Here’s some advice for all new undergraduates who’ve started their programmes over the past few weeks… One of the most daunting aspects of starting university, aside from the debt and the challenges of studying, is the prospect of making new friends.
This is really important. Students who develop quality networks also perform better and maintain their well-being. But, where to start? Well, many new friendships begin with chance encounters in communal spaces and environmental psychologists have been studying the characteristics of effective social areas for decades.
A recent study by Easterbrook and Vignoles examined this issue in the specific context of a university and found confirmatory evidence of what we have long known – many new undergraduate friendships begin with regular chance meetings in fairly obvious social spaces such as the communal kitchen, the common room and the college gym. So far, so good.
What’s interesting about this study, which focused on over 400 new undergrads, was that a more unusual site for the development of new friendships emerged; the shared toilet! In fact, this unexpected arena for new relationships proved as reliable a venue as all of the other spaces in terms of predicting friendship formation, durability and quality. But why?
Easterbrook and Vignoles believe that the shared bathroom is a natural place for barriers to break down. Nothing like regularly encountering a dorm mate with a loo roll in his or her hands to remove interpersonal walls and thereby allow bonds to be formed! No sure what I think about this explanation, but it seems as plausible as any. Motto: the en suite doesn’t just cost you more money, it makes you a lonelier student too!
Of course, the one problem with a shared toilet is that it also carries with it a whole series of shared smells!!! So, for those sensitive to such matters, here is a real product you may wish to check out…