With winter slowly fading, daylight growing, and a pandemic that is inching closer to entering the rearview mirror, the excitement of spring and summer is just around the corner. The sounds, smells, and overall feeling of springtime warmth is an inspiration for many to emerge from their metaphorical (and literal) wintry social isolation and engage with others. The upcoming months will be some of the more active periods for students in colleges, as more events will be catered for outdoor activities and larger groups of people. For those new to their environment, whether it be a school or an entire country, let this guide serve as an example on how to grow your social circle!
Follow The Food
No, really – the metabolism of young adults is at its peak in the late teens and early 20s, and we’re all equally aware of the daunting tales of the “Freshman 15”. College students know how to keep down their food, and they especially have a keen sense to feel out where it is located. That doesn’t always mean your cafeteria – if you are lucky to go to a school that has food that is consistently delicious, then I applaud you (and am significantly jealous).
Campuses host events on any given day offering off-campus food as incentives, including networking events, occasions of guest speakers, and during club meeting presentations. Like metal to a magnet, college students are drawn into the free grub at the cost of sitting through a brief presentation that they’ll likely forget. And really, who isn’t happy when they’re eating? You can take advantage of the fact that you’re enjoying a free meal and are interested in the actual meeting topic. Speaking to others about your interest may spark a future conversation, whether about future networking opportunities or best chances to chow down, and congrats! You’ve just gotten some complimentary food and a friend.
Involve Yourself on Campus
Making friends unfortunately is not a quick delivery service and gratification is more of a gradual process. Club meetings, networking events, and being out and about on campus are all ways to socialize with others on campus. Particularly, you can take advantage of beginning-of-semester club fairs during your school’s welcome week. Clubs, especially cultural ones, use this fair as a recruitment period and will even go out of their way to attract you to their group. Joining these clubs means you’ll be in a space amongst peers who share commonalities deeper than just attending the same college.
Usually, colleges are inclusive to the point where if you have an interest, there is likely a club for it already in your school. Does one not exist? Petition to start one yourself if you can or see if other students have unofficial gatherings for your interest and try to join them!
If you do not have the time to visit clubs for class reasons or scheduling conflicts, use your free time to get involved with other people’s activities. There are many shared spaces in schools for students to spend their time leisurely like lounges, dining halls, and study rooms, and sometimes even a simple “Hello” can break the ice. What you may not realize instantly is that college students who are new to their environment spend more time in developing their friend group, and are open to those reciprocating the friendliness for those willing to put the effort and initiate contact. Maybe you’ll get lucky and someone will say “Hello” to you first, but it’s usually more proactive to do so yourself.
Friendships In Unexpected Places
Lastly, you would never think that class is a great place to socialize, but friends come from all places, even the ones you would never expect. Being in the same room with the same people every week can build very subtle, yet sometimes lasting relationships. You’ll share moments with your classmates that are unique from other friends, like staying up late to cram for a test, panicking about assignments that you weren’t sure were due today or next week, or even just congratulating each other for nailing a job interview. You’ll see them at their best, when they’re passing assignment after assignment, and at their worst, when textbooks are being flung at the wall in a fit of agitated rage.
What makes these relationships special is how open and genuine they are – people will see more raw emotion from their classmates over 3 months than they would with their other friends over several years. You’ll know each other’s favorite foods from ordering them every time you have lunch after class. You might learn their music taste when you have study sessions together. Soon, you’ll evolve from just a passing glance in the classroom to going to the gym with them at 7 in the morning. And when the dust clears and you walk out of those lecture hall doors for the final time that semester, you’ll have built a meaningful relationship off trust, understanding, and a deepened sense of maturity.
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Overall, no one should ever feel alone on campus. Every single one of us needs a support system of some kind, and sharing a friendly relationship is an excellent way to develop a resource for academic assistance, personal advice, and opportunities for fun. Remember that each experience with someone else will not be the same, so learn to adapt and consider the situation when trying to befriend others. If you take these guidelines with you and keep your head held high, there is no doubt that friendships should come as naturally as the springtime weather!