Sunday 30 July 2023

Nurturing your friendships

The 30th July celebrates International Friendship Day and the Editorial Team has come together to share how friendships have supported their mental health.

- Student Minds Editorial Team

✨ Nurturing your friendships ✨

⭐ Sarah (Student): 

Keeping in touch with friends can be hard when you’re not all in one place at university. This past year, I’ve been on my year abroad in Germany while my friends continued on with their degrees in Scotland. Honestly, I’m not always the best at nurturing my friendships! I don’t really post on social media and I often get busy and distracted by my other responsibilities, sometimes forgetting to reply to messages. 

That’s why it’s key for me to communicate my personality type with my friends so that they won’t end up feeling hurt if I don’t respond quickly. I tell friends explicitly that they can message me again if I don’t reply, because I most likely thought I already had! It’s important for me to extend this same grace to my friends, too. I make sure my friends know that I’m there for them if and when they need me, and that they can count on me to understand if they haven’t been in touch for a while - no judgement. 

Just messaging isn’t always enough though. Every few weeks or months, I like to have a long video call with my friends where we can share all the exciting and interesting things we’ve been up to in more detail. I keep a small journal with notes of conversation topics between catch-ups, so I can remember to tell them all the wild stories they’ve missed!

⭐ Emily A (Graduate): 

I found it difficult to make the decision to move away for university because my studies would take me 300 miles away from home! Not only was I moving away from a school environment that I’d come to love for nearly 10 years, but I was also leaving the town I’d grown up in and the people I knew. Little did I know, that - for me - it was a blessing in disguise. 

When you’re at school, the world can seem like the entirety of everything - a bit like the dome in The Simpsons Movie. It feels safe, it’s familiar, it’s home. I had friends I loved, teachers I adored, and knew who I was in an environment I’d come to find as home. 

Little did I know that breaking out of that dome gave me a new lease of life and a fresh perspective on what I could be. When I moved away to university, I was the only person from my school to study at the institution and, having struggled with the idea of moving on anyway, decided to cut all ties with any friends I had as my sixth-form self. This was radical and by no means the best, healthiest, or most advantageous way to go about the transition but it was right for me. I soon came to learn that the friends I’d had at school (whilst we’d had some amazing times and made great memories) were friends out of convenience. I’d not shared anything personal, meaningful, or significant with them because I’d never known how to trust them. It meant that my friendships were somewhat fabricated by circumstance and, unfortunately, weren’t strong enough to carry on when our shared experience of school came to an end. 

Moving away from University was terrifying in many ways that I could go on about forever… but one of the best things I did in moving away was taking the chance to start anew. When I started my degree, I could explore things for myself without fear of the ‘village culture’ my hometown cultivated in us all. The friends I made were based on shared interests, fascinating conversations, and working it all out for myself.

Friendships come with their peaks and troughs; they are transient and will flow in and out of your life in various ways. University life can be a brilliant way to discover yourself, your friends for moments, and maybe even friends for life. Don’t get trapped in the dome. 

⭐ Madeleine (Graduate): 

I find that friendships can vary and it’s okay that not every friendship is a super close one. Having a mental health episode during university really taught me who my true friends are, and who will be there for me in hard times as well as good ones. Of course, every friendship is different and not everyone is best friends, but it is important that the friendship is mutual and both people are putting the effort in to maintain it. This can prove difficult when you’re away from friends, such as in the holidays between university terms. I found that video calling was a great way to keep in contact and a good way to catch up when you can’t meet up in person. I think it’s good to reflect on friendships that perhaps are no longer healthy, even though this can sometimes be difficult. In terms of making new friends, I think it’s super important to get involved with causes that matter to you because you are then bound to find like-minded people you will get along with. 

The friendships I have maintained after leaving university have been the ones that made me feel the happiest when I was around them. I think it’s easy to slip into friendships of convenience, but the ones that last are built on mutual support, ones that build each other up. Some of my friendships have really carried me through some difficult times in my life, whether that be letting me rant on the phone or sending me a thoughtful card when times have been tough. Friendships have been crucial for my well-being and having a sense of belonging, as they are for anyone.

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available.

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