Dear Agony Ant: I don't get along with my flatmates

One student feels left out of her flat, one can't deal with dating small talk, and one is struggling with final year languages.

Agony Ant
14th March 2021
Image: Ella Williams

Welcome back to Agony Ant, our advice column to answer any problem. Today we have a submission from DiscombobulatedChic about feeling left out in her flat and a submission from 'Jake' about struggling with small talk and dating. Finally, StressedDepressedandAMess confesses her woes about her final year languages workload.

Hey Antie, so here is the tea.

I don't really get along well with my flatmates. Because of the rules and all, I hoped that this would be an opportunity to form nice bonds. It's just so awkward with them. I think we have exhausted all the small talk we can have. And the rest of them are closer so I feel a bit left out. Although I kinda sometimes blame it on myself because, I am not comfortable (entirely myself) with them, but want to be. So maybe I need to step out of myself a bit more. But it’s so hard. Also, they are a bit wild and I'm not, although I dabble lol...what do I do?


Dear DiscombobulatedChic,

Aw my gal I really feel for you! I faced a similar situation in my first-year halls, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be to experience the same flat troubles during a global pandemic. I also didn’t find ‘my people’ until second/third year, so I understand how distressing it can be to feel out of place amongst a group you wish to be part of.

My first piece of advice would be to talk to your flat and tell exactly them how you feel. I’m sure they would understand and probably don’t even realize their exclusive behavior. You’re clearly trying, and they will appreciate it! You could suggest taking part in some fun, but not so wild events too. If you’re arty, the Pottery Experience in Jesmond is doing at-home kits which could be a nice way to involve everyone. I think it's great that you’re trying to step out of your comfort zone, however, remember that you don’t need to change your morals or values for others. We can’t always connect with people, and that is okay.

My other suggestion is to get involved with societies and events held by the SU. There is a lot more going on than you think. Personally, am not one for meeting people online, but even I have been shocked to make close friendships with people I haven't even met before! This could be a great opportunity to make new friendships to take into next year. Lastly, if the situation continues to cause you upset, it is so important to speak to someone. You can access the University’s Wellbeing Service here. Wishing you all the best and if you ever need a chat feel free to reach out personally to me via our UniBuddy website!

Good luck!

From Briana Gordhan, a BAME and Low-Income Inclusive Buddy.


I'm a cisgender white male and my so-called X kinda destroyed me. I have long-term mental health treatment, and I’ve reached the point where I just want to meet females to have a conversation and maybe go on a few dates. But my small talk is awful, and my pulling technique never worked in clubs.

Any tips?

Jake (Pseudonym)

Hi ‘Jake’,

First of all, congratulations on getting treatment for your mental health. That is something to be proud of. I’m glad you’re in the right headspace to move on from the ex that hurt you. So, how do you do that exactly? Club pulling technique isn’t something to worry about anytime soon – how about we focus on online dating tips.

Let’s get this out of the way: small talk is unequivocally awful, something to be avoided at all costs. As anyone who has been on a dating app for more than five minutes knows, ‘what are you up to?’ or ‘what do you study?’ might as well be an obituary for your conversation. In terms of openers, a genuine compliment never hurts. The key to moving out of dull-conversation territory and into an actual conversation though, is always in the bio. Refer to something they’ve said they like, something they’re doing in a picture, their music taste. Ask them a question. Not only does this hopefully get them talking about something they are interested in, but it shows that you have bothered to read what they’ve written about themselves.

Some apps have introduced Q&A or prompt features, where you can ask and answer prompted questions with your match. This isn’t always something to open with, but it can keep your conversation going later on. Prompts can be a great way to start more interesting or creative conversations, or to get your match sharing a story with you. It’s also a painless way to change the subject if whatever you’re talking about has gone a bit stale.

Finally, if you know you struggle with small talk or getting your personality across over text, don’t be afraid to say that! Admitting you’re not the best with small talk, and following that up with using a prompt or suggesting a niche conversation about a shared interest, is 100% better than succumbing to boring conversations. If you find it easier to talk in person than by message, suggest a low-pressure online date that includes video calling. Move things to a platform or space where you’re more comfortable!

Dating advice is an endless pit of opinions, but I hope that gives you a couple ideas. Trial and error and figuring out what works for you is a part of dating that everyone goes through. Good luck out there!

Agony Ant

Hello Agony Ant,

I was wondering the best advice you have for someone whose subject gives them at least 12 hours a day's work. I have plenty of contact from wellbeing and study support to help me organise my week but if you have one of those courses that gives you no free time, you know what this is like more than previous advice which has been to just leave it or "prioritize" which is good advice, when you don't have multiple pieces of homework due in on the same day.

If you're on a course who doesn't get weekly tasks for each module, think yourself lucky. If you do, you can understand what it's like to be a final year language student with 6 pieces of work due in, in multiple languages on the same day.

Many thanks

A very busy student


Dear Stressed,

Fellow languages final year student here. Let me start by giving you some validation: final year for languages students is no joke, and you are doing your best. The trouble with languages is that the amount you can study is endless. Languages are vast and tangly; there is no book or module to finish, only a limitless expanse of words. Here is my practical advice.

Twelve hours a day is intense, and you must schedule in breaks. Breaks to eat, to stare at the wall with your head empty, to go outside. Be as strict with your sleep schedule as you can. There is nothing worse than trying to translate on no sleep when you are hungry. Breaks are not a waste of time; they replenish you and you cannot run on empty. Professional translators tag team and swap out after about an hour, you should not get less consideration simply because you are a student. Guard things that de-stress you and help you sleep with as much ferocity as a dragon hoarding treasure. Take a few hours off some evenings. You are worth more than this degree.

In terms of prioritisation, don’t forget the big picture. Work backwards: What contributes more weight to your modules? What are your strengths and weaknesses? With a language, your knowledge builds on itself, so it can be hard to see what is important to focus on. Look at your assessments, consider where you are weakest. If essays are your strength, cut the time you work on perfecting them. If your final exam has a large weighty translation, do more translation practice. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t count towards anything, only do enough practice to maintain your level in that skill, or let it (temporarily) atrophy.

It is okay to let things slide. Now is not the time for perfectionism, now is the time to get things done. Let go of the idea that if you work yourself into the ground you can complete everything with 100% effort and success. Aim for 70% across the board. Start your day with a short span of vocabulary and grammar drills. You can tick it off your list and feel productive, it doesn’t eat away much time, and it is necessary for everything you do.

Don’t forget the resources we have in the LRC. If speaking is a weakness of yours, we have Sanako pronounce software, and there are one-to-one conversation partner slots. If you have friends who study languages, study with them for second-hand motivation and a shred more sanity than locking yourself to your desk. Leading up to your exams, immerse yourself as much as you can: podcasts, films (again have a look at the LRC), speaking in your language, revision.

We’ve got this. See you on the other side of graduation, Stressed.

Agony Ant

The Agony Ant is in collaboration with NUSU’s Inclusive buddies, a bunch of students from a diverse range of backgrounds. You can read more about them here

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