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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Healthy Minds On Campus – University: The Newer, More Complicated Playroom

University is a time filled with questions and confusion—Who am I? Who are my friends? Do I have good friends?

Students are expected to act like adults, all the while trying to adjust to life with new found freedom and social networks. One might assume that meeting people at uni happens over night—head down to Courtenay Place over the weekend, and bam a friendship is created. Unfortunately it is not that easy. A major challenge for university students is creating meaningful and lasting friendships.

An overwhelming amount of students express concerns around not having good friends to whom they feel connected; friends they can confide in and be open with. These students have an endless amount of people to drink and party with, but when it comes to support and honesty, these friends are nowhere to be seen.

When asked to recall a time that these students did have a close friend he/she could open up to, they were dumbfounded to realize they could not. I have observed countless students who lack a history of a reciprocal relationship—one with give-and-take. These students have never been taught what it is like to disclose information about themselves to someone else, and have that person do the same. If you were thrown into a deep pool having never been taught to swim, how successful might you be at reaching the shallow end? The same goes with relationships. If we do not know how to engage in a reciprocal, healthy relationship, how are we expected to know how to create one? Be patient with yourself, and acknowledge that this process takes time and effort.

Friendships can flourish when both people feel safe enough to share and receive personal information. For people to get what they need out of the friendship, both parties need to be open to, and comfortable with, disclosing information about themselves—trust that you are worthy of someone else’s time and energy, as they will do the same to you. Building a friendship is like putting a puzzle togethe—start with hundreds of little pieces and put them together in the right places to successfully see the big picture. Take your time revealing intense information; start with little facts until you are ready to move on to more personal disclosure. This information may seem elementary to some; however, so many students have a hard time opening up to others. Sometimes we need to refresh our memories with the skills we learned all those years ago…

Tips for improving a friendship:
• Make plans at a cafe rather than a bar—set the tone for a genuine conversation
• Disclose bits of information at a time, starting with the least intrusive at first
• Don’t be afraid to take the initiative—send a text and make arrangements
• Include your friends in your hobbies—enable them to see what you love
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Stay curious about your friends and where they come from

To contact the Counselling Service call: 04 463 5310

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