University is busy, and making friends is hard. Believe me, as a budding first year student, I get the struggle. It took a long time to get the friends I have now.
Even so, I still struggle with this aspect, and I know a lot of students do, too. Then, how do you move beyond that meaningless small talk and make some deeper friendships? Here are some techniques on how to make lasting friendships:
Sit beside someone who is sitting alone.
I like to call this “selecting your victim”(just kidding…). Find someone in the lecture hall who’s sitting alone and just sort of staring at their book, or scrolling through Tumblr on their phone, or flipping through their notes. Believe me, they may look intimidating or busy, but they’re likely craving some regular human interaction just like you. I know because I am this person in math class, looking at all of the happy friends while sitting by myself (I had recently lost the only friends group I had in math class and have become a drifter).
To do this, just slink beside them, give them a nod as they look up at you boredly, and open your notes. Act natural, and they’ll never suspect your true intentions.
Initiate small talk.
Yes, this includes the weather. This is when you lean over and initiate the tiniest and least intimidating of conversations, small talk. My personal favourites:
1. “Isn’t it freezing today?”
2. “So, what program/year/course are you in? …Wow, that’s fancy, sounds interesting!”
3. “Isn’t (insert school/academic related activity) so annoying?”
4. “Hey, do you have the solution for (insert assignment or question)?”
5. “So, what are you planning to major in then?….Hey, I heard the job prospects there were (good/fair/bad).”
Etc, etc, you get the point. Remember: only ask them their name once the conversation is done. Makes it less formal and awkward, plus it sounds like you’re sealing the deal.:
“Oh, by the way, I didn’t catch your name. I’m Aqsa, and you?”
Get their contact information.
Whether it be their Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp, email, or their regular old phone number, find a way to get in contact with them. I usually get this by offering to help them with schoolwork (which I always follow through with of course!). If you’re connecting outside of class, then you have a greater potential to be friends, especially if your text conversations begin to include unacademic content.
Sit next to them again next class. Wave to them in the hallways. Make more small talk. This involves interacting with them again and again, regularly, so they get used to your presence (and vice-versa). Become comfortable with each other, even if you begin just as “that other person who is in my class” or as an acquaintance.
Go beyond small talk.
Friendships cannot flourish unless there’s some sort of emotional connection; this is the primary reason people seek out company. Start introducing deeper topics that makes you both learn more about each others’ opinions and feelings. These go beyond typical “Who, What, Where, When” questions and enter the “Why” and “How” questions, which is deeper territory. Here are some of my favourites:
1. “What is your opinion on _____? …I agree/disagree, because ______.
2. “Why did you choose to come to university? How do you think it will change you as a person?”
3. Why do you think people are so materialistic? What do you think is the purpose of brand names anyways, do you think they’re effective?”
4. “Why do you think that?”
5. “Do you consider yourself self-aware?”
These questions get both of you pondering and strike up an interesting discussion. It’s a great way to bond emotionally and learn more about someone else.
Invite them to study.
Now you’re moving beyond classroom setting and starting to meet them outside of lectures, but you’re still in that comfortable “academic territory” that makes it less awkward.
This is your opportunity to get a little more cozy with them and build a lot of trust. Share notes, give tips, explain concepts, and reel them in with your vast knowledge of the course material. If you’re studying together, you’re communicating trust, wisdom, and reliability. Not only that, but it’s a win-win situation: both of you get to learn something new and improve your education, while also making friends!
Invite them for Tim Horton’s.
I’m a firm believer in the bonding power of tea and coffee. Sitting across from someone while sharing a delicious cuppa is the best way to bond (in my humble opinion). You can chat about literally anything, or just sit in silence enjoying the light aroma of your steeped tea or the strong undertones of your double double.
As an added note: taking someone out to Tim Horton’s isn’t only affordable and convenient, but it’s the subtle, Canadian way of saying “you are valued and I want to be your friend”.
Congratulations! You’re now unofficial friends!