Hiya! For those who may not know me, my name is Zara and I have been in Exeter for 3 years (based at the Streatham Campus), and I am extremely extroverted. I have often been told “social anxiety is afraid of you”, I will admit I spend a LOT of time surrounded by people, which I didn’t predict coming into uni. I am half Singaporean and grew up there, so I always felt imposter syndrome amongst British uni students but I couldn’t have been more wrong! I feel at home here in Exeter, each year at Exeter has been its own journey and I’ve learned so much along the way. I look back fondly at the me I used to be when I first got here 3 years ago, like “awh I was so little”. It’s exciting to think I’ll look back at the me I am now in a few years and think the same thing! Just like how there was a leap from primary to secondary, or secondary to sixth form, there are some differences to consider but nothing new from past experience with change. I couldn’t be happier in university, I’ve got a few different social circles with some fantastic friends and I’m going to share some of the lessons/tips I learned from my past few years here in Exeter. 

Not trying too hard 

Now this might sound counter intuitive but it’s super-duper important to not try TOO hard to find people and hang out with people. You can get caught in the never-ending whirl-wind and feel like if you are not surrounded 24/7 (like you were in school), it means you are lonely and have no friends (which is completely untrue). The truth is, most people will be more busy and you will be too. If you force seeing people all the time you may not actually be around people that bring out the best in you and that you are closest with, you may end up forcing friendships that ought not to happen! Nobody tells you this, but friendships can change after school and you have to change along with it. You may lose out on time you should be spending doing uni work or finding new hobbies and groups. It’s really important not to put your eggs in one basket (as soon as you find eggs and a basket!). You never know what’s out there and trying really hard to be friends with the first people you meet and working to see them all the time, without giving yourself space to explore and enjoy uni, is a big mistake. One great thing about Exeter is its size. Its not too small or too big so you get the benefit of both! If you want to go out every night, you can! But if you want to stay in at the Firehouse (an incredible pizza place in town) that’s also an option. Forcing yourself into things you think you should want to do is fruitless and silly; follow your heart and do what you want. Don’t try to jam yourself into a box, there’s far too much to try. 

Speaking of jam – anyone for a cream tea?

Trying new things!


I sort of alluded to this just then, but trying new things is a fantastic way to make new connections! In my foundation year, I didn’t do any societies, and in my first year, I tried just one. I really really limited my social circles and I didn’t end up with the people who I could be myself around or who would help me be my best self (as corny as it sounds). This year I tried heaps of societies. I don’t go to all of them now, I would have literally no time to breathe if I did, but there are a few I go to weekly. Three to be exact, and I have some great friendships with the people there that I cherish greatly. 

The other awesome thing about having a few spaces is you don’t limit your interests. One of the ones I go to is a hiking group (ExSoc)and I have a great group of girls I hang out with there, but there’s also a more political society for more serious conversations, plus my cultural society which I use as a community of likeminded people to keep me close to my faith.  It can feel overwhelming to step into a space where you FEEL everyone knows everyone and you’re the ‘outsider’ but that’s a total lie! There are lots of fresh faces at societies every single week, take it from me! I see new people at my societies all the time, you’ll definitely have someone to talk to and you’ll regret not trying it if you don’t. Most people in societies love to see new people and will try their best to get to know you. 

Our ExSoc group (Expedition Society)

Other extracurriculars at Exeter

Exeter also has lots of activities that aren’t society-related so you don’t have to do one specific activity or be in one niche. There are lots of Guild and Residence Life activities you can join in if a full on society feels like too much. The Guild ones are organised by the Exeter Students’ Guild, so all are welcome along (N.B. click here for Penryn-based Students’ Union info)! They have some great “give it a go” activities where you – well – give it a go! Day trips, rock climbing, picnics, you name it. The Res Life ones are more for those living on campus so you can meet those who live around you! Keep an eye out on the Residence Life and Students’ Guild Instagram pages to find out what activities you can join in every week and get to know people either in your accommodation area (people all around to hang out with!) or in the University in general.

Trips to the beach at Exmouth with new friends

There are also lots of volunteering initiatives here at the University of Exeter. I personally have met some really fun people at the dog walking initiative group and some of my flatmates have loved volunteering at a care home for the elderly in town. They have made some great friends through it as well and they’ve been some really wholesome friendships to see! It’s really nice to have so many options that are not society-related too. 

Cultural and home societies

And that leads me here. The Exeter Students’ Guild webpage is a wonderful resource to finding all different types of societies. This bit here is important; not every society page is actually active and running. So if I see a society on the Guild website that I find interesting, I find the society on Instagram by typing it into the Guild’s ‘following’ or ‘followers’ list. If it’s not there, it probably isn’t active. There are so SO many societies; if you are international there are tens of cultural societies you can choose from, from Latin Society to Asian Society, more specific ones like Singapore Society. It’s a great way to find ‘home’ where you are if the UK isn’t your native home. You’d be surprised just how many societies there are, how specific they get. There are also societies for your faith on campus, such as Islamic societies, the Hindu society as well as Christian societies. One thing I hear from international students is that homesickness can be really tough in the first part of uni before you find your people. Joining faith-related or cultural societies to help you connect with your roots is a fantastic way to start out and form a nice sturdy foundation before branching out. Your people are totally out there, you just have to find them. 

In a snapshot…

All in all you can’t go wrong by trying everything under the sun, but if that feels to big, the uni led Residence Life and Students’ Guild activities are a great first step. You can join societies at any time of the year, so don’t be afraid and give everything that sounds interesting a go! Don’t feel stuck when you make your first friends and stick with them forever, go out and explore! There are too many societies and volunteering initiatives not to.