Charlie Palmer – Make Some Friends

CHARLIE PALMER tells you to get off your arse and make some damn friends.

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Cambridge bloody loves organised fun.

The rest of the country seems to be perfectly happy with the idea of “get vodka, drink vodka, go to club”. Not us. We go to formal first, or a swap, or a college bop. We play drinking games. We go out in tiger onesies, or matching ties and blazers, or an elaborate costume made entirely of Sainsbury’s bags. May Week itself, that pinnacle of enjoyment in Cambridge, is itself a nirvana of organised fun – we love dress codes, tickets, and events that offer us plenty of things to do.

This looks far too casual

I think this is largely because a lot of us, even if we like to think we’re outgoing, are secretly a bit awkward. A lot of us are reluctant to leave our social comfort zone unless we have a situation engineered for us in which to talk to people we don’t know. Just “going out” is a concept too vague, too daunting for all but true extroverts – it literally entails being put in a dark, loud room with a giant mass of sweaty morons and being expected to use this as a tool to socialise.

I’ve only really come round to the idea of clubs in the last year or so – I’ve gone from thinking of them as somewhere you have to look cool and do what everyone else is doing to realising they’re actually a place where no-one really cares what you do, so you’ve got free licence to act like an idiot.

Looking ‘cool’

If you were at Manchester or Leeds, not going out would make things difficult. You’d end up hanging out with your housemates, and maybe a few people from your course, and potentially no-one else.

But this is where Cambridge excels. It’s as if, as a university, it’s been designed for you to meet as many people as possible. Go on a swap, make two or three new friends. Get a small part in a play, you’ll make twenty more.  Join your JCR committee. The Assassins’ Guild. The Wine-Tasting society. Play football for the college third team. Write for The Tab. And when you’ve met all those people, you’ll meet their friends too. If you find the question “what extra-curricular things do you do?” difficult to answer, you’re doing Cambridge wrong.

And yet there are still hundreds, maybe even thousands of perfectly socially competent students here who hang out with the same twenty people for three years. Some people who can’t be bothered to make any friends outside their college, some people who are too nervous to try. There’s a strange kind of low-level mockery often levelled at the people who go out and do stuff. “Off to the ADC again are you, mate?” “Found some cooler friends at other colleges, have you?”.

There’s a weird mistrust of anyone who gets labelled a BNOC, as if it’s a dirty word. The top-rated comments on The Tab’s most eligible lists were mostly about what twats all these people must be. Why? Most of the Union hacks I’ve met are lovely, as are the guys at The Tab.

Don’t they just look so enticing?

We’re all going to leave Cambridge pretty soon. We’re all going to move to London, or Glasgow, or New York or Singapore, and get horrible jobs that take up about twenty-five hours each day. We won’t be able to send a group message round to the guys at five minutes’ notice to see who wants to go to Hall.

Most of your Cambridge friends aren’t going to live anywhere near you, and you won’t see them very often. Some of them you’ll never see again. Surely, then, it makes sense to take advantage of the best opportunity you’ll ever have to get out and meet people – you don’t want to come to the uncomfortable realisation that none of your close friends live anywhere near you.

And with the number of activities, the sheer quantity of fun that’s being organised for you on a daily basis, making new friends will never be this easy again. Get off your arse and make them.