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10 ways to find new friends at university

Written by: UPSU

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Often one of the first things new students think about when they accept their university offer is: ‘How am I going to meet people and make new friends?’

There are many different ways to meet new people and form meaningful connections at university. If you are a new student who has opted to live in student halls, you may find friendships within your new house mates and others who live in your student accommodation building. You may also make connections with individuals who are on the same university course as you who share a similar field of interest and career aspirations. However, this is not always the case, and if you don’t find people you want to socialise with either in your student home or on your course, there are many other ways you can find communities and friends whilst at university. 

Here are just some of the ways you can find new friends…


1. Join a student group.

We support over 100 student-led sports clubs and societies, from archery to a cappella, medical society to Minecraft: there is student group for everyone! 

Sports clubs provide a great way to boost your fitness, make lifelong friends, and provide a great form of stress release from your university studies. They are an opportunity to engage with others who are interested in the same sports as you and meet regularly to socialise outside of sporting activities. Whether you just join for fun and to learn a new skill, or whether you decided to progress and compete at a regional and national levels, sports clubs are a great option if you want to feel part of a supportive team and build lasting friendships.


“Sport has really benefited me this year, as it has for the last 5 years I have been a part of a sports club with UPSU. It has allowed me to have scheduled time away from my studies and make friends outside of my degree. I have found friends for life through the club and have managed to have experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without a sports club. It has been detrimental to my university experience.” – Cheer 


Societies help bring people together who have shared hobbies, interests, or even similar career goals. Being part of a society is being part of a community and provides a great foundation for friendships to form through plenty of opportunities to socialise. Depending on which society you join, they often allow for academic peer-to-peer support and are a good place to find a study buddy or project teammate.

You can browse all sports clubs and societies on the UPSU website and purchase any memberships you may require here.


    Photo: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) Club


2. Regularly take part in one of our Give It A Go activities. 

The Give It A Go (GIAG) programme is a primarily a timetable of either free or low cost activities, including sports such as rock climbing, badminton and yoga, which take place either on the University of Plymouth campus, in our SU Gym, or in local leisure centres. 

These weekly activities allow you to try something different in a friendly, relaxed environment with no commitment, and provide a great opportunity to step away from academic work for a few hours and get some physical exercise!

This year the GIAG team worked hard to organise more activities than ever before and started arranging more special events like day trips, workshops, and a host of other activities either in Plymouth or its surrounding areas. This has included trips to the Eden Project, Paignton Zoo and paddle boarding and kayaking sessions at Mount Batten which have proven to be very popular with students. We have seen a massive increase in the number of students who have got involved with GIAG, and we love seeing the new friendships and hobbies formed!

All activities have equipment provided, and where required, travel arrangements are organised by SU staff. There is usually a capacity limit for each event, and you may be required to book your space online. You can browse all upcoming GIAG activities and events on our website and secure your spot for any activities you would like to give a go! 


3. Explore volunteering opportunities, including group day trips.

We collaborate with a diversity of charities and organisations in Devon and Cornwall to bring you volunteering opportunities that work around your studies. On our website, there is a webpage specifically for volunteering opportunities under the tab ‘get involved’. On this webpage you can browse an array of volunteering opportunities that can complement your degree, align with your social interests or enable you to experience something completely new to you.

We also provide students with weekly opportunities to get involved with one-off volunteering opportunities through our Student-Led Volunteering programme. These day trips allow students to meet and socialise with other University of Plymouth students and work together by volunteering their time to supporting organisations in and around Plymouth, making a real difference to the local community. 

From the friendships formed to the fun you have while taking part in volunteering activities, we have heard so much positive feedback from our student community who have taken the time to get involved in long-term or one-off volunteering opportunities. 


    Photo: UPSU volunteering day trip


4. Get involved with student-led projects and campaigns. 

We exist to represent students' interests both within university and the wider community and campaigns on relevant local, national, and international issues. We want to support students in creating the change they want to see, which is why we encourage autonomous student-led campaigning. 

Campaigning at the SU means working in collaboration with others to accomplish more together and work towards common goals to benefit both the student community and the wider community. Getting involved in UPSU campaign projects is a fantastic way to meet new people at the university who are passionate and motivated and share similar interests and values to you.

Find out more about current UPSU campaigns and projects on our website here and get in touch to find out how you can get involved. 


5. Attend our weekly evening events, such as Jam House and Karaoke nights.

Students are welcome to attend as many of our weekly evening events throughout the academic year at the SU, including Jam House: an open mic night where students can perform and showcase their musical talent to the student community alongside local artists and bands who regularly perform. Karaoke and quiz nights are also popular weekly events where students come together to socialise in a fun environment, have a drink, and switch off from academic work. 

Aside from our weekly events, we organise festivals such as Rum and Reggae and Ciderfest, and host celebratory events to mark special occasions such as St Patrick’s Day and Pride on Campus in the SU. 

These are great opportunities for students to connect with other students from different courses and degree types who they wouldn’t usually cross paths with at university, and maybe even build new and unexpected friendships.


   Photo: Jam House at the SU


6. Run in the Student Elections, reach out to your representatives, and attend student meetings throughout the year. 

Each year, every University of Plymouth student is given the opportunity to put themselves forward in the Student Elections. These elections decide which four students represent the voices of the entire student community at the University of Plymouth, campaign for change and ultimately work to improve the student experience as a member of the Sabbatical Officer team. The four student Sabbatical roles are President, VP Education, VP Activities and VP Wellbeing & Diversity. Sabbatical Officers have a direct say in how the Students' Union is run and work to develop the strategic direction of our UPSU. 

When you put yourself forward for one of these roles, you will at some stage be involved in campaigning for student votes which will later decide whether or not you have been elected. This may sound scary at first, but actually it is a great way to introduce yourself to the student community, become known to others, and meet new communities of people. You will also get to know candidates who will be campaigning for either a different sabbatical role or going up against you for the same position. 

Whether you become a Sabbatical Officer or not, you remain a member of the Students’ Union and are part of our democratic structures. We hold forums and meetings for the student community to come together and discuss ideas and work with your Sabbatical Officers to create positive change, including our Annual Student Meeting. Attending these meetings are a great opportunity to connect with other individuals who are motivated to make an impact on the student experience and be part of implementing positive change. 


7. Be part of the UPSU Buddy Scheme. 

The UPSU Buddy Scheme supports students who are struggling to settle into university life. The Buddy Scheme pairs a trained volunteer with an individual who may be finding it difficult to make friends at university or feel overwhelmed with moving away. This is a social scheme, so often buddies will go for a coffee with the student they have been paired with, help them find their way around campus, show them the best of Plymouth life, or attend activities and events with them. 

Whether you decide to be a trained buddy and offer a helping hand to a fellow student, or you want to find a buddy to support you, this is a great opportunity to meet new people who you are matched based on common interests and hobbies. 

Find out more about the UPSU Buddy Scheme here and sign up to find a friend!


8. Find friends through SU student jobs. 

If you are looking to earn while you learn, we employ members of student staff in a variety of roles from running our SU Bar and Coffee Spot, serving customers in our SU Shop, or providing technical assistance at our events.

Exposure to new people creates opportunities to meet new friends and having a job at the SU allows you to meet other university students on your shifts and engage with student customers. 

As your Students’ Union, we help to create safe and social working environments that promote friendship, collaboration, and inclusivity. You can search and apply for for student jobs at the SU on our job webpage here. Please note that the majority of student recruitment takes place in the second term in April/May time.


    Photo: SU Bar staff


9. Find friends from around the world with Global Plymouth.

Global Plymouth is a non-profit organisation dedicated to uniting Plymouth’s international student populations with the wider community. 

Global Plymouth’s hosts a monthly International Dinner, which is the largest regular multinational gathering taking place right here in your Ocean City. These International Dinners are referred to as the "most diverse, welcoming monthly event in the Southwest"; a "festival of shared food, music and dance."

Whether you are an international student or just want to meet new people and embrace new cultures, Global Plymouth invites all University of Plymouth students to get involved and attend their monthly International Dinners. 


“No matter who you are, or where you are from, come do join us to sample delicious dishes from all around the world at our International Dinner. It is all for free. Please do bring along a dish/drink to share if you are able. Absolutely no worries if not – we just want to celebrate the beauty you bring to our community!” – Global Plymouth


You can find out more about Global Plymouth and their events on Meetup or by connecting with them on Facebook. 

Check out the University’s International Plymouth webpage here to find events, blogs, and advice for our international student community.


10. Reach out to people.

Of course, getting involved and immersing yourself in various activities, events, and campaigns helps you to meet new people, but sometimes the easiest way to form new friendships is by reaching out to people and introducing yourself. This might be seeing someone at the library who looks a little lost and offering to lend them a helping hand in finding a book they need, or asking to share a table with someone when a café is busy and there is limited seating left. It is amazing how effective a smile and friendly attitude can be when you are looking to make friends at university. 

You should also keep in mind that not every student will feel confident enough to be social straight away when they arrive at university. For many individuals, it can be daunting, and they may struggle to put themselves out there in social settings. Try not to dismiss the possibility of a friendship forming with individuals straight away who seem quieter or keep themselves to themselves; sometimes these people just need some time to adjust to their new environment and find their feet before they feel ready to become social. Don’t try to force these students to do things they are not ready to, but you can show you care and offer them a friendly face by always saying hello to them whenever you see them and check in on them to see if they are alright from time to time. After a while, you may find they feel more comfortable and start to engage with you more often and perhaps join you for a coffee or attend a social event with you.