I’ve always struggled with making friends and getting involved. Perhaps it is the curse of being an introvert, or the result of being homeschooled through elementary school. Whatever the reason, connecting with others has always been (and still is) something hard for me, but it’s also something that I have come to realize is incredibly important.

When I began my college career, the idea of making friends was absolutely terrifying to me. I came in with high hopes and great expectations, but knew that this whole friend thing was going to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Although my first year went remarkably well in the friends department, I soon grew apart from people I’d met my first semester when I didn’t see them as often or they moved away. This was tough, and instead of finding new ways to get involved in my campus community, I settled into a complacent rut of driving to school and then leaving immediately after class ended to do homework and go to work. Sure, I was being a productive member of society, but I wasn’t getting involved – something that I would quickly come to regret. Luckily, that all changed my junior year.

My third year at university was not only incredibly exciting (that much closer to graduation!) but also a complete turnaround socially from where I had been for much of my sophomore year. I had sneakily gotten involved on campus in ways I didn’t even realize which prompted me to get even more involved. Junior year was a kind of snowball effect – a progression into becoming more active around campus that happened so quickly I hardly even noticed. Suddenly I was not only working on campus, but being a teaching assistant, a club officer, participating in leadership events, and jump-starting the brand new Odyssey community at my school. Suddenly, I was very involved – and I got more out of it than I think I ever anticipated.

I’m just as involved as I was last year this year, and it has taught me so much. Sometimes being a part of so many events and organizations can be challenging – on top of classes there’s only so much free time I end up having – but it’s been rewarding in so many other ways. I’ve learned even more about the great campus I’m a part of, made new friends and had the privilege of participating in some wonderful events – like attending a nationally renowned writing conference, interviewing the future vice chancellor, and sitting on the committee that will choose the next big speaker to come to campus. Being so involved has definitely pushed me far out of my comfort zone – like this year when I was unexpectedly made the president of a student led club on campus and put in charge of recruiting some great new members – but it has given me some of the best experiences of my college career so far.

If you are struggling to get involved in your community – whether that be on a college campus, at your place of employment, or in your hometown – don’t be a recluse. You’ll regret not jumping in head first to see all that your community has to offer. Sure, it may be hard at first – heck, it may take a million tries to finally find where you ‘fit ‘– but it will be so worth it in the end!