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Before you go to uni, you have this idea in your head, this perfect idea, of how everything is going to go down. You're going to meet the person of your dreams, join two or three clubs and societies, keep your room and house completely spotless, and you're going to do exceedingly well in your degree. Either that, or you have this nightmare of an idea, one where you have no friends, you don't understand a single thing about your course, and everything is generally terrible for you. And I can tell you now that both of these images are far from the reality.
We usually walk into university hoping that this fresh new life is going to be rich with countless opportunities and open doors to new aspects in our lives. And, to be honest, that's completely true. There's an endless list of new things you can do at university and there's really nothing stopping you from doing it. The only reason that you sometimes forget to take up these opportunities is that you're still the same old you, who likes relaxing by themselves watching Netflix in their room or going drinking instead of writing an article for the uni newspaper. And it's also scary! You've already been thrown into this world of strangers, and it's scary enough making friends in your course and at your accommodation without the added stress of getting yourself into a club or society. But it's okay to just be you at university, without a list of accomplishments and titles to your name. It's okay to just do your degree, hang out with your friends, and still be happy.
When I started university two years ago, my anxiety still as budding and powerful in my head as ever, I went into stealth mode. I physically forced myself to go into the lounge and talk to my flatmates, I pushed out hellos and small talk to strangers on my course, no matter how scary I found it. Sometimes I'd feel like my throat was blocked because I was so nervous at the thought of being the conversation initiator for the first time in my life. Nights out would worry me at first, and in the first week of university I even missed out on one because I just felt rubbish. I hated that I'd missed out on something that my other flatmates had enjoyed. But when you miss something—a class, a party, a meet up—it's never as bad as you think. You walk back into class the next day, or you go to the next party, and it's all okay. You're all okay. Because sometimes it's okay to think 'I just can't today.' I'll say it for the record, it is so, completely, unbelievably OKAY to feel like that.
But you want to know something? You want to know something that is absolutely, undoubtedly the truth? Every single person around you is in the exact same position. Sure, that girl might be louder than you, or that guy might find it easier to crack jokes, but inside they're all just as worried about making friends and settling in as you are. And I can absolutely promise you that. I look at the friends I have now and remember how different it was when I first met them. We were all smiles and grins trying to be likeable to each other, but once we all opened up and were ourselves, it all became easier. There are no bitchy cliques in university. There are no bullies who sit in the back of the class and throw paper planes at your head. Everyone just wants to have a fun group of friends, good enough grades to show their parents, a nearby supermarket that stocks Ben and Jerry's, and a generally enjoyable life at uni.
And the making friends part? The part that literally everyone is scared of? It couldn't have been easier. Because everyone just wants to make friends! Everyone wants to talk to you just as much as you want to talk to them. It's okay to be scared, it's okay to be shy, but it's also okay to think screw it and say hello to someone. It's okay to talk, because everyone just wants to talk and build connections. I haven't met a single person I really don't get along with in university, and that's because we're all just normal, everyday people. No matter how we dress, or what we study, or what we enjoy, we're all just strangers who want to become more. And that's exactly what will happen for you. Above your obvious nerves, past your natural fears, just look forward to it, because it's amazing.