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What is your study programme?

Social skills at uni

Last modified on 30-01-2023 13:18
When you start studying at university you’ll meet a lot of new people. But how do you get to know them?
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Some students find it easy to engage with others and seem to make new friends within minutes. Others, however, find it all quite stressful. They are too shy to talk to anyone or they don’t know what to say when they meet someone for the first time. Does this sound familiar? If so, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of ways to deal with this social anxiety.

Start making new contacts straight away

It’s very tempting to avoid social situations. You have more than enough to do with your studies, your room and getting to know the city. But the longer you put off getting to know people, the harder it will become. In the early days, people haven’t yet formed strong friendships and it’s new for everyone. Being proactive in this regard will really pay off. Join a club that you like the sound of, e.g. a student association, a study association, CREA, or a sports club. If you take part in activities with others, you’ll often find that social contact will come more easily.

Start with an easy situation

You could start by talking to someone in an easy situation, the person sitting next to you in the lecture hall, for example. This person doesn’t have to become a friend straight away. Once you’ve done something easy a few times, you’ll realise that it’s not as bad as you’d expected. You can then challenge yourself to talk to someone you’d like to be friends with, for example. 

The opening line doesn’t have to be perfect or amazing

You may think that you can only get a person's attention by saying something totally amazing or intelligent. This often works well but it also makes things very difficult. It makes it hard to strike up a conversation. Make it easy for yourself and start with something that you have in common, e.g. the material you are studying, the early mornings, the weather or the noise in the café. Clichés are the easiest way to start a conversation. 

Help the conversation flow

There are a number of things you can do to help make sure that a conversation flows:

  • You’ll soon know if someone wants to talk to you or not. Once you’ve started the conversation, ask open questions. 
  • The person you’re talking to will then often provide additional information, which you can use to ask them more questions. If you can listen and ask questions too, you are already a very sociable person.  Make sure, however, that you talk a bit yourself too so the conversation is personal. 
  • Remember that if the conversation doesn’t flow, this is a joint responsibility, it’s not necessarily your fault! It happens. Don’t try to force things.
  • Don’t concern yourself during the conversation with what the other person is thinking about you. If won’t make the conversation any easier, and you’re likely to become tense and awkward as a result.  Consider whether you actually want to continue the conversation. After all, you are not obliged to talk to anyone.

If you have a query about social contact at university, or you are having problems in this regard, please contact the Student Psychologists Office.

Training courses and workshops

The UvA provides additional support for various topics through information meetings, workshops, training courses and groups. You can learn more about these by clicking on training courses and workshops.


UvA's psychologists

You can turn to the UvA’s student psychologists for help with study-related problems or personal issues interfering with your studies. You do not need a referral from your GP. For an overview of our workshops and groups go to Psychological guidance on the Training, workshops and groups page.

Contact details