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July 08, 2018


Greetings Auntie,
I am a first-year medical student in a university. I had heard that people find it hard adjusting to university life and now I know why.

Auntie, I’m the kind of person who believes in the mantra “spread happiness”. I believe we all give off vibes and that we can sense them too. I sense negative vibes when I am surrounded with my friends. I always find competition in the tone and appreciation is very rare. Being a person who gives 100 percent to friendships, I find it agonising when I don’t get even half of it in response. Moreover, you know how a healthy environment is necessary for one to grow and learn? How can I achieve anything when there is no harmony among us? The tricky part is nobody shows that they aren’t really into this friendship and are dragging it for reasons unbeknownst to me but, every now and then, I get hints from their behaviour — especially from one friend — so much so that all my energy for the day is drained.

My mother is of the opinion that I should change my circle of friends. But I don’t know how. I don’t want to be the one causing hurt or breaking the group.

It has been six months and I’ve still not adjusted.
Kindly help.
Stressed-out Optimistic

Dear Stay Optimistic,
Making friends is one of the biggest concerns for new university students. You do realise that you aren’t the only one who is finding it difficult to settle into a group, don’t you? Nearly everyone is in the same boat as you, trying to find their tribe and adjust. You say it’s been six months and you have still not adjusted and Auntie wants to say, “Exactly! It has only been six months.” Give your friendships time and listen to your mom. You don’t have to get tied to one group of friends if that is not working for you. It is perfectly okay to change your friends and you don’t always have to belong to a group. Sometimes you can find just the one friend that you like hanging out with.

Since your current friends’ group is not working out for you, start looking around actively to join another group. Your university must have online groups. Track what is happening there and attend events that interest you on campus as a way to pursue your interests and meet new people.

Since everyone in the university is looking to make friends, it is perfectly okay to start conversations with new people. Talk to a person sitting next to you in a lecture. You are already in the same class, so that is something you have in common with them. You can begin by talking about the course itself and see where that leads.

You could also join a club or society that interests you. That should be the fastest way to find friends you have something in common with.

Finally, let go of the pressure to make lifelong friends right away. There is no formula to making friends. You need to just go with the flow, which means paying attention to your gut when it tells you that these friends are not the right ones for you. Move on and find another group. If that doesn’t feel right, find another one that does. Very few people end up becoming lifelong friends with the people they meet on their first day or first semester in university. It is still early days. Remove the pressure and just do what feels right.

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Published in Dawn, EOS, July 8th, 2018