Starting at a new university or beginning a new course can be daunting, especially if you don’t know anyone before you arrive. Meeting new people at university is part of the experience, but you can give yourself a head-start by forming friendship groups online before you get there.
Joelle Owusu, a second-year student at the University of Aberdeen, says: “I managed to chat online to students who were doing the course I was interested in. Some were very kind and emailed me honest accounts of their university experience.”
Madalina Ciobanu, a student in her final year of a journalism and public relations degree at UWE Bristol, says: “Social media was very helpful because it helped me to interact with fellow students before actually starting the course.
“I met two of my current flatmates, and coursemates, thanks to social media and I even travelled with one of them to university when I arrived in the UK.”
Facebook is a good place to start as it can be a relaxed and fun way to talk to people. Students can make friends and meet people before the course starts by requesting to join a Facebook group.
“I used Facebook and it was particularly useful,” says Ciobanu. “The Facebook group I joined organised a prize competition for future students, which I won. It was nice to feel like part of the community beforehand.”
If you’re not on Facebook, then you can meet people through other social media sites, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Maria Suessmilch is about to start a master’s at Kings College London and has made friends through Instagram.
She says: “I thought I’d give Instagram a try. I found someone on there on my course so I messaged her and asked if she’d be willing to talk to me. We emailed and ended up speaking and that helped me to make the decision about where to go.”
Suessmilch also made friends by attending an online open day. Some universities also have buddy schemes, where they give you an email address of an older student to connect with before the start of the course.
When meeting people online it’s important to stay safe. Colum McGuire, vice-president of the National Union of Students (NUS), says: “The internet provides everyone with an easy and fun platform for making new friends and finding like-minded people from across the globe. But it’s important to remember that people can sometimes paint a false picture of themselves online, and students should bear this in mind when engaging with new people.
“Students should be cautious when giving out personal information online, and they shouldn’t feel pressured into doing anything, or provide information on things they aren’t comfortable with.”