Going to a new environment can be daunting for some, be it moving to a new city or country, starting a new role or becoming a student at a new institution. LSE was new to me and upon starting my master’s programme, I didn’t know anyone – not a single soul. To be honest, I hadn’t actually processed the thought of building my community. In the leading weeks and months to my first day, I was so consumed with ensuring all administrative things had been done. It was when I was en route to campus, using my Google Maps App to find the New Academic Building that the thought of making friends crossed my mind.
I feel like adulthood is rather different from childhood in the realm of friendship. Kids can be at a park, school, wherever and boldly approach one another with the universal questions ‘Can I be your friend?’ or ‘Do you want to play?’ and with a simple nod or a ‘yes’, the rest is history. Sometimes as adults building friendships are not as seamless. I would therefore like to offer some tips and advice on building a community at LSE.
1. Join the Facebook group for your master’s programme cohort
Now I’m not on Facebook – okay, I do have an account but it’s terribly inactive (inactive to the point that it displays pictures from 10-15 years ago lol). As I don’t have an active Facebook account, it did not even cross my mind to join any LSE Facebook groups. But trust me, if I was aware of this, I would have done a Facebook admin day and joined away! I say this because so many people had the opportunity to virtually meet and begin to foster relationships. Some people even met in person prior to starting their programmes. I feel this really helps pave the way for friendship building. Especially for individuals that may be more shy in person, developing a rapport online can be very beneficial.
2. Have childlike confidence
Welcome Week is a great opportunity to make as many contacts as possible. Now I won’t say it’s impossible to build friendships later on but there’s just something about Welcome Week. I guess it’s because most people are new, and most people want to meet people. Now I don’t mean you should go around asking people ‘Can I be your friend?’ I mean talk to people, perhaps you sit next to someone new, or you are standing next to someone whilst waiting to gain entry into a talk. Apply childlike confidence and introduce yourself, connect with the person through social media or exchanging numbers, and who knows they can become a great friend in the weeks and months to come. Or this might be the first and last conversation you have with them and that’s okay. My point is if you have a great conversation then connect, but it starts by saying hello.
3. Be spontaneous
The day I met most of my friends was not by any means orchestrated. It was a late afternoon after a lecture and I saw a few people I had previously connected with. They said they were going to try out a Nigerian Restaurant with a few others and asked me if I wanted to come along. I am happy I took up the offer because, through that dinner, I made some amazing friendships and met some great people.
4. Don’t limit yourself to your coursemates
Now there are great benefits in making friends with people on your course or from your department. But it’s also nice to make friend’s outside of that bubble. I had great friends on my course, but sometimes I wanted a break from discussing how many DV400 readings I had done for the week. I, therefore, went to society social events. Through these events, I met students from a range of other disciplines. It was so lovely to build such friendships and also to hear about LSE from the experiences of others. In light of this, I would recommend joining societies of interest to you or attending society socials.
5. Talk to people you wouldn’t usually talk to
Sometimes it’s easy or comforting to stick to what we know. But I believe there are many benefits in branching out of your comfort zone. As humans in relationship building sometimes we tend to gravitate to people who sound like us or look like us. Meeting new people outside of your usual network can give you so much exposure. As a Black British female student at LSE, I found I was a minority. In my first few weeks at LSE, I did not meet a Black British female student on my course (I eventually did meet my lovely friend Omotola!). Initially, this made me feel slightly out of place, however, I decided to change my perspective and I used it to my advantage. I was able to meet people from all over the world, with different interests and experiences. If I withdrew because I couldn’t find familiarity, then I would not have built some of the friendships I have today.
Overall, these are just a few tips that have helped me. But I would be interested to hear any additional advice or tips you may have in the comments below.