So I’m just adjusting to my study abroad program life in Hungary. I met a gazillion people in the first week, and was painfully reminded of the ridiculous social games that go on when meeting a lot of new people for the first time and adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle – how everyone is grasping for friendships and backup friendships, but also doesn’t want to get too close to anyone in case they become clingy, etc. And then I thought back to freshman orientation and realized how tough it must be for ’11 right now.
So here’s some excerpts from two nice articles from Go Ask Alice, Columbia’s health services Q&A. Hope they help you! I promise, for those of you who still feel weirdly unsettled, things do get better. Really. And conversations do eventually progress beyond “Oh, where are you from? Cool, what classes are you thinking of taking?”
Another thing your peers might not admit: they, too, feel like they’re having trouble finding a social niche, and perhaps are working over-time to project the “I’ve got lots of buddies” image or the “I’m too cool to care” stance. Finding your niche and making good friends takes time.
…There are probably some ways to bring more of “home” into your college experience. Here are a few ideas:
- Set a reliable schedule for talking with and/or e-mailing your family and friends from back home. This will give you a chance to connect, share your new experiences as well as your doubts, and hear the news from home.
- Next time you’re back in your old neighborhood, take some pictures of your old hangouts, home, pets, family, and friends. If you can’t make it all the way there, ask the people you’ve left behind to send some. Post them around your room and be sure to share them with as many visitors as you can! This is also a great way to get to know people and let them get to know you. Talking about home and the things you miss might even allow you to hear about other people’s worries when they are otherwise trying to act so “together.”
- Invite a friend or family member from home to visit you at school. This may motivate you to focus on the things about college that you’re excited about and eager to share. Also, then you and your college acquaintances will know someone in common!
- Are there local specialties that you miss from home? Really delicious foods, unique smells, or something else? Maybe someone can send a care package packed with your favorites. There’s also likely to be someplace in town that at least approximates some of what you miss — try hanging out there and starting your own tradition.
- Join a club or group that shares your interests and/or background. You’ll likely make some new friends that, like you, have a passion for country music, know how to fry up winner latkes or pickle kim chee, or love to salsa dance. Together you can reminisce and also occupy yourself with new things that with time will become the things you miss about college when you’re visiting home.
From “Friends for First Year Guy:”
You claim to be shy and lonely, yet you know your assets and what you can bring to a friendship. You won’t meet people, however, by locking yourself up in your room and hiding in the library between classes and at night. What are your interests? There are so many student groups on campus that are always looking for new members. Go to a few different meetings (check bulletin boards, On Broadway, Earl Hall, etc.). Continue going to the ones where you feel welcome–where you sense a common interest with the other members.
How about talking to your RA? Do you have floor meetings? How are the people on your floor? What do they do in their spare time? They can’t all be party animals….Ask your RA for suggestions; s/he knows you better than I do from a few lines on the computer, and would probably have some good ideas for places to meet people who you might like. Be persistent, have patience, and true friendship will come your way again.