Today on the blog I am going to give you some important information (which might be especially helpful if you are an introvert like me)—I am giving you your guide to finding your people in college. If I was to give any person advice on this subject it’d be to get involved and find your people ASAP. Today I am going to talk about what involvement has done for my own life and what it can do for yours too.
A Tale of Two Amanda’s
So, I am going to tell you a little story of two Amanda’s. Both Amanda’s were equally scared of going away to college and probably had equal amounts of panic attacks and crying fits before going to college. The pain was equally there for both of us—but one of us conquered and one of us wallowed in self-pity (but eventually overcame after nearly a semester of wallowing.)
The First Amanda
So, the first Amanda we are going to talk about is freshman year Amanda. Way back in 2011, I was scared of going to college. I had never been on my own that long and that far away from my parents. This was a new sensation to me. I got a plan together though. I would try to throw myself into activities. I looked at all the Welcome Week activities to see which things seemed cool and I tried to go to all the random magicians and casino nights that my school put on for the new freshman. I tried to be open and instead of reading my kindle in my room; I read it in the lounge of my residence hall. I made it a point to get to know some of my hall mates. I got involved in residence hall government. I made it a point to get to know my classmates; especially the ones I had in multiple classes and found a way to hang out with them by studying, eating out with them, or getting our toes done together.
In hindsight, freshman year Amanda was pretty badass. I am not sure if my current 23 year old self could be THAT fearless. Honestly, I wish I could have bottled up a little of that freshman year magic, because my 22-year-old self definitely needed it.
The Second Amanda
Fast forward to the first semester of graduate school—I was definitely not doing that great. The panic had set in, on top of an extremely heavy course load. I was trying to keep up with my readings in my theory class, hating my life, and having absolutely no friends. But I wasn’t really trying to make friends either. In fact, I was doing the exact opposite. I was being a complete shut-in. When I did go to campus, I was usually on the phone, and probably looked completely unapproachable. I didn’t seem to make friends at all—so I just called my sister 24/7 and we talked, unless I was in the library (I am not that rude.)
I got so distressed, that toward the end of the semester, I just wanted to be at home for a while. I was so depressed, I didn’t want to go back. I have a note in my phone that I intend to keep for as long as possible from November 4th, a night when I was at my lowest point, where I outlined that I’d be dropping out of graduate school. I had written my resignation note. Not one to make extreme life decisions without my family, I didn’t send it that night. After a lot of tears and a talk with my family, I decided that the semester was almost over and I HAD to stop being so dramatic. I needed to finish the semester and work hard, so if I decided to drop out later, at least I would have some good grades. We all knew, though, if I didn’t drop out at that lowest point it probably wasn’t going to happen.
Turns out, it was a great idea for me to go back. After I went back to school, I felt more at ease. Everything seemed to be clicking into place. I read one of my favorite academic books ever after I came back from that break, “Racism without Racists,” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. That book coupled with some other awesome things like being offered a graduate assistant position really helped me get excited about the future of my degree.
Have A Plan
Okay. So the difference between freshman year of college Amanda and first year of graduate school Amanda? I had a plan. I:
- channeled all of my anxiety and bad energy my freshman year into making sure I didn’t feel bad during my freshman year.
- Poured over the welcome week schedule. I looked up some of the interesting clubs and activities on campus that I could potentially join.
- Talked with my potential classmates and participated in my classes Facebook group.
- Really wanted to hit the ground running because I knew that homesickness was definitely in my blood.
- Knew that homesickness was in my veins.
- Had to make a plan of action.
What would I do when I stepped foot on campus? Which activities would I join? What classes would I take?
Coming up with that plan to get involved as soon as possible with stuff that intrigued me was very important. Without that plan, I wouldn’t have made it through. I needed to add some structure to my college life. So how do you figure out a plan?
The first piece of advice is to be open. Your school might not be your first choice (or even your 10th) you have to make lemonade out of lemons if you have to. Be open to the possibilities of what could happen while you are at college. Have structure, but be open to the universe. You never know what will end up in your lap during college. You might have a plan or think you know where something is going, but you never truly know what will happen. I was sure that I’d be dropping out of graduate school, but then I got this opportunity to apply for a graduate assistantship. I took that opportunity and it saved my sanity and my graduate school career. Don’t be so set in your ways that you don’t see interesting new ideas in front of you.
Find A Few Organizations You Are Interested In Joining
The next thing, find a few organizations you’d be interested in joining. Since this guide is particularly for introverts—find organizations that are intimate and small. Some of the best places for this are church groups (because many of them have small groups as a part of the organization where you can meet and discuss your faith with a smaller group of students); academic organizations like ones related to your major (I mean, you’ll be around all these people for your college career anyway, might as well meet them outside of class); and other smaller clubs.
I am an introvert and I did find my place in a sorority, but I understand that Greek life isn’t for everyone. I knew a few people going into recruitment and we had recruitment during my second semester so I’d already met a close friend that I went through recruitment with. If you are intrigued my Greek life, definitely don’t let being an introvert stop you, but also understand that the recruitment process might be a bit draining for you.
Plan Your First Week
Your first week really sets the tone for the rest of the school year in my opinion. It might seem like a small feat to get past the first week, but I promise, it’s actually pretty awesome if you can get past your first week of school. My advice, plan it out from start to finish.
Your university will usually provide an awesome schedule for you to follow your freshman year. My university gave us a booklet featuring all sorts of helpful information and a schedule for the week. I went through the schedule, picked out my favorite activities, and made sure to schedule them into my life during that week. I went to everything and anything I could get my hands on. I went to the cheesy events with the get-to-know-you team builders. I even participated in them, even though I hate team building activities. Welcome week is the one week where you HAVE to participate in these, even though they don’t always make you excited. These activities are so helpful for getting to know a large amount of people in a short amount of time.
You need to set expectations around everything. Think to yourself, what do you want from your friendships? How often do you see yourself going out on the weekends vs staying in to do homework? Where do you see yourself meeting your friends? Do you want friends who like to party or friends who like to stay in and watch Netflix? Set expectations, but don’t just forget them once you go to college. Either meet and exceed them or acknowledge them and perfect them, but don’t ignore them and let them go unfulfilled.
Say Yes More
In my opinion, there are two types of things we say no to:
- The things we absolutely don’t want/need to do (aka, you don’t have to say yes to drinking or sex if you don’t want to.) These are the hard no’s. It’s okay to have those, that just means you have rules and expectations for your life.
- The things that wouldn’t kill us, but require us to get put on real pants, and get out of our comfort zone. These are the things we could do, but man, I am already in my sweat pants for the day. You can compromise a little on these no’s.
You don’t want to start the cycle of no. It’s not a good place to be. When you first get to college, you may be invited to a party, study session, or dinner by people in your hall or in your classes. You may also want to invite people to do those things with you. Open yourself up to that. Don’t start the cycle of no, because once you start saying no, it’s only a matter of time before those invitations won’t be there for you anymore. People tire easily of being rejected. If you are constantly saying no to things, eventually you won’t have anything to say no to.
You can experience things for a few times, then decide if you need to say no to those things. For example, I went to a few parties my freshman year, but not much after that. I realized that I’d much rather hang out and do double features at Cinemark then go to a fraternity party. Parties weren’t my scene. I got extreme social anxiety and I hated when random guys started dancing on me. I didn’t say no to these things at first though. I went to a couple of parties with friends and acquaintances. I quickly realized, though, that that wasn’t my scene at all.
So What Do I Do If I Can’t Find My People Right Away
I wish I could lie to you and tell you that college is rainbows and butterflies all the time. That would be a nice sentiment, and totally cool. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case. College is filled with twists and turns and slightly strange times. You are going to change a lot, and sometimes you won’t be able to find your people as soon as you’d like.
Be More Patient
The first thing is be more patient. Things will come, and it’s possible that you just haven’t found what you are looking for. Be aware of what is happening around you and wait a little bit. I promise things will be better if you are working hard at it.
Evaluate Your Openness
The next thing you need to do after you remind yourself to have patience is to evaluate yourself. Often if you are thinking what on Earth could be happening, there is usually an easy solution. Evaluation is key to success and fixing your problems. Are you as open as you’d like to think? When I was in my first semester of graduate school, I just wondered why things weren’t as easy as they used to be. It used to be easy for me to make friends. I was doing all the things that I did during my freshman year. I was introducing myself to classmates; I was going to various places on campus. I wasn’t very open when I was going to places on campus though. Most of my classmates weren’t my age so if I wanted to connect with them I had to do it on their terms. This isn’t so easy for a person right out of college to understand, but after a while, I began to think about what I could be doing differently, and there was a lot I could be doing.
Track and evaluate your behavior day to day by checking in throughout the day on your behavior. Think about:
- How you normally walk to class: do you have your headphones in?
- What you normally do in the cafeteria: do you normally get your food to go so you can avoid those awkward eating by yourself moments?
- What you do in class: Do you sit front and center and introduce yourself to your classmates or do you sit in the back by the door waiting for class to be through?
Evaluating your behavior is very important so that you can see what needs to be changed in order to invite more positive people into your life.
Talk To Someone
The worst thing you can do is to keep all of these emotions bottled up. There are so many resources on campus for you. Most college campuses have group and individual counseling sessions that are easy to sign up for through student health services. Figure out where your counseling center is and go to a session or two (or how many ever your university lets you have.) It is so important to have conversations with others and get your ideas out there. Counselors deal with this sort of stuff all the time. They have seen a lot of cases and they know information about resources on campus as well as being able to ease your fears and insecurities. Counselors are basically amazing. Use them.
Understand That You Aren’t Alone
Lastly, understand that, in no way, shape, or form are you alone in your fears and feelings. Everyone has felt those feelings (sometimes theirs might just last a shorter time than your feelings.) Feelings of homesickness, being afraid; being depressed; etc, so many other students in your place feel those feelings. You don’t ever have to feel alone in your thoughts. You are not alone in your thoughts. Girl, you are amazing.
I want to end today’s blog by saying the following—you are amazing. The transition to college is a tough one, and not a transition that a lot of people get to make, even in today’s age. You are so lucky to be able to attend the college you are attending. Making friends takes time. It may not seem that way because it feels like you have always had friends or that there is a place on this planet that you fit in at more. There are always going to be places in this world that you feel more at home at. There are always going to be places that make you slightly uncomfortable. The biggest thing is you need to learn to get out there a little. To make a splash, no matter how tiny the ripple effect. Make a small splash and keep splashing. Eventually you will get where you need to get.