’ll feel completely foolish, awkward and embarrassed, but I guarantee it helps your subconscious with any confidence issues! Try; “you are worth it and you’re gonna do great today!” – remember, in the privacy of your own room, no one can see you to cast judgement - even if, granted, you do look like a complete loony talking to yourself in that way. I hope I’ve helped. All that’s left for you to do now is, y’know, actually plough your way through studies and get that degree...! Good luck, and bon voyage.
Charlotte R, 19. Religious Studies and Social Anthropology