Keeping the balance: friends old and new

Amelia Oakley 30 October 2014

Moving away to university is undoubtedly one of life’s most exciting occasions, but with it comes a whole plethora of unseen challenges – including finding the fragile, and sometimes awkward balance between your new exciting uni friends, and the tried and tested ones of old.

The curse of being a Cambridge Fresher is being the last out of all of your friends to move away. September is for twiddling your thumbs, as you spend several weekends living vicariously through their fresher’s week snaps, and gain a new mildly unhealthy obsession with their Facebook feeds. But when you arrive at Cambridge, you’re swiftly absorbed into the bubble which means that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to chat, gossip and send as many inappropriate snapchats as you once did.

Keeping in contact with your friends from other universities demands active effort. It requires a level of energy that – after a couple of weeks of essays, supervisions, and van of life excursions in the early hours – you simply just don’t have. One way to combat this is a group chat, which allows you to check in with each other without making any solid commitments. Dipping in and out of a conversation about the state of your best friend’s kitchen up in Nottingham is a wonderful way to remind yourself that they’re all alive and kicking out there in the non-Cambridge world. But most importantly, it allows you to plan those crucial reunion drinks when you all get back home.

However, sometimes it’s worth keeping your distance. Switching off from your home friends for a while allows you the necessary space to make new friends, and the time to seize at least a few of the innumerable new opportunities available to you in Cambridge. Term is only eight weeks; you have to make the most of it. It may seem a little harsh, but this distance is healthy; it gives you the chance to reinvent yourself to a certain degree, and try new things you previously would never have dared to, without fear of embarrassment. Most importantly this time away from your old friends gives you the chance to ditch that one questionable person who you’re not entirely sure why you’re friends with. In those cases, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

Yet, occasionally this task of subtly abandoning a friendship isn’t an easy one to complete, particularly if half of your old school friends also attend Cambridge. There are some people who can’t leave college to pop on a Sainsbury’s run without bumping into at least five friends from their school, camp, or cousin’s best friend’s tenth birthday party.

I asked two anonymous freshers from Jesus and St Catz, about these pesky, hybrid Cambridge-Home encounters. And whilst they claim it is of course wonderful to see a familiar face around town – as joining a institution with nearly 20,000 students is undoubtedly an incredibly daunting experience – this can also be a huge hindrance. It brings with it the worry of making new friends, separate from the old, and also trying not to annoy said new friends with the constantly regurgitated introduction ‘Hey, have you met _____? He’s my friend from home’. Another one?!

In all seriousness, mastering the balance is crucial. After all, the endless drinks receptions, Choral evensongs, and swooshing of gowns on your way to formal can render your view of the real world a little clouded. But, your friends from home are experts in bursting the Cambridge bubble. They keep you sane. And although you may keep them during term-time on looser strings than before, never let go of these strings – a Skype call with the old gang might be just what you need during a week five crisis.