How do you make friends after leaving Uni? I was part of a group of people chatting about this question last week and was impressed by the honesty of the person asking the question. It clearly hit a nerve.
A few days before that I’d been at an interfaith event where there was a recognition that the student years provide an unique opportunity for forming friendships with those from different backgrounds with different beliefs. The sense in the room was to make the most of the precious opportunity for these kind of friendships that university brings.
I’d guess that most students come to university with the expectation that they might be about to meet the people who will be their friends for life. They might have heard stories from friends or family about how important those relationships became for them, perhaps even meeting their future partner. I have no idea what the statistics are, but I imagine that this is true for lots of people.
For those who are continuing students, make the most of it! If you want to make new friends this is a good time to try a new sport or activity or society, or to just get to know the people around you. If you find it hard to put yourself ‘out there’, at least you can be sure that there are many others who feel the same. (And while we’re here, can I just take a moment to recommend Brew@2, which happens every Tuesday afternoon in term time in the Chaplaincy building? It’s the kind of space where you can find yourself in a meaningful or fun conversation with people you’ve just met. And there’s homemade cake.)
But what about those who are graduating? Is this it? Have you already made (or not) all the important friends that you will ever make in life? I can only speak from my own experience, but let me assure you that you haven’t. Outside of work (where I still think it might be possible to make friends, depending on your employment) I’ve found life-enhancing relationships with neighbours, while travelling, as a patient in hospital, in my faith community, as a volunteer, at the school gates, taking classes or doing exercise. I think you will probably find people that you love as much as the friends you love now, hard though that might be to imagine.
You’ve already learned some of the toughest lessons about getting on with people, just by being a student. When, as a first year student, you suddenly find yourself having to get along with flatmates you have only just met, annoying or fun as that might have been, you were gaining excellent relationship skills. When you were forced to do group projects, which no doubt included people with various attitudes and work ethics, you were gaining credentials in working with people who aren’t like you. (I don’t think group projects exist just to torture people - there are potentially big take-aways from the experience.)
In the Chaplaincy we’ve loved seeing friendships form before our very eyes, to see a recognition of things in common and a celebration of difference. Continue to be the person who befriends the stranger, who looks out for the lonely, who includes those who are struggling, and you will be blessed. Be present for people. Be curious. And imagine a future where people quite different to you will be present and curious, too.