SHELTERED STUDENT 2 – Making friends and student Christmas hacks

words | Nicole Macedo


In life I have made the conscious choice of surrounding myself with lots of people. I like having a big group of friends, it allows for versatility and the ability to more often than not find someone willing to accompany you to a radical new fitness class, obscure vegan restaurant, pedantic informational talk, or impulsively accept your initiation to go clubbing at 1am on a Wednesday night. After a few solitary years in comprehensive school, and the realisation, post A Levels, that most of my friends had up and left me to go off to university, I really forced myself on people. Through the nature of tightly formed bonds with colleagues and clinging on to groups of friends of friends, I have successfully mustered up an impressive cluster of close companions. Moving to London and having to commence that process all over again has definitely proved the most taxing part of this whole life switch. It turns out the ideals I’d spun in my head in the months leading up to coming to university were pretty grandiose, and for the most part, have been left unfulfilled; but that’s ok, that’s an issue I’ve long battled with. People are frequently telling me to lower my expectations, or I’ll be doomed with disappointment, and I’m always so defensive towards them. I’m an idealist, and very much most of the time live in an imaginary world in my head. Now, this is by no means a self-pity party that I’ve invited you all to in an attempt to spark new friendships, I just thought I’d start with something a little bit self-deprecating and probably quite funny to anyone who is not me.

Nicole with new friends
Nicole with new friends

Best friend algorithm


Now, in all honesty, I have not yet made a real proper effort to make new friends. I have attended flat parties in my halls of residence, I’ve joined in on trips to the pub with flatmates, I’ve deliberately sat next to new faces in lectures, and I’ve dragged myself to a myriad of fitness classes at the campus gym. Call me negative (people often do) but it seems to me that everyone here has already made their friends for life and couldn’t possibly fit any more names into their iPhone contact list. Maybe I’m just not sure how to approach people, or I’m going about it in the wrong way, or maybe, as my flatmate frequently tells me, I wreak of desperation. I’m wondering if there is a particular formula or algorithm to adapt to all my first time conversations with people that will automatically see the interaction evolve into the exchanging of phone numbers and the promise of weaving matching bestie bracelets for each other. I’m working on it though, I’ve expressed interest in at least forty upcoming Facebook events advertising super cool and quirky goings on around Campus. There are many. The arty and creative types are rife. I love it, but it has left me with an ever so slight bitter taste of inferiority. You’d be astounded by how many super zany characters unconventionally named Fire and Africa I have met. All of which have grown up in obscure parts of the world, amidst unheard of cultures with a fascinating myriad of life stories under their belts, at the tender age of something early twenty. The gradience on my ‘special snowflake’ scale is blurring more and more as the days go by.

Wondrous city

On an ever more positive note, the City of London is growing on me more and more every day. Scholarly English writer and dictionary inventor Samuel Johnson very accurately pointed out that ‘no man, at all intellectual, is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’. This is the city of opportunity! Every day I take the tube I take in more new faces than I would in three weeks of living in Gibraltar. Who even knew this many people existed? The vastness of the world is a concept I’ve really only just come across, at the embarrassingly ripe age of twenty-three. My favourite spots in the city range from Hyde Park, to Regent’s Canal, Borough Street Market and the very apex of the Gherkin. In almost two months I have touched on an impressive number of boroughs, chortled through a spectrum of stand-up shows, bore through a great many classical paintings, and chased an almost embarrassing number of squirrels. I almost feel over stimulated, whilst also having developed a new found anxiety over not achieving as much as I could be or seizing every possible opportunity. There are most certainly worse anxieties to develop.

Regent's Canal
Regent’s Canal

Lectures and seminars play a relatively leading role in student life, as you’d imagine. They involve a lot of group interaction and personal interpretation of texts and literary themes, along with obsessing over essay questions and essay writing skills. All the studious discussions about the homoerotic nature of some of Shakespeare’s male characters, most blatantly observed in the relationships between the two leads in Othello. It’s such a grown up learning environment, until someone is caught out for not reading the necessary books and they shrink slowly back into the primary school child who had all the intentions of doing their homework, but really had no real desire to. It’s hard to face the disappointment of not being able to give an eloquent response to our lecturer, particularly when he has all the familiarity of Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s kind and soft spoken Watcher.

Student Christmas hacks

With Christmas quickly looming, I’m fully embracing London’s nature of over excessive holiday spirit. I have fourteen years of drab, mild Christmases in Spain to make up for. London offers a truly magical sight throughout the winter, glittery tree lights, icy grey skies, raw, red fingers, and layers upon layers of fake cotton wool snow draped across every shop window. For those, like me, who have to sufficiently lower their budget for Christmas spending this year, here are a few useful tips to keep you going; it is most certainly acceptable to buy family Christmas presents at Aldi, as long as you eradicate any suggestion that the items have indeed been bought in Aldi. Do recycle presents; this is undoubtedly Christmas’ most worthy life hack. Finally, do not get wrapped up in big scale community events, like the Oxford Street Christmas lighting, because you are doomed to suffer sore disappointment, when you are stuck half a mile from the stage with a sea of equally as disappointed and cold people wedged in front and behind you. Also, I have found that with regards to booking flights home during the Christmas period, the best possible dates to do so are in the days just leading up to the 25th and just following. Finally, if you find you may have to cull some people from your present list, again for the purpose of saving costs, friends should most certainly get the chop above your dog. Always get your dog a Christmas present.