Erin is a Modern Culture and Media major and spends most of her days explaining her major to her parent’s friends. She is interested in film and television, specifically comedy and children’s entertainment. Her ultimate goal in life is to write and produce her own television show on whatever is the major media platform of the future.
Leaving high school and entering college can be a huge adjustment, especially if you’ve never been far away from home before. It’s a different way of living, complete with a new location, new experiences and new friends. Navigating these new friendships can be a daunting if not flat out overwhelming task. If you’re anything like me sometimes when you’re in a new situation all of the different stimuli, grabbing for you attention can become too much, a deafening cacophony and you tend to overanalyze or just draw a blank.
Breathe. It’s fine.
Your intellectual curiosity and sensitivity to your surroundings are probably what got you into college in the first place you big brain, you. But in a social situation this can be stressful. So in order to make sense of all the chaos, to impose some order on this random, constantly churning world you might be tempted to go back to what’s familiar and sort through people the best way you know how: by your old high school standards. Now, I’m not saying that the social skills you learned in high school aren’t relevant to the world at large or that some books aren’t exactly what the cover looks like but your world just expanded exponentially and now it’s time for those old ways to evolve. One of the major differences between high school and college is that while in high school you were forced (more or less) to be there and interact with people you didn’t necessarily get a long with or like, in college you’re surrounded by a new fascinating new cross section of life, hand-picked to be dynamic and interesting. Everybody comes with their own unique backstory and personal journey. What I’m saying is, it’s worth your while to talk to everybody.
How do you do this you might ask? It’s actually amazingly simple. Just talk to people. Talk to everybody and don’t worry about finding your place yet or whether or not you fit in. You’ve been given this beautiful grace period where there is no set social structure or order. You can’t fit in or not fit in because there’s no place yet to fit in or not fit in: nobody knows each other! Talk to the people in your hall and see what they’re doing, tag along with the giant group of freshmen ambling around on campus, odds are they’re going to something fun. At the one of the hundreds freshman mixers have conversations with people, even people who aren’t your bread and butter. Everybody is just as nervous as you are and eager to make friends. You could really hit it off with somebody you wouldn’t have given a second thought to in high school. The archetypal popular soccer star who seemed universes away from you could end up being your best friend. Why? Because part of going to college is growing up and growing gives you the miraculous ability to see others as people with insecurities, flaws, hopes and dreams just like you. The first time I felt this was during my freshman year when I played on the women’s rugby team. There were all types of women there, short ones, tall ones, thick, skinny, quiet, and loud ones. But they were all just happy to be there and be around each other. Everybody was incredibly different from myself. One girl whom I became good friends with was a quiet, outdoorsy, computer genius to my loud, media addicted, film major self. But through rugby I got to know her world and how she operated. She knew how to build a server, code, and made fantastic butternut squash soup, from scratch no less! I marveled at the things that just couldn’t exist in my world alone. I would have been missing out on all of that had I not taken a risk and stepped outside my comfort zone. Now not everybody will surprise you, some people you meet are jerks and unfortunately some people start out nice and become jerks. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter, relationships will shift and change drastically in the beginning. Eventually they’ll settle down and you’ll find yourself with a great core group of friends.
The final step in college social life is to not get too stuck in your lane. Odds are by your junior year there are still hundreds of other people you don’t know. These people probably won’t be your best friends but you can plant the seed of a relationship. You two could end up in the same city after college and support each other through navigating the real world or they could provide a lead on a job when rent is due or just provide different conversation than your regular friends. Talking to everybody not only enriches your college experience but it’s a good life skill to carry with you. You should always make the effort to step outside of your everyday routine.