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If You’re Reading This, It’s Not Too Late

Congrats, you’ve made it through most of fall semester. The question is, do you know how to prepare for spring semester?

 

My first semester was two years ago, so I would be lying if I said I remembered exactly how I spent it. I do, however, remember feeling both relieved and anxious and I can confirm this because it’s exactly how I felt during winter break last year. It feels good to know you’ve accomplished something and you are one step closer to your next goal, but it’s scary to realize you don’t know what the future will bring. It’s hard not to worry about your progress, or think about how satisfied you are with your current work ethic, your major or just your life in general. My first semester, I spent more time focused on classes and personal problems than I did taking care of myself, which led to me forming some unhealthy coping mechanisms and being unhappy overall. Not to mention, I was considering changing my major and felt so lost about what I wanted to do. It was a difficult time, but I survived it. There is a way, however, to alleviate that stress and that’s by taking time to think about what you want to prepare for next semester and setting goals so you can do things differently in the future. 

There are a lot of different ways to set goals. My personal favorite is writing all of them down as a gigantic map in my bullet journal (it’s really chaotic). There are also more structured ways, like S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. However you choose to create your goals, make sure your goals are specific and include specific steps on how to achieve that goal and measure your progress on achieving that goal. An example of a goal you could set is getting into your desired major by a certain date.

And so, here are my tips for the best way to prepare for spring semester: 

Remember that you are the boss of your own education. If you were unsatisfied with your classes for autumn semester and are reconsidering your major, don’t feel pressured to stay in classes you don’t want to be in. Use this break to do some research and explore other majors and schedule to meet with an Exploration advisor or consider career counseling. It’s normal to be unsure or lost about what you want to do but it’s important that you address it and make efforts to figure it out.  

Transform your health. If you ate a lot of crappy food and/or didn’t work out in autumn semester, use this break to change that. Drink lots of water and take advantage of home-cooked meals if you aren’t staying on campus. Likewise, try a new recipe if you are sticking around. Maybe learn how to do some yoga. Use this time to improve your health, mentally and physically. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen victim to the “Freshman 15”, but believe me when I say it’s an exhausting way to live and not how you want to spend your first year of college.

Start a routine! Having a routine gives you small goals to accomplish throughout the day and you’ll feel better after each one. Over winter break, these goals don’t have to be “big”. For example, your routine could be getting out of bed by 11 a.m., eating breakfast, making your bed, working out and sleeping by 11 p.m. Creating and sticking to habits during the weeks you aren’t on campus will help you slide into routine when you get back on campus. It will help you manage your work without wasting time and give you time to take care of yourself.

Did you have a good support system in autumn semester? Winter break is the perfect time to reflect on the relationships you created over the last few months. It’s important that you have people on campus who support and uplift you. If the people you hang out with aren’t good influences and don’t encourage your growth, it might be time to distance yourself from them and seek better connections.

Get a planner, calendar, or journal and write down all important deadlines and exam dates at the start of the semester for each of your classes for the entire semester (based on your syllabi). This can include homework, readings, lab reports, essays, basically anything you could get assigned; you can do it during the first few weeks of classes and it will make you feel a lot more prepared later on.

You may have already realized this, but time goes by fast when you’re in college. You might feel exhausted after finals and find yourself wanting to not think about school for a few weeks, but pushing the thought away isn’t going to make the first day of classes come any later. When everything slows down, take time to do some self-reflection, I promise you’ll feel better when you do. Good luck!

Home for break: What does it feel like?

Managing your emotions when going home is an unexpected obstacle as a first-year student. There are so many things to look forward to: your own bed, home cooked meals and the spirit of the holiday season for winter break. Something I did not plan for was my emotion, the changing relationships of friends from home and the separation from ‘freedom’ that I so loved while being on campus. This is not to say that your experience will be exactly like mine; however, you can use it as a possible rendition of what you may feel when you travel to ‘home sweet home.’

The first time I came home for an extended period of time was winter break. I remember feeling really confused about having almost a whole month off from school, not being surrounded by all the wonderful new friends I’d made and my parents suddenly asking me to do chores again or set curfews. It took me a moment to realize that there had been a change in my lifestyle and that needed to be recognized. The break is only temporary and I could have focused more on being around my family so often again, finally eating my mom’s cooking and being in the comfort of my own home. Once that happened, curling up on the couch to watch a movie was the best feeling. I realized I hadn’t had it in a while and it felt really good. 

A part of me also felt a sense of surprise. They say ‘expect the unexpected’ and in this moment that was definitely true. I almost felt like I was on vacation, living out of suitcase during those weeks of break because I technically no longer lived at home. Home was a slightly different feeling. If you have younger siblings, you sort of feel out of the loop with their lives because you’ve been ‘away.’ Even my younger sisters hadn’t grasped that ‘sissy’s going to college’ meant sissy’s moving out and becoming (trying to be) an adult. I noticed my relationships with some close friends from home were shifting. As I had grown through my first semester at college, so had they. I also realized we were not as close as I had hoped to still be. It was nice to see everyone again and also to acknowledge that we all are on different paths now, and that’s okay. The initial emotion was slightly shocking however it became a comfortable reality. 

Overall, your emotions when going home can vary and shift often. I think it’s important to ultimately realize that things change and your lifestyle now is also really different. Take the break as a time to relax or mentally prepare for the shift back to school for second semester as well. Continue to be aware that change is inevitable and that’s okay. 

5 Tips for Self Care in Finals Week

Ahh, finals. Every December, Buckeyes coop up in libraries, residence halls, classrooms, or any spare desk space we can find. We grab a coffee and hit the books. Finals can be an extremely difficult time – I was so nervous in my first semester. Every waking and non-waking moment of that week, I was so scared about every last equation and fact that it really racked my mental health. And looking back on it, it wasn’t worth it to add all of that stress into my life. I was going to do well based off of all of the work I had done throughout the previous 16 weeks; these finals were just the cherry on top, the pat on the back for my job well done. I would have benefited from taking care of myself with a little bit of self-care. In the time since my first semester, I have learned some incredible self-care tips during finals that I want to share with you!

1 – TAKE A BREAK

Many of you may think every single minute must be spent book in one hand, and pencil in the other. However, taking breaks are incredibly important! Taking a thirty minute break every 90 minutes not only allows you to clear your head and take care of yourself, but it’ll also allow your brain to take a break so you aren’t so tired from studying at the end of the day!

2 – GET SLEEP

I know the myth of college all-nighters fueled by caffeine and stress may seem appealing to some, but sleep is incredibly important. Sleeping 7 hours minimum is vital not only for one’s mental health but also for one’s studying. Being well-rested when you wake up will make you happier and allow you to not feel so dragged down by studying!

3 – DON’T EAT MEALS WHILE STUDYING

Eating Raman for dinner while on a 15-hour study binge is no way to live! Use meals as a well-needed social break – get food with your friends at the dining halls, or go off campus and get some well-needed rest from the stress of campus in order to get yourself some Chipotle or other delicious food on High Street! This will get your mind off of the stressors and allow your brain to recharge while you enjoy some food with friends.

4 – WORK OUT 

So angry at chemistry you could throw your book against the wall? Take the anger out on some weights and get those gains! This is especially important if you work out regularly already, but even if you don’t, it’s an incredible stress reliever that can seriously help you with your mental health!

5 – DON’T CRAM AT THE LAST MINUTE

Don’t forget that you have done so much work before this week of studying! At the end of the day that extra hour or two of studying may do more harm than good! Take a break before your exams; I suggest putting all of your books away an hour or two before the exam and relaxing, get to the exam early listening to your favorite song and destroy it!

Overall don’t forget how well you’ve done up until this point—you’re smart and you’ve worked so hard for this exam! Don’t let one week and the stigma of college finals get into your head—you’ve got this!

Self Care: A College Student’s Guide

I scrolled through Instagram one day last week, like I do most days. As I clicked aimlessly through stories while waiting for class to start, I notice a commonality among almost all of them–a motivational phrase, a beautiful picture, or a lunch date, all titled with words about creating a happier today, treating yourself, and the final one in big letters titled SELF CARE.

The message still resonated with me as I put my phone away for class, and I found myself pondering what self care looks like to me. For me, self care has always been a phrase all across social media, but with no good textbook definition. My personal definition of self care means time in which I working on nothing but myself and my mental health. I feel I have done a much better job at self care as a current third-year student than I did in my first year. Now, I am a consistent meditator and I wake up each morning to journal and sit alone with my thoughts for 10 minutes. I avidly use exercise as a stress reliever, using lifting and cardio in tandem to calm my nerves. However, to be completely transparent with you, I was not good at self care my freshman year.

In my first semester, I ran off of Monster Energy, coffee, and Ohio Union quesadillas. I would stay up into the wee hours of the night, wake up early, and slowly grind both my physical and mental health down. This lack of awareness for my own health wasn’t because I enjoyed feeling awful; rather, it was more due to me not knowing about ways to relax and enjoy time. For those of you struggling with self care like I was in my first year at Ohio State, here is my get right guide for all things self care.

STEP 1: Find what makes you happy!

We’re all very different people–for some, a meal with friends is the best thing in the world; others would rather sit in relaxation and watch TV for 30 minutes. Whatever that is for you, you know yourself better than anyone! Find that thing that really allows you to take a deep breath, clear your mind, and truly relax.

STEP 2: If it’s something new to you, create a plan of attack!

Let’s say you really wanna start working out as your form of self care–great! However, part of what may be keeping you from implementing this plan is the fact you wouldn’t even know where to start. My advice is make a plan of attack so that when you get in there you know what you’re doing. Do some research online–find a weight lifting program, watch videos on how to do the exercises–and finally, go in there an kill it! Creating a plan will boost your confidence and allow you to truly relax instead of being nervous about doing the activity.

STEP 3: Consistency!

So, you practiced self care today–that’s great! But that doesn’t mean that you can forget about it for the rest of the semester. Instead, make sure that you take a little time out of each and every day in order to work on you! Remember: consistency is key!

Overall these three quick and easy steps for self care can really make a massive impact. In my experience, I found homework more enjoyable, my friendships more fun, and overall my life in a better state when I learned to take care of myself everyday! For everyone reading as well I just want you to know: you got this! It’s November and the semester is winding down–finish strong and kill it.

 

 

Get Booked and Busy This Summer (On a Budget)

Scheduling windows are now open for the Spring semester, and maybe you’re also thinking about what your moves are going to be after Spring 2020. If you’re anything like my first-year self, you might not be itching to go immediately back to your hometown just yet. You may have realized just how many summer opportunities have piqued your interest.

Perhaps you want to study abroad, get an internship, or get some resume-worthy work experience and make some money. Whatever you want to do, the process for many summer 2020 opportunities looks similar and can begin as early as November 2019. No matter whether you know exactly what you want to do, or you’re completely clueless like I was, let’s break down 4 tips to be booked and busy on a budget this summer.

Get informed about what’s out there

There are people at this university who are getting paid to help you chase your bag! The Office of International Affairs hosts info sessions for every study abroad offered at Ohio State, including Global May programs which depart and return in the month of May (great if you have commitments during June and July). Additionally, the Honors and Scholars Center has a whole department dedicated to to helping Ohio State students land competitive government-funded fellowships, like the Critical Language Scholarship, the Truman Scholarship, and others. (The website is on the Honors and Scholars page, but these programs are open to all students!) For internships and summer jobs in Columbus, try looking on the Student Financial Aid job board or asking upperclassmen who have pursued opportunities similar to what you want to do, especially on-campus summer roles like being a Peer Leader, University Ambassador, etc. Get informed. Explore and see what’s out there. Google is free! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Build, Don’t Force a Network:

Remember when your Peer Leader told you to go to office hours? This is part of the reason why. In one-on-one situations (including, but not only office hours), you can build relationships with people like TAs, professors, and work supervisors. Relationships with these people are important so that when you need letters of recommendation, they will have your back. My Acting class TA wrote for me my first letter of recommendation. While he only taught a GE course, we had a great relationship, so he knew me enough to write a unique and personal letter. Do your best to make a real connection instead of forcing one to happen. If you don’t have anyone who you would feel comfortable with asking for a recommendation letter yet, there’s no time like the present to start! My networking pro-tip if you don’t know what to say is to ask them about themselves. The best question: How did they get to this phase of their careers? If the two of you truly ~vibe~ then you’ll have someone who will want to help you when you need it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask, and You Shall Receive

Almost every application will require some sort of essay, personal statement, or resume. Program coordinators and upperclassmen who have pursued the same opportunity that you’re interested in will be able to get you the best scoop on how to make yourself look appealing on paper. They’ve done it before, so they’re the experts! Ask them all the questions, have them read your essays, and get all the help that you can while working on your applications for jobs, scholarships, and fellowships. To become a Peer Leader, I had not just one, but two past Peer Leaders review my essays. Though it took some time and effort – guess who got the job? The Writing Center also offers online and in-person resume writing, personal statement editing, and essay support. Take advantage of  the resources you’re paying for already! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Get the Bag

Now, all you have to do is submit your application. However it wouldn’t hurt to get a little extra cash for your next adventure. This may mean applying for the Special Scholarships Application to save money during the school year, or to apply for scholarships offered for research, living costs during internships, and study abroad. The Office of International Affairs website is where you can find a master list to dozens of Ohio State-only scholarships to help fund your experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding gratifying summer experiences is daunting. My goal is to help you achieve your goals without breaking the bank. I hope you all have wonderful, fulfilling, and amazing summer experiences while going and chasing your dreams (while still on a budget). Happy travels!

Failure is a Necessity to be The BEST You

Failing, in my opinion, is a significant part of the college experience. For many, college is where you learn all about who you are as a person and you learn what you would like to do in your future. When you don’t take on new things, however, most times you never find your passion. We often don’t take on new things because we are scared that the other side of that chance is failure. What we often don’t know is failure allows you to grow, gain knowledge and become more in sync with who you are. 

I recently interviewed for a prestigious program on campus. In the interview, they asked me an interesting question: what would you do if you couldn’t fail? My immediate thought was to say “Tim, I would do everything that I’d like to do now, become a counseling psychologist, start directing films, and create my nonprofit mentoring program for under-served student populations.” I want you to think about this question for a second and decide what you would do if you couldn’t fail. Now, let me tell you what I would do now after I took some time to self reflect. My answer would be NOTHING, because without failure the best ideas you have would only be mediocre. They wouldn’t amount to anything or have much impact because you never struggled; your road to success was a straight line. Life brings many different struggles, failures, and obstacles, but with each of these three things comes wisdom, resilience, and passion. You grow when there are challenges within your life, and you must choose to learn from the situation at hand, so in your future you can surpass it with ease.  

I am pretty confident to say all of the greatest innovators have failed and faced heart-breaking obstacles, but eventually they chose to learn from their failures and make the most out of what they’d taken in. You cannot give up ever! Steven Spielberg, one of the greats of cinematography was rejected multiple times by a school he wanted to enroll in to make his dreams become a realityHe didn’t quit, he didn’t let the rejection hinder his dreams; instead, he chose to be more creative, stay driven and eventually that school named the cinematography building after him

Take on New Opportunities 

Don’t be afraid to fail! Take on new opportunities, take risks, and challenge yourself because we only have one life to liveLIVE YOUR BEST LIFE! Try new things, set goals and don’t let anything deter you from getting to those goals. We must have drive, passion and love for what we do and if we do not, there is no point in doing it. Our time is limited, so make the most of every second, every minute, every hour and day of your college experience.  

Fail Spectacularly 

When you fail, fail spectacularly, as Leslie Odom Jr. says. Embrace your failure and learn from your mistakes. If you failed to get into something that you wanteddon’t let it hurt you; rather, let it drive you to bring more creative ideas to the table, to grow, and to prove wrong the people who don’t believe in you. Michael Jordan said that he failed over and over again in his life, but that’s why he succeeded. His failures motivated him to work harder, to play smarter, and to be more creative on the court.  

I choose to FAIL, to learn and to let my failures become my driving force to be successful, and I hope that you will, too! 

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!

Being a Resilient Student

Whether it’s your first year or your fifth year, you’re most likely going to experience some type of obstacle during your time at Ohio State that affects you academically, financially, emotionally, physically, or all of the above. Being able to overcome these types of challenges is a crucial part of being a student and individual. Resiliency and learning to advocate for myself was the theme of my first year, and the experiences, successes, and challenges I endured allowed me to grow and learn so much about myself.

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Being a resilient student could mean something different to every person. To me, being a resilient student means that in the face of obstacle – a failing grade, a homework assignment you forgot, or something entirely unrelated to academics – you’re able to advocate for yourself, overcome, and continue. Resiliency is being able to ask for help, use your resources, and having an open mindset to overcome your challenges.

When approached with a new challenge in college, having a “growth mindset” guided me. It was incredibly easy to view failures and average grades with a fixed mindset, being stuck in as negative of a space as possible; I would blame myself for not being productive and successful and stay stuck in a cloud of worry, which only distracted me from what I needed to do, which in return worried me more, and the cycle would continue. Teaching myself to have a growth mindset (which took a lot of practice) that could let me view challenges as learning and growth opportunities and in a slightly more positive light would at the very least allow me to shift my perspective and not spiral into worry. Image result for growth mindset

If faced with an unexpected obstacle during your first year, remember that you are capable of advocating for yourself. There’s most likely someone on campus who can help you with whatever you are going through, or who can direct you to someone else who can help. So many of my problems during my first year could have been solved or reduced by asking for help. Being able to ask for help during these periods of struggles is one of the largest components of resiliency and a form of self-advocacy; use what you have available to help you.

It’s important to remember why you’re here at Ohio State and how capable and worthy you are of success. Use that as motivation to continue through those obstacles while studying here, and the skills you learn along the way will allow you to be a more open-minded, aware, and resilient person.

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.