Department of American and Canadian Studies

Daniel Shephard

Daniel shares his worries about making friends and fitting in at university.

He talks about great places to meet people, how he broke the ice with a tray of brownies and continued to make friends throughout his first year.

Daniel wears a thick coat and smiles at the camera


How much pressure is there on A-Level students during that summer before starting uni?

"There is a lot of pressure on A-Level students to perform well. That pressure comes from a lot of places; from parents, from school and, for me, the greatest pressure came from myself. But now, it already feels like a lifetime ago! 

I had originally planned to take a gap year to spend time travelling and studying. I thought that this would be a nice bridge between school and uni, to help me get ready for the transition, but it got cancelled at the last minute. So all of a sudden I was making a last minute uni application. This made me feel very anxious. I found myself wondering 'am I really ready to go to university?' and 'have I chosen the right course?'.

My birthday is in July, and although I consider myself quite mature, I wasn't sure if I was ready for uni. It wasn't the workload that worried me, it was the social side.

I wondered how I would cope living away from home and if I'd make friends. I'd heard that Nottingham was quite a lively university, and sometimes I can be quite reserved when meeting new people, so I worried that I'd chosen the wrong uni for me."

How did you feel on the first day?

"The day before I came to uni, I felt numb and I just stopped. I told my mum that I didn't think I was ready to come. It was such a big change to move away from home and everyone I'd ever known. I didn't have any friends coming to this campus so I felt really, really anxious.

Upon arrival, my first priority was to make my room feel like home, and then once that felt comfortable, it was time to go out and meet other people. Previously, I'd chatted online (in the WhatsApp group for Nottingham offer-olders) with someone doing my course who was also in the same halls as me, so I went to go and find her. She invited me to join her and some other people in the garden and we all got chatting. I'm still friends with some of those people now.

I'd baked some brownies to share, they were a great ice-breaker!

How did you make friends?

"One of my biggest worries was around finding 'my people'. But when I started to think about it more realistically, I looked up how many students there were in Nottingham. Google told me there were 44,000! I figured there must be plenty of people within that number who I'd like to make friends with. 

Being a campus uni really helps in making friends, you're constantly running into people you recognise.

I made friends in halls, then more through my course and more again through societies. 

My department organised welcome events in the first week where we got to mingle and chat to the other students on the course. Your course is obviously one of the key places to meet people and as you're all there due to a shared interest you already have something in common. In addition to that, arts courses include a lot of seminars and discussion so you get to know each other well.

Societies were also a great way to meet people. I joined a few societies at the Welcome Fair, and although I haven't kept up with them all, I found the History Society a really good way to get to know people. They organise plenty of socials, but this spring I went to Prague with them where I go to know people better and I made some of my best friends through the experience.

I've also made friends through working as a student ambassador for the uni. It's a great job as you end up meeting and talking to all different types of people.

Don't worry if you don't make amazing friends in your first week, month or even semester. I've continued making friends throughout my first year.

I think everyone feels anxious to a certain degree when starting university and everyone's situation is different. Some people come up with friends from school, some people start without knowing anyone, some people don't live in halls. That said, it's much easier to make new friends at university than at school. There are so many people here that just by following your interests, you'll meet like-minded people. People here are very open, far more than I expected."

Where did you find support when you needed it?

"I have to mention my history personal tutor, Peter Russell, as he's been outstanding. He runs one of our modules, so I see him every week and we can always go to him with any concerns. When I have my one-to-one sessions with him, he always asks how I am, how things are going and you get the feeling he really cares. I'm a worrier and always worried about my essays and wonder if I've done them well enough. But talking to Peter actually really helped my mental health. Accessing that support and knowing I was on the right track made a real difference."


Daniel's advice for anyone worried about making friends at uni

  1. Don't worry about worrying! Worrying about starting uni is natural, it shows that you care.
  2. Everyone is looking to meet new people, don't feel like you're the only one.
  3. Be open to making new friends everywhere. There are so many ways to meet new friends: in halls, on your course and in societies.
  4. Don't get disheartened if it doesn't happen immediately, there is plenty of time.


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Department of American and Canadian Studies

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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