By: Alisha Hancock, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Throughout your freshman year, it is very likely that you will face many new and uncertain situations that pull you way out of your comfort zone. With the added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protocols of social distancing, it can be even more challenging to connect with people. While many of your classes are most likely still virtual, here are some tips that I have learned on how to face the uncomfortable situations head on and make new friends in a freshman year hindered by a pandemic.
“Fake it til you make it”
Yes, I know this is an age-old phrase that you’ve probably heard more times than you can count, but it’s still my first tip for you. I found that acting confident and stepping out of your comfort zone, though incredibly nerve-wracking, pays off. I’m not usually one to take the initiative to start up a conversation with a stranger, but ever since moving onto campus, I’ve made an effort to meet new people. This has allowed me to get to know some pretty amazing people that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. Even if you aren’t on campus right now, social media platforms can be excellent tools for starting conversations and becoming familiar with other students. On Facebook, there is an official group for the Towson University (TU) Class of 2024 you can join to meet other freshmen.
Connect with clubs and organizations
Another great way to connect with people is to join clubs and organizations at TU. Although joining club meetings through online platforms is not the same as meeting in person, they can still be valuable experiences and allow you to get to know more people. Involved@TU is a great website where you can find lots of clubs and organizations that you can join at TU. It has all different kinds of organizations from academic and sports to cultural and religious. To find clubs that share your same interests, I suggest using the drop-down menu to narrow the search down to which categories of organizations you are interested in joining.
Join group chats for your classes.
You’ve probably already been told this or already did it because it can be beneficial for class, but it also can aid you in getting to know new people. You already share at least one class with everyone in the group chat and chances are you’ve already been talking to them about class. With the pressure of starting a conversation with someone completely new off your shoulders, starting up a conversation with someone in the group chat is generally easier. If you happen to have a class without a group chat, you could also start one yourself. In Blackboard under each of your classes, there’s a link called Tools. If you click that link and then scroll down, you should find the tool, “Send Email.” You can use this tool to email a GroupMe link to everyone in the class; there are likely others who want a group chat as well.
Don’t feel guilty about still needing some level of comfort.
You may or may not feel some pressure to become more independent now that you’re in college. While it is a good idea to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take on more responsibilities, remember that balance is everything. If you’re living from home, keeping a level of comfort is probably easier for you. For those of you living on campus, don’t feel guilty for needing to call home or talk to some old friends from high school. Sometimes allowing yourself to rely a little on what’s familiar will provide you with the strength to take chances and put yourself out there, at least that’s what I found.
Don’t lose faith.
Even if you’ve been pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and taking steps towards meeting new people, it doesn’t always pay off right away. Have faith and keep trying, nothing lasts forever. During my first week of the spring semester, I was definitely struggling but I kept at it and as I got to know people, I didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
I know from experience that making friends can be hard, especially during a pandemic but even small steps can greatly change your experience and help you to start strong friendships.