You’re Not Alone in Feeling Alone

“Get involved! Leave your door open the first few weeks! Find your lifelong friends!”

Sound familiar? Coming into college, I figured it would be easy to make friends. On a campus with over 50,000 people, it couldn’t be too difficult to find a handful of close friends, right? I certainly didn’t think so, but it ended up being harder than I expected. If you had idealistic expectations like me, you probably fell into some of the traps I did. For example:

You assume your roommates are going to become your close friends. When you’re trapped in a confined space with other people, you think you’ll end up spending so much time together and inevitably become BFFs. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case. If you end up with roommate(s) who you really click with, that’s great! If you don’t, that’s pretty normal. With so many people at one school, it’s unrealistic to expect that the people you happen to live with will become your closest friends.

You expect the first people you meet in a student organization to become your close friends. You go to the involvement fair, find the perfect club, and muster up the courage to attend the first meeting. You talk to a few people and consistently continue to go to the meetings. A few months in, though, you may realize you don’t really see these people much outside of the club. While it’s nice to think that you’ll easily become friends with people who share common interests, it’s not necessarily going to happen so easily.

You expect the people in your first semester classes to become your close friends. In the first few weeks of the semester, everyone’s trying to make friends. People are going out of their way to introduce themselves, exchange phone numbers, and work on group projects together. For the duration of the semester, you may consistently see the same people because you share a class with them. This doesn’t mean you’ll automatically become friends, and once the class is over, it doesn’t mean you’ll stay friends. 

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Hopefully, you’re beginning to see a common pattern here: you expect the first group of people you meet on campus to become your close friends. These are assumptions that I made my first year, and when the first semester had ended, I felt alone. I thought I had somehow failed at college by not finding a close group of friends within my first semester. When I went home for winter break, I felt isolated, and coming back to campus didn’t sound as appealing without a close group of friends to return to. At that point, I wasn’t sure what to do, but here are some things I eventually learned:

Building worthwhile relationships takes time. After knowing the same people my entire life, I had forgotten what it felt like to form new relationships with strangers, and I was in too much of a hurry to make connections. Eventually, some of the people I occasionally talked to my first semester grew to be some of my now closest friends. We ended up spending more time together and things eventually clicked. Whether you connect with someone instantly doesn’t determine whether you’ll end up being good friends, so give yourself time to get to know people.

It’s okay to let people and expectations go. In the eagerness that comes with trying to find a new group of friends, it can be tempting to cling onto the first group of people you meet on campus. You may try really hard to keep in touch with people from your first semester classes or the first few people you met at student org meetings. You may even keep trying to force a connection with your roommates that just doesn’t pan out. At some point, you have to give up. You’re not meant to be friends with everyone you meet, and you’re not obligated to stay in touch with people just because they were the first people you met when you came to campus. Chances are, you’ll end up meeting some of your closest friends later on in your college experience.

Sometimes, there’s value in being alone. During the month of winter break, I had a lot of time to reflect on my first semester, and I came to an interesting realization. One of the most exciting (and sometimes terrifying) aspects of coming to college is the newfound independence. Part of me associated independence with being alone, and that idea made me uncomfortable. In high school, I was used to being surrounded by people all day, including club meetings after school. During my first semester, when I didn’t spend as much time with other people, I learned to become more comfortable spending time with myself. Even though I eventually found my social circle, I learned the value of spending time alone and enjoying my own company. 

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Here’s my ultimate piece of advice: when it comes to finding your social circle on campus, just give it time. It’s perfectly normal and okay to feel alone sometimes, even at a school where you’re constantly surrounded by people. Eventually, as you continue to meet more people, you’ll end up finding those lifelong friends you’re searching for- and it will be well worth the wait. 

Life After Formal Sorority Recruitment: The Social and Financial Realities

Bid Day is the final day of the exhausting, two-week formal recruitment process. Not only is Bid Day the end of recruitment, it is also the beginning of a whirlwind experience that is joining a sorority. It is the first day in the journey of becoming an initiated, life-long member of a national organization. If you are like me and signed up for formal sorority recruitment on a whim–without any family members who had ever participated–you are probably feeling completely overwhelmed in the weeks following Bid Day.
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I began thinking about signing up for sorority recruitment during my first semester when I felt nostalgic and missing my girlfriends from home, who I had spent endless hours with rehearsing and performing. It occurred to me that a sorority might be a way for me to replicate that community of girlfriends that I cherished. I loved high school because of friendships with older girls I admired and then becoming that person who younger girls looked up to. In other words, I wanted to be someone’s little, and then be someone’s BIG.

That right there was the extent to which I thought through the decision to sign up for sorority recruitment. I didn’t ask questions about how much it cost. I didn’t ask questions about the new member process. I was completely unprepared for being a member of the Greek Community.

What I wish I had known as a first-year student going Greek:

The Costs

According the most recent data, the average new sorority member will pay $1,280 per semester.

  • $1,280 x 7 semesters = nearly $9,000 over the course of four years
  • I need to earn $80/week during the 16-week semester to pay for it
  • Some chapters have payment plans and additional scholarships – for example, my friend washes dishes to help pay dues.
  • The reality: The majority of students are not paying their Greek life dues on their own. There is limited socioeconomic diversity.

Financial barriers

Our campus should be sensitive to the fact that access to participating in Greek life is limited to those who can pay for it. If you have a friend who may really have wanted to try Greek life, but cannot afford it:

  • Only 11% of Ohio State is Greek! Encourage your friend to seek out involvement that provides a similar community – you can find incredible friends in other student organizations.
  • Invite her to hang out with your friends in your sorority. My best friend from freshman year did not go Greek but I take her as my date to different functions and she was always welcome at my sorority house.
  • Be careful with how you paint your experience and be aware of your friend’s feelings. It’s important to share the exciting moments as well as the overwhelming ones. A sorority experience is not a perfect one.

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The realities of sisterhood

  • A sisterly bond is stronger than friends, right? That bond does not form overnight. You become sisters with 100 girls and getting to know them takes time. It might take a whole semester just to learn names. Be patient. I wasn’t sure if Greek Life would be for me until my sophomore year when my sisters became some of my best friends.
  • Go to your new member meetings! The New Member educator’s primary responsibility is to care about your transition to the sorority. The New Member educator cares that you feel comfortable–talk to them.
  • Not everyone who goes Greek drinks alcohol. In fact, it is an expectation that as a member, you act responsibly and represent your chapter well. There is a team of sober monitors to enforce the rules at every event with alcohol present. In my sorority, the other sober monitors dress up in ridiculous outfits like footie pajamas! If you feel pressure to drink to make friends, or feel that a majority of the experience is drinking, talk to your chapter advisors and executive board.
  • It’s unrealistic to think you are going to be best friends with every girl in your chapter…or even want to be. This is where that sister component comes in. Sorority sisters should value each individual and respect them regardless if you like them.
  • The reasons you join are different than the reasons you stay. Look out for the reasons that make your sorority a really positive influence in your life.

Lastly, keep in mind that sororities that fall under PHA are just one branch of Greek life. Members of multicultural Greek organizations, academic Greek organizations, and fraternity men go through this transition into their chapters as well. No branch of Greek life is better than any other; support and honor your fellow Greeks!

 

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Check Your Wellness

Whenever we run into someone we know, often the first question is, how are you doing? The standard reply is usually along the lines of good, fine, well, etc. Do you ever stop to think about it and answer honestly? I know I normally don’t.

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Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center splits wellness into 9 dimensions and there are many resources at Ohio State and in Columbus you can use to improve your wellness:

Emotional Wellness–Do you express your emotions in a healthy way? Can you identify your feelings?

Counseling and Consultation Service (CCS)–Free to students! CCS helps with stress management, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, life transitions, identity exploration, substance use, eating concerns, feeling overwhelmed, and academic adjustments.

Career Wellness–This can be about your job, your major, or your involvement. Do you enjoy the work you put into everything?

Career Counseling and Support Services (CCSS)–CCSS can assist with “personal concerns related to career decision making, clarification of career goals, exploration of career/major options, and guidance in development of necessary tools (resumes, cover letters, interviewing, personal statements).”

Dennis Learning Center–Can help with academic motivation, time management, and strategies for self-regulation, test-prep, test-taking, note-taking, and reading through academic classes they offer, one-on-one appointments, and workshops.

Tutoring Resources – Math, Physics, and Chemistry tutoring happens in both Younkin and the residence halls. The Math and Statistics Learning Center has tutoring for math and statistics classes. The General Chemistry Learning Resource Center has tutoring hours for general chemistry courses. The Department of Physics has tutoring hours for physics courses. The Economics Learning Center has peer tutoring. If you need help with a writing assignment The Writing Center and MARS (Mobile Assistance with Research Students) is available! When in doubt, talk to your professor or TA!

Social Wellness–Do you have a support system built on trust and respect? Are you sensitive and aware towards the feelings of others?

Have fun with friends, new and old–Dtix has a lot of discounts for cool places in Columbus. Ask people if they want to go to a Blue Jackets game, grab some Jeni’s, or go to Skyzone! Try to get people from your floor to go see one of the OUAB Flicks for Free on Wednesday nights or sing like nobody’s listening at karaoke night in Woody’s (the remaining karaoke night themes are Boy Bands, Taylor Swift, and Buckeye Spirit)!

Get Involved–Try going to different student organization meetings. All of the organizations are listed online where you can sort through by type and it has their contact information in case you have any questions!

Spiritual Wellness–This doesn’t have to relate directly to your religious (or non-religious) beliefs. Do you seek harmony and balance by  exploring the depth of human purpose, meaning, and connection? Maybe service is how you seek that balance.

Pay It Forward–Volunteer around Columbus with other Ohio State students!

Physical Wellness–Do you get an adequate amount of sleep, eat well, engage in exercise for 150 minutes per week, attend regular medical check-ups, and practice safe and healthy sexual relations?

The Student Wellness Center–Online resources can be found at link. You can sign up for a free nutrition counseling session on their site as well.

Group Fitness–Check out the group fitness classes offered by Ohio State.

Student Health Services–Schedule an appointment to get a flu shot or a check up. Complete your vaccination paperwork!

Financial Wellness–Are you aware of your finances? Can you manage them?

Scarlet and Gray Financial–Have a one-on-one meeting with a peer financial coach to learn more about banking, budgeting, and goal setting.

Intellectual Wellness–Do you try to learn new things and expand your worldview?

Ohio State and Columbus events–Dtix has tickets for different performances. The Wexner Center for the Arts has documentaries, artist talks, and performances. Ohio State’s Multicultural Center hosts events throughout the semester. Embrace your interests and your curiosity!

Creative Wellness–Do you value and seek out a range of arts and cultural experiences?

Off the Lake Productions–This is a student-run musical theater group at The Ohio State University who have multiple performances throughout the year. Get involved or just enjoy the show!

Search out events in Columbus and Ohio State–Dtix has tickets to concerts and performances throughout the semester. Explore the exhibits at the Wexner. Venture out to see local bands! Create something yourself. Whatever interests you, expand on that.

Environmental Wellness–Do you want to improve the environment? Do you appreciate the connection between nature and individuals?

Adventure Trips and Clinics – Go enjoy the outdoors with other Ohio State students! Or just chill on the Oval or visit a local park if that’s what you like.

Everyone’s wellness is different. The Student Wellness Center has an online assessment for you to assess your own. They also provide Wellness Coaching, a free service helps you become aware regarding your capacity to create the life you want to live, both now and in the future.

Interview with a First-Year Transfer Student

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Eric (above) is a first-year transfer student majoring in finance in the Fisher College of Business. He transferred from Passaic County Community College in Wayne, NJ.

What attracted you to Ohio State, and what made you decide to apply?

I was always aware of the great reputation Ohio State had regarding academics and athletics. Coming from a small community college in New Jersey, I decided I wanted to change my life in a dramatic way. The size of Ohio State intrigued me because I was searching for a school that could provide me with ample social, academic, and professional opportunities. When I took a campus tour, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. My gut feeling actually played a major role in my decision to apply. I felt I had to be here.

What are Ohio State’s best qualities and drawbacks?

The campus is beautiful. The interaction between professors and students is phenomenal, especially if you are willing to go to office hours and meet with your professors one-on-one. The food is excellent compared to other schools, both on and off campus. Student life is awesome if you are willing to sometimes step outside your comfort zone and get involved. There is so much to get involved in including intramural sports, clubs and Greek life.

The only downside for me was getting used to the sheer size of the campus and the amount of students here. It definitely took me a few weeks to learn how to navigate my way around campus without getting lost. Sometimes it feels hard to stand out among all the other students here, but I advise all first-year students to get involved with different student organizations and clubs so that they find their niche.

You are in a fraternity. How has that affected your college experience?

Being in a fraternity has made a strong social impact in my life. I definitely have a special bond with the members who joined at the same time as myself. My fraternity interacts with the community through our work with charities and we are heavily involved with intramural sports. But I wouldn’t say joining Greek life is completely necessary to enhance your social life. As long as you get involved through clubs and student organizations then you will meet a ton of unique individuals and make strong bonds.

How has your experience at Ohio State been different from  your previous institution?

Ohio State is totally different from my previous institution because I feel that I am truly on my own here. I cannot stress enough the idea of learning independence. You discover so much about yourself. At Ohio State you need to motivate yourself because there is no one to make you do your schoolwork, set your schedule, or get to class on time. I have gained a better sense of self and often find myself maturing because I simply have to in order to succeed. There are lots of academic resources available to students but it’s up to the student to take the initiative and utilize these resources.

Tell me more about the professors.

Most of the professors that I’ve had thus far have been brilliant. Most have been published many times. Since I am majoring in business, I am aware that the professors have various certificates including CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) MBA (Masters in Business Administration), and PhDs. The professors have had careers in business before teaching here. They are always trying to help you and I feel that they truly care about students.

Any advice for incoming/current first-year students?

Get involved! I cannot stress that enough. Get involved early and often. It is never too late to meet people through clubs and student organizations. You just need to make the effort to do so. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone on this relatively large campus. So take a step outside of your comfort zone and realize that you have the ability to determine your social and academic outcomes here at Ohio State.