As I close out the first few months of my college experience, it’s hard to believe that move-in day was only weeks ago. In the days leading up to orientation, I remember being really anxious about feeling homesick or not making friends, but as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. There’s so much to do here on campus that I don’t have time to feel homesick, and I’ve met so many amazing people that I have to stop and say hi to someone every five minutes.
That being said, it sometimes feel lonely to be a first-year. The transition of saying goodbye to your high school friends can be really emotional, and it sometimes feels impossible to gauge who actually wants to be friends and who’s just being nice. As I consider this balance, it does sometimes feel like college is one big social dance, much like the contra dancing event I attended a few weeks back.
Author’s note: if you’ve never been contradancing before, I highly encourage you to check it out! Here on campus, @obiecontra hosts events a few times each semester, and each one is an evening filled with folk music and swinging your partner until you’re dizzy.
So, without further ado, here goes my take on an extended metaphor: your first semester in college as a night of social dancing!
As the evening (semester) begins, everyone is buzzing with nervous energy. Some people are feeling a little shy, others are more confident. Most people have never tried anything like this before, but they’re looking forward to it.
There are a couple of more experienced dancers, and they’re available to help out if you get confused. These dancers represent Peer Advising Leaders and Residential Assistants, as well as miscellaneous upperclassmen. There’s also a “caller” which is someone who explains each dance and talks you through it the whole time. Think of this kind of like your academic advisor or first-year seminar professor.
As the night goes on, you’ll start to gain confidence in yourself. You’ll get more familiar with the steps, and who knows, you might even learn a thing or two. You’ll probably dance with a bunch of people you haven’t met before and maybe a few people you knew ahead of time. It’s more than likely that you’ll make some new friends, but some of your dance partners might not click right away. That’s normal. Some dances will catch you off guard, but others will come naturally—kind of like taking classes in different departments. You might trip and get hurt (my friend Zoë broke her foot the first time we went!) but you will recover and get back on your feet. Also, there will be incredibly talented student musicians performing the whole time. You will be in awe. At the night's end, you’ll be exhausted but fulfilled, excited to do it all again the next time.
All this is to say, it won’t always be easy to navigate the social dance of college, but it will help if you put yourself out there. Invite someone to grab lunch after class, go see a concert, or even just go for a walk. The worst they can do is say no. I have found that the most interesting connections happen when you least expect it. Keep on dancing!