Written by: Zoe Zeng
Orientation programmes are almost part and parcel of university life, acting as a rite of passage for freshmen before they officially dive into the next few years of tertiary education. To get a taste of university life, NTU offers an extension lineup of orientation activities and programmes for freshmen before the official commencement of the academic year, namely the Big 4, hall and faculty orientation programmes.
While such programmes aren’t compulsory for students, many can’t imagine themselves missing out on them. After all, such programmes are where freshies usually learn their way around campus and meet new friends and seniors. How else will you get to know your uni kakis, or who to sit with during lectures and most importantly, your mala buddies? But as any introvert or homebody could attest, playing sports and games or socialising with a huge group of strangers for days on end may sound like a nightmare.
I was in this exact position earlier in July; feeling apprehensive about signing up for orientation programmes and worried that I’ll have to spend my university years without an active social life. In addition to that, I also don’t stay on campus, so you could only imagine how I’m situated on the extreme end of the spectrum.
Knowing that there are people who attend all three camps back to back, I assumed that many of my classmates would already be familiar with one another, so I braced myself to be that awkward classmate. However, just when I thought my university life was going to be obsolete, I realised that it’s not that hard or scary to make friends in university without attending any orientation activities.
If you were in the same apprehensive boat with me (no worries, you’re really not alone) and didn’t attend any orientation programmes, here’s the low-down on how to forge strong friendships with your schoolmates and have an active life.
Listen and Observe
When people are in an orientation setting, they naturally feel much more inclined to share things about themselves, especially when playing orientation bonding games. It’s easy to bond over favourite activities and TV shows, perhaps even to share that embarrassing memory you’ve never told anyone, since everybody else is doing the same.
However, things are slightly different in classes and lectures, where everyone is focused on taking down notes, which is why staying observant is important.
Want to approach someone, but not sure how? Take notice of the tiny details before you strike up a conversation with them. For example, the type of bubble tea drink your classmate brings to every class or the type of sneakers they wear, can very well serve as potential conversation starters.
I’ve once struck up a conversation with a classmate by simply commenting on the Tokyo Ghoul keychain she had hanging from her pencil case. It’s not a particularly obscure reference, but since anime is her guilty pleasure as much as it is mine, we certainly hit it off instantly.
2. Take Initiative
Don’t wait for the perfect moment, take the moment and make it perfect. – Zoey Sayward
Remember that everyone can be shy and self-conscious in a classroom setting, so making the first move can really go a long way. It can be the simplest things, such as texting your seat mate for help on an assignment or casually asking a tutorial mate if they want to grab lunch before the next class.
By breaking the ice first, you’re essentially encouraging further conversation. Plus, it always helps to form an impression of being approachable and friendly. Even if you’re really nervous on the inside, fake it till you make it! You’ll soon grow to realise that it’s really easier than it sounds to initiate a conversation because the other party could also be wondering if they should approach you first.
On the other hand, offering to help your peers out whenever possible is also a great way to get the ball rolling. I’ve learned that the smallest of gestures, such as simply saying hi to someone or lending someone a pen, can really break boundaries and get them to warm up to you.
3. Create Opportunities
Another effective way to meet people beyond the classroom is by joining a CCA or an interest group. With over 120 student organisations in NTU, there’s bound to be something you like.
As I’ve always had a penchant for writing, I signed up for NTUSU’s Editorial Committee and subsequently got to know the writers and editors of the team through meetings, workshops and by working on stories together. It may seem like extra work to those who aren’t big on CCAs, but by joining one that you have passion for, you’re instantly exposed to people who have similar interests as yourself.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are many activities which offer opportunities to meet interesting and unique individuals outside of your typical social circles.
An example is by doing volunteer work, which puts you in close proximity to people you may not usually have a chance to engage with, such as young children or the elderly. Clubs such as the Welfare Services Club (WSC) hold volunteering sessions on a regular basis and provide an umbrella of voluntary activities and social work to all students.
Most importantly, many freshies who join interest groups have yet to meet each other. This means that no cliques have been formed yet, and everyone is generally more open to making new connections. Even though it’s almost halfway through the semester, it’s never too late to start!
have plenty of confidence in yourself, especially when first initiating a conversation. The person you’re thinking of approaching might actually have the same intention as well. As difficult as it is, try not to let a fear of rejection stop you. After all, the worst that can happen is that they say no. But if their response is favourable, who knows? It could be the start of a budding new friendship.
The NTUSU Editorial Committee is looking for guest designers to be part of our fun-filled team. If you’d like to join us in building U-Insight together and expand your skills, sign up at this link or write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org now!