This is a continuation of the 3-part article series by Alyzza. You can read part 2 here.
Now on to the topic of friends and relationships.
You will definitely meet more people in university, either from your hall, faculty or CCAs. If you are staying in hall, they will essentially become your second family because you will inevitably see them more often than your actual family.
As I mentioned previously, I initially wanted to be a ‘phantom’ or lurker. However, things didn’t turn out as I expected.
From my experience, regardless of whether you decide to be a phantom, you will never truly be alone. Independent? Sure. But you will always be surrounded by so many people that it’s hard to actually find time when you’re truly alone.
Forming new friendships
I wanted to be a phantom when I first entered university, but I failed within the first day. Once I moved into hall, my orientation groups would schedule meetups with one another. Sure, it may seem like a small group, but through drinking sessions I found myself socialising with more of my hall mates. Eventually, I started to have lunch or dinner with different people whom I met through either my hall or faculty orientation.
This is coupled with the fact that I also started to make friends outside through my CCA, and of course meeting up with my JC friends. By the end of the academic year, I would say that I have spent at least 90% of my time surrounded by different friends, contradicting my initial desire to be a phantom.
Still, I suggest finding a group that you can trust and hang around with. It’s always good to have a support system surrounding you regardless of whether they’re from your hall, faculty, or CCA. These will be the people you can access easily, and it will be good to have people you can trust and rely on around you, and vice versa, because you never know when you will need a helping hand.
Maintaining old friendships
Another thing to note is that while university life is filled with consistent socialising, it may be very hard to plan meetups with your older friends. I have friends whom I have been close to for a long time before attending university. However, on top of my different CCAs, coursework, and other commitments, it was difficult to find a time where each of our schedules did not clash. Sometimes, meetups were indefinitely postponed or sacrificed in favour of other commitments. I’ve had friends whom I met up with once or twice during the whole semester and know of others who were so busy they did not see their family for months.
Being in the same hall, major, faculty, or CCA as your friends will not necessarily help that much either. In fact, you’re already considered lucky if you see them once every few weeks. Moreover, meetups may not be as fun or as chill — they may even become quiet study sessions or just a quick catchup before class.
This may sound scary, but it’s the truth. You will eventually adapt and find what works for you. There’s this sense of tacit understanding that both working adults and university students share regarding personal time and socialising. Everyone will respect it if you won’t be able to meet up as much because of other responsibilities, or even when you just need pure uninterrupted personal time.
It will get easier to navigate over time, and you will always find people who care about you that will become your chosen family. There will always be a way to maintain your friendships. What’s important is that you should take the time to step back and take a break from socialising when you need it.
Toxic Culture and Rumours?
I think all of us have had our fair share of toxic culture and rumours regardless of where you have studied. There may even be stereotypes that Hall X, CCA Y or Major Z has some sort of toxic culture/people. I hate to break it to you, but there’s virtually always toxic people around regardless of what reputation the school, major, CCA or hall might have. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a truly ‘pure’ community free from any problems. If you think you’ve found one, they’re probably just more skilled in keeping their dirty laundry hidden.
I guess it’s also a double-edged sword to be actively socialising. There will be people who don’t like you or are ‘snakes’ and talk about you behind your back. The problem is that now, you may see them everyday from class to CCA, and even worse, hall. This essentially means that there are fewer ways to ‘escape’ and ignore them because of how closely they are involved in your lives.
For example, I remember a weird period where people suddenly distanced themselves from me. I was confused because I didn’t think I did anything differently. I talked to the same people, acted the same way, and treated everyone the same. However, I am not one to beg someone to stay. If you don’t want to be my friend, okay, I won’t force you to stay being my friend. I will give you space. Hence, I never understood nor tried to figure out the reason why people started to pull away from me. I just thought that either they were busy or did not think we clicked as friends. However, it didn’t occur to me how fast gossip would spread in university.
It was only one day when I was confronted that I learnt that my name was being dragged through the mud because I was associated with somebody. I will not go into detail, but some things were said about me by somebody, and the fact that I was friends with another person caused others to drift away from me. Basically, they had no problem with me, just that person. However, what I had a problem with was that they expected me to know what was going on and decided to wait months before confronting me.
There is no more bad blood now, and we have all made up and moved on. However, I still find myself irritated by the fact that these people who were supposedly my friends would just expect me to know what was going on and wait months to talk to me. I wished that they had confronted me about it sooner to keep me in the loop, and warn me about it.
I can’t change the past, but what I can advise you on is that you are not responsible for somebody else’s actions. No matter what happens, if you know you’re innocent, you will be fine. I am a firm believer in karma, and I wish no harm on anyone, but if you do something bad, somehow you will have to face the consequences.
Furthermore, it taught me how to handle my friendships, and how I present myself to others so that I can live my life honestly. I would say that right now, I’m living life in a way that even if someone were to make a baseless rumour about me, everyone would just immediately know it’s fake because of how candid I am with who I am, regardless of how private I had become.
Another thing about rumours spreading is that it could easily spread within not only the hall, but also the school. You may find yourself knowing the drama of someone you don’t even know from a different hall, year, and faculty from you.
Rumours start so quickly and easily. It could even be something so innocent that you told a friend that became misconstrued and spread around. Eventually it becomes more convoluted as it gets passed around. I’m not saying not to trust anyone or steer clear from a certain type of person, because you never know who this person may be. I’m just saying to be careful with who you let in, and don’t trust people too fast because the grapevine is wide and toxic. It’s better if you don’t find yourself entangled in it, but if you do, the best response is to continue living your life.
You don’t owe strangers an explanation. Cut off whoever spread those rumours, explain yourself to who you need to explain yourself to, and focus on yourself. Like Beyonce said, ‘always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.’ It’s your life, if it doesn’t affect you much, just focus on your success and not on the people who have nothing better to do but spread untruths about your life.
Conclusion and My Advice for Freshies:
Overall, I would say my past one year in university was eventful in many ways. You are bound to make both happy and sad memories, but at least with each mishap, you can learn how to adapt. I wish I knew more things before I went in to make my transition easier, and hopefully this little ‘expose’ helps you gauge more of the realities of university. I’m sure we have all heard stories before and thought that it would never happen to us, but always expect the unexpected.
University life isn’t easy, and while Year 1 definitely has the easiest experience in terms of course load, transitioning into a new environment is difficult for everyone. Just remember to trust yourself and do what you need to do to live your version of a peaceful life during university.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to struggle with living alone, maintaining friendships and being occasionally caught up in drama; it’s a part of life. However, always remember, you are not alone, and that it’s okay to struggle.
My number one takeaway from all of these experiences is that even in this fast-paced world, it’s okay to take a step back for myself. If I can’t support myself enough to slowly let go of some of the pressures I face, who then will lift these burdens off of my shoulders? There are enough things to stress you out. Don’t let yourself be another one.