In the adjustment to college, most students are not surprised when the academic workload is different than high school. There are, however, a number of students who are surprised when the social scene is different than they were expecting. The social connections – developing a community – can take time and ongoing energy.
Whether you are a social butterfly, very shy, or somewhere in between, college is a great time to develop stronger social skills, in the same way you are developing stronger study skills.
As you navigate this new social landscape, be patient with yourself and others. Consider the way you want to connect with people and how you want to spend time with your friends so that you have the sort of experience outside the classroom that supports your academic and personal growth and development.
But I’m shy!
There can be significant pressure to be outgoing all the time, and a perception that everyone else is always being social. Trust that there are plenty of people for whom being social requires effort and practice. Consider challenging yourself with small steps. One day, you might challenge yourself to smile and make eye contact with someone in class. Another day, you might say hi to each person you see in the hallway. Have some prepared questions you can ask when you find yourself in conversation with someone. Where are you from? What is your favorite thing about Loyola so far? The phrase, “Tell me more about that,” can be a good way to invite deeper responses. Becoming a better conversationalist takes time and practice. Consider asking a trusted friend, a family member, your academic advisor, a professor, or a student leader, for help in this area if you continue to have a hard time.
But I’m an introvert!
As was already mentioned, there can be a lot of pressure to be social at all times in college. The truth is, a lot of people identify as being introverted, which can be connected to, but is not the same as, shyness. Introverts enjoy the company of people and deeply value relationships. Typically, an introvert prefers the company of smaller groups and requires time to “recharge the battery.” A lot of social interactions, especially among new people, can be very exhausting. If you relate to this, be intentional about when you choose to say yes to social invitations and make sure you seek ways to recharge. If you live on campus and have a roommate or two, alone time in a comfortable space can be scarce. You might try to schedule your “recharge time” when you know your roommate(s) will be in class or out of the room, go for a walk or run along the lakefront, grab a journal and pen and find a nook on campus or a comfortable chair at a coffee shop, or go to a prayer or worship space on campus for some reflection time.
But I can’t find other people like me!
There may be a piece of your identity that features prominently for you during your transition and ongoing time at Loyola. The college environment has a way of making you think about some aspects of your identity more often and in new ways than before your time at Loyola. Also, the college setting creates new temporary labels, for instance residents and commuters. When it feels like no one else can understand your experience or no one else shares an identity that is a big part of who you are, you might start to feel isolated or misunderstood. Try not to keep these feelings inside. Consider taking the risk of sharing these feelings with someone. You might find that someone else shares those feelings, but perhaps for different reasons. There are numerous student organizations that foster community based on interests, social identities, faith tradition, cultural heritage, and career and academic interests. Don’t forget that there is a team of staff and faculty who care about you as a person. Reach out to someone; sometimes great support comes in unexpected ways!