The art of dealing with people is arguably one of the hardest, yet most crucial skills that we have to master throughout our lives. If you’re already living on campus, you’ll know that fostering healthy relationships with our peers is of utmost importance — it makes or breaks the entire experience. The initial strangers living with us in residence will eventually become almost next-of-kin as we get to know them over extended periods of time.
Be it your first time living on campus — or your last — read on as we share Reslife’s 3-Step Guide to building strong relationships in residence (psst…tried-and-tested tips from some very seasoned campus residents will also be included).
1. Take the first step.
University is a time where we discover more about ourselves, and living on campus amplifies just that. You will encounter many new friends and activities and it’s important to keep an open mind towards trying new things, even if it is out of your comfort zone!
Living in a campus hostel, it is all too easy to walk past the same few people all the time, but never initiate a conversation…unless the other person does so first. That initial connection is always the hardest, but when we are willing to open up to others first, friendship comes naturally. As humans, we tend to mirror the way others treat us when it comes to social situations, so why not make the first move?
Observing this phenomenon, Daniel Ong (Yr 4, Biz & MechEng) experimented by greeting people that he used to just absentmindedly walk past. After repeated greetings, he noticed that the simple hellos eventually turned into full-blown conversations — allowing him to make new friends he wouldn’t have otherwise made.
That said, not everyone will become a close friend and that’s okay. Not every conversation will turn into a friendship. Take stock of the situation and move on if your interests and values are not aligned! Just keep an open mind towards those around you and you will eventually find a group of friends that you can resonate better with.
2. Join CCAs to make friends, but also to do the work.
While living on campus, many also join CCAs as a great way to get involved with their residential community and find common interests with their peers. CCAs are a great way to build new skill sets, knowledge and experiences. Coming in as a freshman, it is common to hear the age-old advice to “just join any CCA” that you may be interested in. However, not many would then follow up by telling you the opposite side of the coin: commitment to CCAs are just like committing to any other responsibility, and should be non-negotiable.
The lines between work and friendship are easily blurred in a campus hostel setting, so it is important to remember that friendship is not a replacement for good work ethics. Do not join a CCA simply to make friends, with zero intention to do the work.
Roy Francis Mohanan (Yr 4, ChemEng, Eusoff Hall) shares: “If you do take on any sort of role in a CCA, you should note that a certain level of accountability will be expected from you. So before joining multiple CCAs and overloading your plate, think about whether you will be able to manage your workload, so you can fully put your heart into the work that you do.”
As with most things in life, you’ll tend to reap the most benefits and contribute more meaningfully if you invest full time and effort into your community of choice.
Working relationships can lead to finding the best friends of your life, but could also sour existing friendships if not managed carefully. While conflicts are unpleasant and inevitable, they are not necessarily bad. Too much agreement within a group can sometimes lead to groupthink — which more often than not, can be destructive for progress and diversity of thought. Rather than avoiding conflict, learn how to apply appropriate conflict resolution methods like collaborating and accommodating to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Identifying the working styles of your team via personality tests may also be helpful in conflict resolution.
Roy mused: “Using the DISC framework to view conflicts, someone with a higher dominance score may perhaps need to feel like their points are validated. So as a friend or team member, it is important to let them express their opinions freely and engage with them. This does not necessarily mean that you force everyone you know to take these tests — familiarising yourself with personality types can help you to identify them even without such a test. You can then learn to adapt and accept each other.”
3. You need to actually make time for your friends.
When it comes to making friends for life, The Friendship Formula provides an interesting view. It consists of four basic building blocks: proximity, frequency, duration, and intensity. These four elements can be expressed using the following mathematical formula: Friendship = Proximity x (Frequency + Duration) x Intensity. Who knew that there was a science to friendship?
Looking closely at each component, we can begin to understand why friendships formed in campus hostels tend to blossom more quickly than friendships made anywhere else. Staying on campus is conducive in facilitating these factors, because we’re constantly around each other x (all the time + for long periods at one go)!
As a campus resident, there is a deluge of activities to participate in. From CCA outings to random late-night suppers, it is easy to let your work snowball if you do not manage your time well. But this does not mean that you hole up in your room 24/7 just chasing academic and work deadlines — that’s not what campus life is for. If you do want to live a fulfilling residential life, balance is key. Learn to not only schedule in time for meetings, but also for quality time where you really get to know the people you want to be friends with.
While proximity, frequency and duration of contact can be fulfilled easily, the last factor, intensity — how strongly you are able to meet another person’s psychological and physical needs — rests on the opportunity to go through shared experiences together.
Ng Jing Xiang (Yr 1, ChemEng, RC4) asserts: “Many people I know typically state the need to study as their reason for missing out on the activities — which is perfectly understandable since we are full-time students. However, to stop yourself from falling back on that reason too much, don’t say you will make it for supper if you finish studying. Say that you will finish studying so that you can make it for supper.” Learn to maximise your time so you can fill the rest of it with things that are equally important — in this case, forming lasting relationships with those in your residential community.
Lastly, when it comes to maintaining friendships after graduation, it is best to realistically acknowledge that most friendships in life tend to be seasonal. Many good friends arguably cannot beat a few closest friends that you’re aligned with in interests and values. This is especially since after graduation, the friendships that you have formed are no longer bound by the convenience of staying together — making a gap in the Proximity x (Frequency + Duration) factors.
Don’t amass all the friends you could possibly make in quantity, and lose out on the opportunity to deepen the connection with that precious few that will end up being your lifelong friends.
At the end of the day, remember that this is one of the best periods of your life to grow as an individual and grow together with like-minded people in such close proximity. Relish your time together, and make full use of every opportunity to be together. You will never have this time again!
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