Worried about making friends at uni? International student Tamanna Khurana describes how she manifested an instant gang on campus.
I am a social person, but when I arrived at Queen’s for my first day of International Student Orientation, I felt so out of my comfort zone. For reference – I am 25 years old and this orientation was packed with international students in all sorts of exchange programmes and most of them looked like I could have been babysitting them a decade ago. What would I talk to them about? I’m not old, but I’m definitely different from an 18 year old. Needless to say, that first day was rough. I felt like a weird lady trying to force small talk with teenagers until I finally gave up. The next day I almost didn’t go. If I hadn’t gone, my life in Belfast would look very different.
Tamanna (left) has made lifelong friendships
That day, there was an event at the Graduate School for international students. I had a beautiful, but long, 30-minute walk to campus from my private accommodation, so I showed up in need of coffee. Still in my awkward shell from the day before, I walked to the refreshments table, grabbed a coffee cup, and then tried to pour coffee – except I had no idea how the coffee dispenser worked. I was sweating. There were people around and here I was, a graduate student, unable to work a coffee dispenser. I just gave up. I looked up to the one person watching me and said “I think I’m an idiot but I don’t know how the coffee comes out.” Turn out neither did she. “I gave up and made tea,” she told me.
I followed her plan of action and we stood with our teas laughing about how a coffee dispenser got the best of us. That turned into how awkward we both felt the day before (IT WASN’T JUST ME) and by the end of the session we were walking over to the pub for an afternoon pint. Jenna, as I learnt her name, was my first university friend.
Tamanna (second from left) with her new friends in the pub
Jenna and I together met other friends through the international orientation who joined into our adventures to the pub and slowly I regained my confidence. By the next week, when I had my programme orientation for the MA Arts Management, I was a fully functioning social extravert again. By the end of the first day, a group of 10 of us were at the pub getting to know each other. I pushed myself to chat beyond small talk and really get to know these people and it was one of the best things I could have done for my time in Belfast.
Jenna and I grew closer and her friends become mine and mine became hers. When I miss my family, I invite them over and we sit around the dining room table and eat, drink, and laugh for hours. We’ve gone for day trips to the North Coast which were absolutely incredible and would not have happened if I didn’t push myself to go to orientation in that first week.
Tamanna (third from left) bonding at Tayto Park
Our Arts Management programme crew is a mess of its own- in the best way possible. I can always rely on them to send panicked messages about coursework for a good laugh, we love planning coffee breaks in the McClay where, you guessed it, we panic some more. Best of all is their endless imagination. About a month after we met, our friends Amy, Jess, and Lucy (the locals) decided that Kelli (our American friend) and I (the only Canadian), needed to experience the wonder of Tayto Park. I genuinely thought they made up the fact that this island has a potato-themed park so they piled us into a car and drove us an hour and a half south to experience the wonders of a potato chip (crisp) theme park full of factory tours, roller coasters, and a zoo. Once you have a transcendent experience like that with a group, you’re bonded for life.
There are times that I miss my friends at home, but the friends I’ve made at Queen’s never let me feel like I’m alone here. These groups of people make me feel at home when I run into them on campus, when we meet for afternoon coffee or evening pints. I know at any given point I can message my Belfast friends and find a new adventure to go on (sometimes that just means venturing to a new pub, but adventure enough).
Read more about Tamanna's trip to the North Coast
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