5 Tips For Building Community in College
If there is one thing I have learned at my time in school, it is that I cannot do life alone. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew one another from preschool to graduation. I had grown up always having multiple groups to rely on. I had my friends, my teachers, my family, my church groups, and later on, my co-workers. I was never really conscious of how I had built my network; it had always been there.
Upon move-in last August, I quickly learned that I was going to need to build a new community for myself. I had been aware that it would be hard to move to a new state and a new place where I knew no one. But, I never realized how much I took comfort in my community for granted before. I found myself craving the depth of the relationships I had at home and the feeling of knowing where I fit in the system.
Luckily, I have built new communities during my time here at school. I’m still working on it, but the experience has taught me a lot about the ways in which I connect with those around me. Here are 5 important things I have learned about making connections that help it feel more like a home.
1) Attend random campus events
I promised myself going into school that I wouldn’t be “too cool” to go to cheesy events on campus like scavenger hunts, inflatables on the quad, or bubble soccer (all of which I attended the first week of classes). I have found that it’s easier to talk to people when you’re both in a situation that is a little ridiculous and a little out of your comfort zone. By putting you both on the same level of awkwardness, it is easier to laugh together and get a conversation going.
2) Get involved in your neighborhood
Get off campus! Attending school in Pittsburgh, I have enjoyed meeting my neighbors and learning about the surrounding communities so much. I go to my local library, attend live music events in the area, and visit parks. I have often struck up a conversation with the adults in these public areas who have offered me a fresh outlook on life. It’s important to not live only in the bubble that is the community of your school.
3) Start a group chat!
Don’t underestimate the power of a good group chat. If you’re going to lunch or grocery shopping, text the group chat and ask if anyone wants to join. More than likely, someone else needs to eat or shop and will join you. It also allows others to attend only what they feel comfortable with without feeling guilty about declining and helps to form a sense of community within the group chat members.
4) Be Patient
Finding your people isn’t easy. You may have to try out a couple different groups to find where you belong and that’s okay. Most college freshmen don’t develop close relationships until the second semester. It’s all a learning process in and outside of the classroom. You will find your crew; have patience and enjoy the process!
5) Don’t be afraid of rejection
The most important thing to remember is to be confident and kind. Compliment someone’s shirt, ask to grab lunch with the person who is leaving class with you, reach out to the person who seems uncomfortable. Even if you don’t immediately click, they will remember your friendliness, and you might have a class with them the next semester or see them on campus later. Being able to greet others on campus and having others greet you goes a long way. People will appreciate you making “the first move,” and if they don’t, they aren’t someone you want to invest more time in anyways.
Most importantly, keep putting yourself out there! College can be tough, and having a safety net of people to fall back on is really important. It isn’t all about what you learn in your courses, but the people and experiences you encounter along the way.
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