Words by Chloë Sibley
Not everyone at university goes down the usual route of living in halls for first year and then moving into a shared house. I’ve commuted from home for my first two years at Brunel University London, and its proven to be a lot cheaper. But one concern that some people have – how do I make friends and maintain a social life?
That Isolated Feeling
If you don’t live that close to campus, you might feel far away from your peers in both a literal and social sense. They’ve already made friends through halls or sharing houses, and it’s always harder to approach people when they’re in a large group.
An important thing to remember – university is not just about lectures, seminars and that slip of paper with your degree on it. Think about your hobbies; what you enjoy doing and what you would like to try. I simply joined a painting class that occurred every Saturday, and before I knew I had made new friends that were keen to meet up outside our weekly club. Starting a new hobby or re-joining an old one will mean you are with like-minded people in a smaller group, and therefore it is easier to approach them. Fewer people to intimidate you, and straight away you have something in common to talk about!
Make the most of Transport
As said earlier, living off-campus can be cheap. Well, until you start having to take the train or bus every day. Luckily being a student does have its frequent financial perks. Did you know with Transport for London (TFL), university students get a third off their travel costs? You can use a pay-as-you-go method with an 18+ Student Oyster photocard. Just provide evidence that you’re a student and you’re all set! Commuting to campus and events just got a whole lot better.
You’re probably wondering about what happens with your nightlife. While all your friends are out clubbing until three in the morning, you’re already home because the last train left at midnight. There is always the option of taxis, but they’re hardly a cheap option for a student, especially every time you go out. And being a student, you’re probably planning to go out quite a bit.
Obviously if you made friends nice enough to let you stay over at theirs after a night out, you’ve got nothing to fear. But you can’t always expect them to cater to you, otherwise you’ve practically moved in. What you can do is invite them to come to you sometimes and let them stay over, so you’re not always the one travelling around. Also, if you’re willing to resist the alcohol for one night you can drive home. Worst comes to worst, a good friend or relative may pick you up, but bear in mind a phone call from you at the early hours in the morning might not go down well every weekend.
Societies are your Friend
Gavan Naden highlighted in the Guardian that ‘freshers’ week is not just a booze fest’ – and this is so true. A lot of societies make themselves known at fresher’s week, so head on down to discover what appeals to you. Something a lot of universities have now is an off-campus society. During Fresher’s Week at Brunel University, I went to an event called ‘Union Off-Campus Garden Party’ and left with a few new friends. Free coffee and cake along with combating the isolated feeling of living off-campus? Definitely sounds worth a visit.
But it doesn’t stop there! The Brunel Off-Campus Society hold events all year round, from paintballing and laser tagging to nightlife events. They sometimes organise a shuttle bus or book a hotel so everyone can get home safely without having to leave early to catch a train. If you are off-campus, and especially if you are commuting, joining this type of society is something I’d highly recommend.