Oh No, I Picked the Wrong Friends :(

The fall of my freshman year I worried most about the change in academic rigor from high school to college. I realized I would have to adjust how much time I spent on my schoolwork and my methods of studying. I didn’t realize I would also have to reevaluate my previous friendships as well as my methods for forming new bonds. That first semester made me realize I no longer had any close friends and that I’d have to use more energy than in the past to form quality friendships. As the semester got more challenging and more things in my life were changing, I began to long for a support system on campus. I wanted REAL friends.

I tried some of the traditional ways to make friends like keeping my door open in my residence hall, talking to people in my classes and trying to join clubs. Although I met many people, none of the relationships stuck. Unlike high school, where I saw the same people daily, college life was more fluid and unpredictable. People where entering and exiting my life more quickly than I was able to remember their names! The few people who were consistently in my life were my roommates and a group of guys who lived on my floor. But the more I got to know them the more I wish I didn’t know them at all. I didn’t share any values with them. In fact, many of their views were in opposition to the identities I hold (i.e., they were kinda racist/sexist).

These issues became very apparent after an incident in a store toward the end of my first semester. I was followed throughout the store and stopped by security. In that moment I felt scared, humiliated and alone. I rushed back to my building, wanting someone, anyone, to confide in. I tried talking with one of the people I regularly hung out with, but he just questioned me and tried to figure out what I “did wrong” that “made” them think I was stealing. I was hurt and I was angry. Soon after this I decided to tell one of my professors what happened and about the reaction of the person from my floor. She introduced me to some students she knew who shared similar identities and values. I didn’t become best friends with these new people overnight, but I suddenly had people to eat with in the dining hall and I could talk about my life experiences with them without worrying about being shut down. I am still friends with one of these people now, two years later!

Starting my second year didn’t make finding friends any easier but I learned many things about making quality friends. I understood that a fulfilling friendship is like a plant; it needs nourishment and time in order to grow. I no longer thought of myself as a failure for not having a bunch of best friends. First year students are always told how to make new friends but aren’t taught the value in nurturing brand new friendships and I think that is a major oversight. Making friends for the sake of not being alone isn’t enough. You should never tolerate people who make you feel bad about yourself. It is OKAY to struggle with making friends because quality friendships take discretion.

How to Survive College: Commuter Edition

I know from personal experience that being a commuter in college can be really hard. The lack of motivation to get up and drive to school, the stress of finding a parking spot, making genuine friends, and eating on campus (especially without a meal plan) are all things that you constantly think about. It’s not easy to make a campus as big as Ohio State feel like home, but thankfully resources like Off Campus and Commuter Student Services (OCCSS) exist to help commuters feel more comfortable.

What is OCCSS? 

The Off Campus and Commuter Student Services office exists to improve the quality of life for off-campus and commuter students. The office is located on the third floor of the Ohio Union, which is without a doubt the best place on campus for commuters. OCCSS provides a commuter kitchen, which is directly next to the Sigma Phi Epsilon Commuter Lounge on the third floor (you’ll have to visit the OCCSS office first to get access to it), and lockers at the Ohio Union and the Younkin Success Center. They can also help students find housing, roommates, and provide services like Rideshare and Carpool that allow students to share transportation to and from campus.

How can OCCSS make commuting easier? 

Eating on campus

Eating on campus as a commuter is difficult especially without a meal plan because it’s harder to manage how much you spend on food during the academic year. Like I said, the Ohio Union is a great spot for commuters because it has options like the Union Market, Sloopy’s and Woody’s. Plus, it’s located along High Street, which means even more tempting food options. If you have classes every day and spend long hours on campus, it’s really easy to eat out frequently and form unhealthy eating habits, which does not feel great. Packing and heating up food from home in the commuter kitchen saves a lot of money, doesn’t take much time to do and is much better for your health. Campus Dining also offers a commuter meal plan, which is good for eating on campus 3-5 times a week using funding that’s added your BuckID account. 

Staying on campus

Although you might not have a room on campus, you can still feel at home. In my first semester, I often went home as soon as my classes ended, and I didn’t spend my time effectively when I went home; because I also wasn’t involved with campus activities, it made me dread being here. If you can, try to avoid scheduling/driving to classes during rush hour traffic hours–trust me: you will waste a lot of time sitting in traffic and it’s really not worth it. Instead of going home at 5 p.m., just find something to do on campus, whether its eating dinner, going to an event or getting work done. My favorite thing about the Ohio Union are the lockers because you can store extra clothes, books you don’t want to carry around, snacks, a blanket, etc., and they are available to reserve at the beginning of every semester; this makes remaining on campus more manageable. The commuter lounge is also a great space to do homework, take a nap, mingle with other commuters or just eat lunch. 

Making Friends 

Unless most of the friends you had in high school conveniently moved to the same college as you, it can be a challenge establishing friendships as a commuter. The biggest struggle for me was being comfortable staying on campus after my classes were over, and finding campus involvement. OCCSS hosts events during the academic year like a Cornhole Tournament, roommate fairs, the Scarlet Warrior Challenge and the Off Campus Living Expo. They also have a commuter mentoring program for first-year commuters which pairs new students with a mentor and includes monthly group events on campus and in the Columbus area. There are also a ton of other organizations on campus in general–pick the one you are most interested in and try it out, you’ll thank yourself later.

Ultimately, what I want you to know is that commuting doesn’t mean you can’t experience college the same way as others. I hope this was helpful and good luck, commuters!

5 Roles of a Peer Mentor

One of the amazing things about Ohio State is the opportunity to meet new people.

Perhaps you’re excited to bond over late-night movies with the people on your residence hall floor, or maybe you’re making plans to hang out with friends you meet in your classes.

Is a peer mentor on your list of people to meet at Ohio State? Peer mentors can be a telephone switchboard, a magnifying glass, a trampoline, a street, and a cheerleader all rolled into one incredible resource and source of support. Crazy, right? Read on to learn why you should find a peer mentor at Ohio State.

A peer mentor is a magnifying glass

Peer mentors who are in their second year (or beyond) can benefit you in many ways. They have been in your shoes not too long ago–they have experienced the excitement of Welcome Week, the thrill of meeting new people, and the pleasure of being a new Buckeye. They have also endured the occasional bad grade, the rough patches of being in a new environment, and the stress of finals week.

The good news is peer mentors want to share their experiences with you, and give you tips and advice to succeed and excel. Maybe you have a chemistry professor with whom you’re just not clicking. How can you get through the semester when you’re really struggling with this class? Peer mentors can share with you a similar experience they navigated and discuss some resources that may help. When you’re struggling with something, or simply seeking another opinion, your peer mentor can offer a helpful perspective because they have already examined the problem thoroughly (using their magnifying glass of experience).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A peer mentor is a switchboard operator

Think back to a time before we were born, and offices had switchboard operators to direct telephone calls to the proper recipient. Your peer mentor can be like a switchboard operator, taking different avenues to make a connection for you. Let’s say you’re interested in getting a part-time job on campus, but aren’t really sure how to go about looking for one. Peer mentors have a variety of tried-and-true resources to connect you to the correct contact on campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A peer mentor is a trampoline

No, your peer mentor won’t be doing jumps and flips–though we would jump through hoops for you! We are a sounding board, someone with whom you can “bounce” around ideas. Maybe you have an idea to start a new club on campus. Peer mentors are happy to listen to you and hash out your idea. They’ll also help you set it in motion by connecting you to the right resources on campus.

Much like how you soar on a trampoline, peer mentors also help you soar. Let’s go back to that chemistry class example: we want to see you succeed and will do anything to help you. Your peer mentor might study with you, quiz you, and encourage you on the day of your test. We’ll help you receive a Au (ahem, the chemical symbol for gold) star at the end of the semester.

A peer mentor is a street

Peer mentorship is not just about the mentee (that’s you!); it’s a two-way street. Through peer mentoring, not only are you connected to resources around campus, you also develop a meaningful relationship and resource in each other. Peer mentors learn as much from you as you learn from them. You may come from a different background or hometown, or you could be pursuing a different major; and yet, here you are guiding each other along. Don’t look at this as an upperclass student telling you what to do and what clubs to join. Think of it as a relationship you’re building with someone who has been in your shoes, and you’ll learn and grow from each other.

A peer mentor is a cheerleader

Peer mentorship is not only about providing you with resources and helping you get through tough times. It’s about celebrating all the successes too! A peer mentor is your own personal cheerleader. We’re here to support you and cheer you on, and to make sure that your time at Ohio State is one that lives up to our alma mater:

Time and change will surely show, how firm thy friendship O-HI-O.

So all those people you want to meet while you’re at Ohio State–your hallmates and classmates–make sure to add a peer mentor on the list, because we want you to enjoy every second you spend here, and we come with our own set of pom-poms.

Next step: The First Year Connections Team is a group of dedicated upperclass students who want to ensure that YOU have a memorable first year. Sign up by Monday, September 8 to participate in the Connections Team peer mentoring program this fall: click this link and enter the code fyctmentor.