Ali Guerra is a 21-year-old graduate from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida who attained her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism with a minor in English literature. She revels in all things art, takes pictures for fun and tries to make stanzas out of words. She is currently finding herself, in small doses, and writing about her experiences. She has a soft spot for rabbits, fall weather and vintage things.
The first day of college isn’t easy. It’s foreign to you. You feel unaccustomed. You don’t know a soul. For someone that was battling social anxiety, I decided that going to a significantly smaller university was the better and easier option for me. But I was wrong—it was still hard.
I made my way to the “sign-in” lines. Instantly, I felt out of place—the way you feel when you walk into a party where everybody already knows each other and are all slightly tipsy, mingling, but you are there alone—I felt like everyone already knew each other somehow. I felt like I missed a memo. Maybe a pre-college “meet your peers” get together that I didn’t get invited to. That sinking feeling in my stomach told me I needed to run as fast as I could, but I couldn’t do that. I was in college now. I let down a gulp and made it a priority to make some friends.
I went to an international university, which meant that 80% of the students that went there were from different countries. I was surprised to see how many different types of people there were! But it never occurred to me that people, more often than not, tend to cling to other people that best resemble who they are. Sure enough, the first time I walked into the cafeteria I realize that all the different “cultural cliques” had already been formed. It felt like something from a really bad teen movie. It seemed like everyone had already found a group of people with whom they meshed well, and I was alone.
I decided to take the route that comforted me the most—I joined the college newspaper staff, and it was only a matter of days that I would meet some of the best people in the world—that I am still close with today. I joined more clubs, participated in more events. I decided to talk to someone from every single culture and I learned more than I ever would have if I had gone to a bigger school. I never felt alone because school always felt like home to me.
College is hard. “Fitting in” is harder. Here, I learned it wasn’t about fitting in but about standing out. Everyone there had a different story to tell, it seemed. I ended up writing “student profiles” for the newspaper and wrote about some of the most unique and interesting individuals. Yes, I may have met and known just about every single human at that school. But I also felt connected to them all, and that isn’t something I would have experienced at a big school.