Pretty much anyone that has gone to college says the same exact thing to an incoming freshman: that the transition will be hard. After that, once the school year has begun, they always ask how you’re doing when you come home, ask if you’re meeting a lot of people, and tell you it will get better. Naturally, you will tell them, “everything’s great, I’m meeting so many people, I know it’ll get easier,” even if that’s not necessarily true. One of the hardest parts about this transition from life at home to life at college is that you have to completely start over with friends. All those people you spent the past 12 years of your life with in school? Yeah, they won’t be there with you anymore. You will be thrown into a place where you know absolutely no one, and you have to start building your life again from the ground up. Take it from me, the reality of that is absolutely terrifying.
For some people, this isn't an issue at all. They are just naturally so social that they fall into friend groups instantly. I see and hear fellow freshmen hanging out all the time, talking like they’ve known each other since kindergarten. But for others, it’s not that easy. Some personalities are more reserved and less outgoing, so it’s harder to make friends quickly. This is what I was scared of going into college, knowing that my own personality is much like this when I’m in situations I’m not comfortable in.
In college, everything is different, so I was completely out of my element for the first few weeks. I grew fairly comfortable not long after that, but making friends is to this day still moving at a sluggish pace. There are many people that seem to be like this, and that’s a huge part of what college is; noticing that there are so many other people out there in the world that are like you. It’s also a great way to realize that gradually easing into the friend scene isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Your room really starts to feel like home.
If you tend to veer away from the social scene, you probably spend a lot of time in your room. After only a few weeks, it definitely is the homiest place on campus. Much like your room at home, it will become your comfort zone, and the place you go when you want to relax. You can continue to add decorations, move your stuff around, and just personalize even more. Before you know it, when you go home for a weekend or break you will be longing for the day you get to return to your dorm room bed.
2. You can always finish your homework ahead of time.
Without the desire to procrastinate with human interaction 24/7, it’s not that hard to keep up on your work. If you’re sitting in your room alone, it’s easy to discipline yourself into getting stuff done, especially when you reward yourself with an episode of TV or a stashed snack afterward. It’s also not hard to stay focused or develop successful note-taking and study habits. You have time to experiment with different styles of each, and when you find one that works for you, that can then be applied to all of your school work.
3. You can finish an entire TV show in a week.
Getting work done for school should take priority, but during those times you have off, you can easily hunker down and binge watch Netflix. Without the distraction of a huge group of friends, it’s so easy to just get completely lost in a TV series and finish a season in a day.
4. You find new places to study or read.
If you go back to your room looking for some peace and quiet, ready to read for homework or for fun, and your heart sinks when you see your roommate has a friend or two over, you’re probably going to want to find another place to go. After a few times of this happening, you’ll find some of your favorite places to do homework, whether it be in a building lounge, or outside on a bench. There are plenty of areas where you can go to find quiet, including the most popular: the library. But if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to make the 5-minute walk to a place that’s always filled with people doing work, you can find other places. One of my favorite things to do is grab a towel and head outside to the quad right next to my dorm building. I set up the makeshift blanket either in the shade of a tree or right in the sun depending on the temperature, and it’s automatically a great place to get stuff done, all while enjoying some fresh air, sunshine, and great views of campus.
5. You find new places in general.
Spend some of your down time exploring campus and anything surrounding it. By the end of the first month, you will know that place like the back of your hand; every little room hidden on the top floor of the Student Union Building, every gift shop with 40 cent postcards, and every awesome market stuffed between two buildings. You have all the time in the world to explore this place that will be your home for the next 4 years, so might as well take advantage of that!
6. You can do whatever you want in your room.
If it’s a weekend and your roommates are out of town, you get the room all to yourself. This will be your only real alone time, so you can literally do anything your heart desires! I would suggest setting up your TV and watching sappy movies until 3 in the morning, trying out crazy new makeup looks, blasting some music and having a dance party, or even staying in bed all day long. This is your time with yourself, so do anything you want to.
7. You can take care of yourself.
Learning how to take care of yourself is very important in college. Going from having your parents looking over your shoulder 24/7 to having no one there to tell you what to do is a huge change. It can be amazing if you handle it right. Having the time to care for your physical and mental well-being is a great way to ensure you remain happy and comfortable at college. Making sure you eat every day, and eat something healthy for that matter, making sure you maintain good hygiene habits, taking to friends and family back home regularly, keeping your room clean, getting enough sleep, and making sure you incorporate enough activities into your new life that you enjoy are all great ways to take care of yourself.
8. You can scope out the friend material before committing.
This may sound strange, but one of the benefits of taking your time at making friends is that you can see the true sides to people ahead of time. Rather than automatically becoming best friends with anyone you meet, you can get to know them a bit, and then if they’re not someone you want to be a part of your new life, you can cut off contact with them and move on. For example, if you meet a girl a few doors down from you and think you might want to become friends, talk to them casually for a bit. Say, you cannot stand to be around people that smoke, and you find out that this potential friend smokes regularly. After this encounter, you can make the choice to not become great friends with them. If you meet someone you believe might be toxic to your college experience, campuses are often big enough that you can avoid them completely. This is not to say avoid every single person that you think you won’t like, because it is definitely important to branch out of your comfort zone and meet new people in college. I’m only saying that it’s nice to be able to scope out your options before jumping right into a friendship that could last anywhere from a week to 4 years, to the rest of your life. And then once you do find someone you would like to stick around as your friend, you can spend tons of time with them just getting to know each other and having fun!
9. You can eat whatever, wherever, and whenever you want!
Not having a group of friends that you get food with at every single meal is nice because you don’t have to be on anyone’s eating schedule but your own. Like getting breakfast at 7 AM and dinner at 11 PM? You can do that. Like getting brunch at noon and dinner at 7 PM? You can do that too! Don’t be ashamed of eating in the dining hall alone; so many people do it. It’s not like high school where you look like a “loner” if you’re sitting at a table by yourself. Everyone has vastly different schedules in college, so it’s completely acceptable and normal to eat by yourself. Another aspect of this is you can go wherever you want. Most campuses have a huge variety of food places, as do the surrounding towns. You can try things from every single one of them or stick to your favorite if you want. It’s all up to you!
10. You can “find yourself.”
Sounds cheesy, but it’s very true. Having time to yourself makes you reflect on your past, present, and future plans. It makes you think–it’s as simple as that. Many people hate being left alone with their thoughts, but sometimes it’s a good thing. It can help you move on from things in your past as well as appreciate other memories, find out the good and bad things happening in the present and figure out how to better it, and fantasize about and plan your future. You can also “find yourself” by joining clubs. Even though you may be joining alone, try out every club that sparks even a little interest in you. You don’t have to stay in these clubs after trying them out, but you never know what you might end up loving. Trying new things is key to this, and never restricting yourself. You don’t have to identify as one type of person, i.e. a jock or a music kid. You can literally do it all if you so desire. This is an easy and effective way to find out what you want to do that makes you happy as well as with the rest of your life.
Needless to say, being alone definitely sucks sometimes. However, it’s something that can be great if you utilize it. Don’t spend the time feeling sorry for yourself or wishing you had more friends, but use it to be productive and do more things for you and you alone. Soon enough, you will find your people, and by then you’ll have a pretty great understanding of your surroundings and yourself.