Feeling at home on campus as freshmen

By Kaitlyn Bigica

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Out of the 20,539 undergraduate students at the University of Massachusetts, 4,144 are embarking on their first year of college.

Although the freshman class size is large, many first-year students will find it tough to meet new people as nerves and other normal emotions set in on those beginning days.

Here’s the truth: Almost everyone is scared.

Leaving behind family and high school friends to start a new chapter in life can be a daunting task and can fill a student with anxiety. On top of that, now it’s time to make new friends – especially for the 3,880 out-of-state students who may not know anyone. Luckily there are three easy steps to meeting people on campus. If followed, you will find in a few weeks your new life is even more exciting and fun then you had thought possible.

Step 1: Get out of your dorm room!

Sitting in your dorm on Facebook or phoning friends and family from home all day will lead you to a college life of little friends and regret when people begin to make groups that you’re left out of.

It may be more comfortable to hold on to home life, but you will need to go through a week or so out of your comfort zone before you begin to feel comfortable in your new home.

A great tip is to leave your door open while you’re in your room. People are more likely to stop in and say hello or invite you along for lunch that way. Walk around your floor and stop in to talk to your floor mates.

You will find throughout the year that your floor becomes a family. This step is important because you want to have a healthy relationship with the people you are living with and feel comfortable going back to your dorm.

Step 2: Join a club (or two, or three)

Clubs are not only important to join for your resume, but they are also a fun way to develop lasting friendships. With over 200 Registered Student Organizations at UMass there are a numerous clus for each student to test out. With such a wide range of clubs there is sure to be one that will spark an interest in something you wanted to continue from high school or something you have never considered, but want to try. There are political, religious, theatrical, charitable, athletic, journalistic, scientific and poetic clubs you can join. Sit in on a group meeting to see if it is something that interests you, and if its not, move on to the next one.

Clubs are not only good for meeting new people, they can also add a sense of purpose to your week and even help you pick a major if it’s something you become increasingly interested in. When applying for a job, companies look for someone who was involved in extracurricular activities throughout their college career – usually groups that apply leadership skills and teamwork. You can usually find a group that both applies these factors and is most importantly, enjoyable.

Don’t wait around until junior or senior year to join these groups because by then you will already be applying for internships or jobs. For a full list of the 200 clubs on campus go to http://www.umass.edu/csd/rso/ and click on the “browse the full list” link to find a full description of each club.

Step 3: Throw away all preconceived notions of what your typical friend looks like

When you leave your hometown, which may have had a majority of one culture, race or crowd, you tend to look for the same type of people that you previously hung out with when you get to college.

College is a time to experience new things, and meet new and different people. Forget any stereotypes, and don’t judge people immediately by the way they dress or look. Go up to people and talk to them before you write them off. The eclectic group of people you meet and the things you learn from them may surprise, entertain and suit you.

You have four years of college, which have been described by many as the quickest and best years of their lives. Don’t waste any of the time you have sitting around convincing yourself you have plenty of time to meet people or get involved. The most important advice you can follow is to face any fears you’ve felt preparing for college the moment you step foot on campus. Simply say “hello” to a fellow freshman classmate, you will be surprised where a greeting can lead you in making new friends and meeting new people.

Kaitlyn Bigica can be reached at [email protected]