How to approach your first week if you’re socially anxious

How to combat nerves when you start university, by Goldsmiths student Amera Mohamed.

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Moving away from home, starting from scratch, and not knowing anyone – the first week of uni presents challenges even the most confident of people can find daunting. So here’s some advice to see you through.

Join societies

Joining a Goldsmiths SU club or society focused around something you enjoy means you’ll be socialising with people you already have something in common with – a conversation opener and safety buffer.

And be a “yes” person – accept invitations to everything, even if you might think you have no interest in it. Sharing experiences with people, good and bad, builds relationships.

Ask questions

If you’re worried about not having anything to say to someone, ask lots of questions. Generally, people appreciate others making an effort and showing an interest, and they’ll appreciate the time you take to listen and get to know them.

Plus, you might find some common ground on things you enjoy, and you can make plans from there!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Translation: don’t spend all your time with one person. If you’re a naturally quiet person, finding one person and using them as your safety blanket is the most tempting thing to do. 

But gravitating towards one person during lectures, seminars and lunches will isolate you from other people. It can also look stand-offish from the outside and might deter people from reaching out to you.

Get a part-time job

This is more of a long-term approach, but if you manage to find a part-time job nearby, chances are that other students are going to be working there too.

Socialising at work is a lot easier than one-on-one or in a small group with people you have just met in your first lecture when you’re also probably already feeling anxious and overwhelmed. 

And if it’s a job that involves customer service, it will help your confidence and interactions with people a lot.

Also, you get paid (which is probably where I should’ve started…). Even if you don’t need money at first, you will reach a point when you’re filling out 60+ surveys at 2am for a £5 Sainsbury’s voucher, apparently.

Practise mindfulness

Take a minute to think about why you’re feeling anxious or listen to a motivational talk. 

Granted, you’re probably reading this for a quick fix, but if you deconstruct your thought patterns and look closely at the reasons why you feel anxious, you’ll realise how much you might catastrophize scenarios.

In the grand scheme of things, making a joke that no one laughs at is not going to bring your entire world crashing down around you.

The world will keep turning and eventually, even if you keep trying and failing at talking to new people, it will become easy and instinctive.

Be realistic

Keep your expectations reasonable and don’t set yourself up to fail. Welcome Week has a reputation as the time you’re supposed to find all your best friends that you’ll have for a lifetime. 

Don’t worry if you get to the end of the week and feel disappointed – you might meet and make friends then, but you’ll also make many more in the weeks, months and years after that.

And if after my insightful, life-affirming words of wisdom you still find yourself struggling with anxiety throughout university, then reach out for support at Goldsmiths.

There are people whose job it is to listen and help, so don’t let the stress of a new place, new people, exams and deadlines deprive you of what really is an amazing experience.