The new school year has officially kicked into full swing, and so has the evident social anxiety that comes with it.
In college, you don’t know the vast majority of the people on campus. You might have a friend or two here, or maybe some people you went to high school with, but you never really spoke to them. Other than that, you’re coming to class a few days a week not knowing a single person. Coming to that realization is terrifying, and what’s even scarier is being aware of your fear of talking to people.
If someone asked me to think of a time I had become friends with someone because I spoke to them first, I wouldn’t be able to answer.
All of the friendships I’ve had in the past few years were because they had approached me first. This fact isn’t something to be ashamed of, but I had come to terms with the fact that this would not be happening in college since everyone is expecting someone to approach them first.
The idea of approaching people first freaked me out. I would plan out conversations in my head to prepare myself in case I ever got the courage to speak to people, and yet I was never able to. I yearned for friendships with people I didn’t already know from high school and middle school, and inherently I knew that if I really wanted it, I would have to do something about it.
An important piece of information I like to utilize is the fact that a little goes a long way. Simply complimenting someone is a great way to start when talking to people.
If you think you and another person are immediately going to dive into sharing your deepest darkest secrets over coffee, you are unfortunately mistaken. At the beginning of getting to know someone, small talk is your best friend. Do not be ashamed of asking simple questions about their classes or job, some people take a little time to get comfortable with budding friendships.
When people tell you to get involved on campus is the easiest way to make friends, they aren’t lying.
I started writing for The Montclarion in early February of 2022. I only attended a few meetings, and then after that, I stopped going to meetings and started writing in my dorm on my own. If I had continued going to weekly meetings, I would have probably been able to find a greater sense of community there and make new friends. Instead, I chose to stay in my own comfortable bubble, and I regret doing that.
However, I was given another chance to gain social confidence when I became an orientation leader in August.
I would notice my other coworkers easily be friendly with each other, which was shocking to me because, at that point, we’d only been doing this for about two days. I kept wondering how everyone was just able to talk to each other like that. Putting myself out there seemed impossible to me, and my mind swirled with questions stemming from paranoia. I would constantly ask myself: “Am I boring? How can I make myself sound more interesting? Am I talking too much, or too little?”.
I reached a point where I realized if I wanted to make a meaningful connection with someone, I had to stop second-guessing myself in order to make someone like me.
Once we were put into smaller groups, it was easier to communicate and get to know other people that I clicked really well with. Being put into an environment where we had no choice but to work as a team paid off in ways I couldn’t imagine. At the beginning of training, if you told me I would be able to stand up in front of the entire orientation team to speak during the debrief, I would’ve laughed in your face. Yet, I did it proudly.
I went from only talking to the small group I was in, to talking to other orientation leaders in other groups as well with no issue. I made sure to ask them how their day was going and how their group of students were whenever I was able to see them.
Whether it’s in a class that gathers your interest or an on-campus organization, there is always someone out there who can be the key to finding your voice, and in return, you’re making new bonds that have the potential to last for years.
Think about the way you want someone to approach you in hopes of friendship. You can always be that person for someone else.