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10 tips on how to meet people and make friends as a new student in London

 

A group of four students sat on the grass in a park on a sunny day

BA Film and Media student, Valentina Vlasich, knows first-hand what it’s like to be a new student in London. Here, she shares her top tips on how to find opportunities to socialise and bond with classmates.  

You just moved to London after being accepted into university, a lot of exciting new experiences are on the way. But worry about meeting new people and making friends starts to set in. Never fear, here are some tips on how to overcome that concern.  

1. Know that you are not the only new person around
Even though it may seem like it is you against the world at the beginning, keep in mind that most new students are in your shoes as well. Almost everyone is a bit lost at the start of their university experience, so try bonding with others over being new and discovering London together.   

2. Start Conversations
As a shy person myself, I understand it can be difficult to come out of your shell and make the first move when meeting people. However, if you try talking to others, you will quickly realise that everyone is very approachable and eager to make new friends. A really good way to overcome shyness is to join activities that other students are organising, which leads me to my next tip… 

3. Join others to socialise after classes
Being in the heart of London gives students plenty of opportunities to go out after class and you’ll find that many students fancy going out for some drinks or food. If you have the opportunity, definitely join them – it’s a great way to learn more about your classmates outside the academic environment! 

4. Join student clubs and societies
Birkbeck has many clubs and societies for students to join, from the film society to the international student’s society, there is something for everyone. Joining a society will help you find people who share your interests and come from similar backgrounds as you, they’re great for building a sense of community. These societies are free to join, and you can join them via the Student Union website 

5. Attend events
Another fun tip is to attend one of the many cultural events offered by Birkbeck and other central London institutions. Going to events such as the film screenings at Birkbeck, or the special exhibitions at museums and galleries around London, opens the door to meeting new and interesting people.  

Valentina stood in the doorway of an gallery room about to enter

Valentina exploring one of the many galleries in central London.

6. Explore by yourself
It might sound a bit strange to recommend going solo as a tip to making friends, but you should not deprive yourself of new experiences and discovering all that London has to offer, if you have no one to join you yet. By exploring the city by yourself you will discover quirky locations, fun events, and meet new people. Going out by yourself is better than staying in your room, and one way or another, you will meet someone on your adventures.  

7. Join WhatsApp group chats
For most classes and modules someone will create a group chat to exchange information. Using these chats to talk to others and propose activities outside class is a simple way of breaking the ice with your classmates.  

 

8. Volunteer
If you don’t have a lot of spare time for socialising, volunteering is a fantastic way to use your spare time effectively and still be social. By volunteering you meet new people while dedicating less hours than you would at a job, and it is also plenty of fun. What’s more, it’s rewarding, and you are also expanding your resume at the same time.  

9. Cultural excursions
This tip is specifically for international students, but everyone can benefit from it. Birkbeck regularly offers cultural mixer activities for international students, which are a great way to meet and bond with lots of international students from different universities. Recently, for example, they offered a tour around Greenwich which was a huge success. It’s a great idea to take part in these cultural excursions, which are a great way to both meet new people and see the city!  

10. Be yourself
Finally, even if it does sound a bit cliché, you should always be yourself. Do not try to change who you are to make friends. The right people will come along and making fake friends or having to put on a façade for others will not bring you joy. London is so diverse that you will always find people who are the right fit for you, so don’t be afraid to be you. So, go out there and see what London has to offer while people join you along the way.  

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“I’ve been given the skills and confidence to put my ideas out into the world”

MSc Culinary Innovation Management student, Annabel Ola, shares her experience of taking part in Birkbeck’s Pioneer Programme and winning the 2022 Pioneer Award. 

Tell us about your business idea, what is BEKIRI?  

BEKIRI exists to expand the boundaries of modern luxury patisserie. The fusion of classic recipes and African ingredients will offer a new dimension of cultural discovery and appreciation for customers. 

How did BEKIRI come into existence?  

I’ve always loved food. On a trip to Paris, I was in local patisseries, impressed by everything but also unable to find anything I really identified with. So, I started my own specialty cheesecake market stall in my local area, hoping to fill that gap. It worked for a while, but I realised I wanted something a bit more intricate. That’s how I came upon the idea of BEKIRI.  

You had the idea, then what?  

I decided to do the MSc Culinary Innovation Management at Birkbeck, a course run in conjunction with Le Cordon Bleu London Culinary Arts Institute. While it’s not a programme on how to make a patisseries, it is about how to manage and run a food establishment – perfect for what I wanted and needed for BEKIRI.   

How did you get involved in the Pioneer Programme?  

My course was great at providing skills and knowledge for the practical management and operational side of things. But I also wanted something to help me with the vision and implementation of a business strategy. I knew Birkbeck offers lots of support for students with entrepreneurial ideas, so I was actively looking at the different schemes and came across Pioneer on the Enterprise webpage. EnterpriseEnterpriseEnterprise webpageEnterprise webpage page. One of my lecturers also recommended the programme, so I signed up. 

How was it?  

So useful! Through the programme, I was able to take something that was just an idea, identify the different areas to consider, then take action to make it a reality. I learned how to make a really clear business plan, and even got support on developing knowledge in areas like finance and marketing. We were matched with buddies – other students who had their own expertise and knowledge in specific areas – and I’ve created a marketing strategy and set up the financial side of things with the help of mine. I also got feedback and a session on pitching. I’ve never been keen on public speaking, and it was obvious that I was nervous during my entry pitch. By the time I did my final pitch, I was praised for being calm, confident and clear! 

 

Other than practical skills, what are some of your biggest takeaways?  

I’ve been given the skills and confidence to put my ideas out into the world. It’s given me the self-belief to put resources or pitch packs together, contact people, and make unique connections. The fact that I was doing all of this alongside a community of fellow entrepreneurs was also really helpful. All the finalists are still in touch and so supportive of one another.   

Would you recommend the Pioneer programme to current or prospective students?  

100%! It’ll give you a support network, contacts and knowledge to build your confidence. When I joined the programme at the start, I wasn’t convinced I’d enter the competition. By the end, my confidence had grown so much that I decided to enter – and I ended up winning! Even if you don’t win, it’s so valuable. You pick up so many skills and contacts, it’s a great springboard.  

What’s next?  

The prize money is going into product development to get an initial menu together. I’ve pitched for BEKIRI to trade at Mercato Mayfair – an upscale foodhall with a focus on sustainability and uniqueness – and there’s interest from them. I’m also looking for more opportunities to pitch my business and figure out what strategy is best to get more funding. Someone that I met on the programme is helping me figure that out too! I’m so excited that it’s coming together… I can’t wait to see where I can take BEKIRI next. 

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“Being able to function and cope well in a new academic and cultural environment has been a fulfilling and exciting experience”

Rachid Meftah, from Morocco, is a 2021 Chevening scholar. In this blog he talks about his Chevening application journey and studying Language Teaching/TESOL (MA) at Birkbeck.

How was your Chevening application journey?

Reflecting back upon my Chevening journey, I find it a rich, exciting, and fulfilling experience. I consider this journey to have been smooth – despite all the challenges – for this one main reason: I knew what I wanted to study and what to do with it.

As a teacher, I had always been looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge and expertise in the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Having been introduced to this area through a short audit class had given me insights into what I could gain from doing a full-time master’s in it, and of how this could impact my colleagues and community. So, the vision had been clear in my mind: I wanted to gain valuable qualifications in TESOL that would help me to bridge the gap between practice and theory as a teacher, and to enable me to bring change to education in my community and country through teacher training.

Thus, when the Chevening opportunity came, all I had to do was to put my clear idea into words, and to showcase it as a project worthy of the Chevening award well enough throughout all the stages of the application process. Not only did this vision help me win the scholarship the first time I applied, but it also gave me enough motivation and positivity to surmount all the obstacles.

Why this course and why Birkbeck?

My choice to study at Birkbeck was guided by two things: the nature and the quality of the course and the reputation of the college. After searching and comparing Masters online, I chose TESOL at Birkbeck for these reasons:

  • The course suits my academic and professional goals since it was designed for English language teachers who already have an experience in the classroom and who want to develop their career opportunities
  • It offers me the opportunity to expand my knowledge in the field of applied linguistics and develop language awareness and analysis of English as a second language
  • It offers me the opportunity to conduct research in the field of second language acquisition

My choice of Birkbeck college was based on the search I did and on advice from a former professor. I wanted to do my master’s in central London, the hub for an international and vibrant scholarly community, and Birkbeck offered me that. In addition, a former professor advised me to choose Birkbeck for the quality and academic excellence of its research. Now that I’m conducting my research dissertation, I could see the benefits of being a part of the Birkbeck scholarly community.

Being able to function and cope well in a new academic and cultural environment has been a fulfilling and exciting experience for me.

Can you tell us about your experience as a Chevener?

My Chevening journey has been an exciting and a rewarding experience in every aspect. I feel I have gained much academically, personally, and culturally studying at Birkbeck.

My course has offered me an excellent academic experience so far! I’ve been introduced to a research oriented and positive environment where professors consider us their colleagues, not their students. This has helped me gain an intellectually stimulating content and research skills that will enable me to conduct my own research.

As a Chevening scholar at Birkbeck, I could connect with many Cheveners and with other international students through the events organized at Birkbeck. This has offered me the opportunity to network and socialize with students from different professional and cultural backgrounds.

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