Monday 26 September 2016

Friends matter - and college is a great place to make new ones

Catherine O'Connor

Published 17/08/2015 | 06:00

Catherine O'Connor of Trinity College Dublin, author of 'Cracking the College Code'
Catherine O'Connor of Trinity College Dublin, author of 'Cracking the College Code'

No doubt you are looking forward to the next stage of becoming more independent, having more freedom, studying something new and exciting, meeting new people, doing what you want to do.

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You might also be a little worried by these first steps into the unknown. The pressures of making new friends, and of remaining loyal to old ones, can bring on anxieties and fears.

These are perfectly normal feelings and for most will pass without too much complication, welcoming a fresh start. However, some will struggle with these concerns and by the many academic challenges of college life.

Friends are important. The want to belong to a community of people is great within all of us. At college, you will meet lots of new people and make lasting friendships.

These friendships will shape and define your student life, make the experience worthwhile, be a source of fun and relief, provide a crutch in difficult times and act as a gauge on your own progress.

The comfort scaffolding of the second-level school order, discipline and familiarity is no longer available at college and you, the student, have to take control and responsibility and make all the decisions about your social development in quite a short period of time.

Spare a thought for your parents too. Probably, for the first time in almost 18 years, they will not know anything about your new friends and acquaintances or their activities. They may never meet these people or indeed their families, a practice somewhat alien to the comfortable set up of second-level school where there are endless opportunities to meet your friends at family or community events and/or sporting and school events.

By the very nature of course delivery at college, you will be required to interact on a daily basis at lectures and in other academic activities.

You may work alone and in groups but you will need the support of fellow students to stay the course, hence the need to build a network quickly. Building a network requires interaction which extends far beyond the lecture theatres.

College clubs and societies are an integral part of the solution regarding adapting to the new social scene and developing networks in college. Following a sporting interest from the sideline can be as much fun as being part of a team.

Societies engage in furthering the academic and social interests of their members and are involved in charity work and fundraising activities. You can retain your current interests within these clubs or societies but, more importantly, you can develop new ones. Find one to suit you.

College life offers more than an academic experience. It allows you to expand and develop socially in an environment which encourages freedom of expression and movement.

Make it happen - get out there and get involved.

Catherine O'Connor, Trinity College Dublin, Education Consultant and Author of 'Cracking the College Code', a practical guide to making the most of the first year college experience, published by CJ Fallon Ltd. Available at all good bookshops and online at: www.crackingthecollegecode.ie.

Irish Independent

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