Blog post

Making lasting friendships at university

By Sam Chikowore - 7 April 2022

I always knew I was going to meet a lot of amazing people during my time at university. After all, this was a time in my life when I was going to always be around people of a similar age, from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds. It was an exciting prospect. The stories I would read of how a group of guys would sit around knocking back a couple of beers, brainstorming, and trying to code an application that would let students connect. We now know that as Facebook. Or how fiery and rousing debates in lecture halls became the building blocks of the most notable social activism movements we know of today.

Opportunities for growth

Making friends in a new place is not always an easy thing to do. Being able to relate to professional, personal, and cultural similarities is also quite a large task, especially for international students. A global pandemic that created social restrictions, seems to have strained a lot of interpersonal relationships as well. This required people to be much more intentional in upholding their relationships.

With friendship, comes opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally. It has been amazing seeing how a positive social network can transcend into something that help in guiding and moving your professional life. As iron sharpens iron, so should the same be said for how a friendship should progress.

Conversations are the undertone

I love hearing about people’s backgrounds and experiences, and how that has shaped them up to be the people they are in the present. You learn a lot about a person from how they look back at past experiences, dissect what they learnt, and how that contributes to their own personal development and outlook on life. Multitudes of conversations have fallen along with this undertone. Which, most of my close friendships were created upon this bedrock. One of mutual understanding of different perspectives, trust, and constructive frankness.

Dan, (or as I prefer to refer to him as-Nang-Tege), and I met in the University Halls when I was working as a Residential Assistant. I helped him move and settle in. He was a master’s student from Ghana, and we quickly built a friendship on the relatability we both had being international students from Africa.

As our friendship grew, we used to speak about a lot of things, mostly reminiscing and sharing stories of life experiences back home in Africa. Nang-Tege used to speak about his time as an emergency nursing professional, working in hospitals of the most disadvantaged communities in Ghana. I could feel the passion he had when he relayed stories about the joy of helping to save lives entrusted in his care and serving his community. But, he would also sorrow the unfortunate reality when it came to the lack of adequate medical supplies. This caused various problems and inadequacies, that affected the quality of care given to patients. A reality that for him, as a nurse dedicated to his profession, was heart-wrenching.

With this, he was constantly looking for ways he could give back to his community back in Ghana. “Anything that can make a positive impact, Sam” is what he would always emphasise. He continues to look out for whatever opportunities he can find to source medical equipment to send back to the community he once served, and many others in similar needs. Medical equipment includes pulse oximeters, nebulisers, glucometers, bedside ECG and USG machines, operating theatre equipment, scrubs, and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment). His passion and drive to make a difference in these communities back home were inspiring.

As someone who was around a diverse range of people through volunteering work at the University, as well as being the supervisor of the Covid-19 Asymptomatic Test Centre, Nang-Tege became a familiar face at the Kedleston Road site. Being a keen networker and never shy to tell his dream to anyone, Nang-Tege has gone from strength to strength in various roles throughout the University, with the prospect of further study. The beauty of putting yourself out there, through volunteering and networking.

Catch the positivity

As with other things that come with being close to people who push themselves to be their best, it rubs off onto those around them like poison ivy. It is the electrifying energy of seeing people living out their potential that you want the same realisation of your dreams as well. This saw me wanting to tackle new volunteering projects (such as the Futures Award) and seeking to be active in the search for networking and employment opportunities through the Student Employment Agency and supporting departments within the University.

I guess what I am getting at is friendship is what you make it. It can be as simple and carefree as going on a weekly walk in the park, to spontaneous nights out that end up being wild reunion stories, you can laugh over when you remember how ludicrous that night was. Or it could be all that coupled with people who motivate you to push harder, do better, and strive for greatness, just because of observing who they are and how they enact those qualities within their own life and spheres they manoeuvre in. And this pushes the boundary of what friendship could mean.

Invaluable experiences

With this, I have come to the realisation that the first seed of expectation that was planted when I first walked into the University Atrium, now has bloomed into an orchard of invaluable experiences.

Indeed, it was going to be a place I was going to meet and interact with phenomenal people during my time there. From meeting inspiring people such as Nang-Tege, who have the determination to be appreciative of every opportunity and capacity they are in, paying back their good fortune through good stewardship to that which they have been entrusted, giving back to the foundations and communities to which they still hold dear (through his phenomenal campaign drive to contribute towards medical improvement and supplies in his community back in Ghana).

Thinking back, perhaps this is what the University of Derby’s mantra is all along. Whether you are still a student or alumni, you can still “Make it Real” anywhere you are, following your vision and dreams to pioneer a positive difference wherever you may find yourself- whether it be volunteering, getting your career started, or like myself, surrounded by people who want to make a difference!

About the author

Sam standing next to a mountain wearing a red anorak.

Sam Chikowore
Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby

Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby. I also work part-time as a Marketing Representative for the University.