Marilyn Aguilera is currently a senior working on completing a double major in English and Media and Cinema Studies at Depaul University. She loves traveling, writing, drawing poorly, trying new foods and learning about different cultures. She will be graduating in spring 2015 and will seek to be a part of the writing community in Chicago.
As a fellow introvert I understand that sometimes, a person just wants to be alone and in a quiet place. This, unfortunately, is not conducive to making new friends, at a new school, even worse if it’s somewhere far from home. Social skills are something you gain through practice, and I personally find this to be the most necessary and also most difficult tool to master when it comes to being successful at college. What I’ve learned through my years of higher education is how to get around my naturally quiet self and forcefully open up to the world around me.
1. Attend as many clubs and events as possible
Seriously, variation is key here; you never know what you might just fall in love with. Colleges always have random small clubs to join, and whether it’s the Quidditch team or volunteer work, there’ll be something that will peak your curiosity. Don’t question it, just try it out, and don’t even take into account large crowds as a factor in going to an event or meeting, as you’ll just end up second guessing it and chickening out. Remember that college is for reinvention, and let nothing daunt you.
I know what you’re thinking; everyone always says that about joining clubs, it’s so obvious. Well guess what, it’s cliché for a reason. If you’re attending college in a bigger city like I am, it doesn’t even have to be a social event or club connected to the school. Exploring the places around you not only opens you up to new things, but also to the potential of meeting new people. Heck, I went to a concert alone and got lost in the crowd just to see if I could. And also I desperately wanted to see this musician and no one I knew wanted to go along for the ride. It was probably one of the most freeing experiences, and since no one knew me, all those social expectations went away, and conversation with strangers was easy. I only suggest this if you’re comfortable with the area you’re in however, as nerves can get the better of you otherwise.
If actual college groups aren’t your thing, you could always join one on Facebook, there’s a ton dedicated to specific groups residing in certain states or cities that often have group meet ups. I’ve done a couple of these myself and had a great time meeting up with people I had at least one thing for sure in common with, depending on the group topic. If meeting new people worries you, wait for when another friend is free or in town and drag them along with you as moral support. This way, the comfort level for you is as high as possible, which allows for your guard to drop and get the chance to have some meaningful conversation. Creating friendships takes two, and if you’re not as receptive as possible, you might miss out on a lot of really cool people out there.
2. Dorm life socializing
There are two ways to go about dorm life; you can make my freshman year introvert-driven mistake and leave your door closed a lot, not socialize at events or in the common areas and in the end barely get to know anyone in the same building let alone your floor. Or, you can do the exact opposite of that. Dorms often hold events for their residents and all you have to do is show up, grab some free food, and hover near the closest exit while looking for anyone who looks half as anxious as you do. Start talking to them about the dorm, the school, the food, anything at all. Find a common interest and delve into it, go from there.
If you’re not living in dorms, make friends with someone who is, and get invited over. This leads me to my final and most important point:
3. The hardest way to make friends when you’re shy is also the simplest; just talk to that person in class you think seems nice.
I know that this seems difficult mentally, and I’ve struggled with getting to know people in class because approaching them just seemed weird. Sitting near them is the first step to getting to know people in class. Don’t be afraid to sit next to them, or leave some space. Just as long as they’re close enough to hear you. Arriving before class allows for conversation before the professor arrives, this is often when a class will get quiet and awkward. Use the opportunity before class starts to talk about class, majors, or the professor. These are easy gateways and icebreakers into more interesting conversations with the people around you, commonality builds relationships, and at the beginning the class you’re in is your common ground.
Honestly, one of my now closest friends and I shared a couple classes together and every time I saw her I would think to myself that we’d make good friends, but I never really knew how to start a conversation. One day, I decided to sit next to her, and just talk about class or anything I could think of. Small talk is super stressful in my opinion, so if it helps, I suggest thinking of a few things you might bring up ahead of time. I know it sounds lame to prepare for friendship, but as an introvert I know I often prefer thinking before speaking, so planning ahead is natural for me. I hope these tips help anyone who might be struggling to fit in during college!