University

Q&A: How to Find Your Tribe and Make Friends At University

QA1-2

Don’t suppose you have any wisdom to pass down now that you’re on the other side? I’m off to university this September – I’m ridiculously excited but oh-so-nervous. I’m way more of a read-a-book, movie-on-the-couch, pizza-night-in kind of girl than an out-all-night-clubbing one. I’m scared everyone will think I’m boring and lame.       –Ruby

I can totally relate to this question. In the months before I left for university, I was terrified. I was worried about finding “my people”: people who would understand me and who I could just be myself around. I was equally worried, like Ruby, that people would think my interests made me boring and lame.

I’m happy to report that I found a small group of people with whom I can have deep conversations, laugh until I cry, and who make me feel truly accepted for who I am. And I have a not-so-secret secret for you: you will too. It might not happen right away, but eventually you will find your tribe. I want to share with you what I’ve learned about this process.

Figure out where you get your energy.

My first piece of advice is to figure out whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. A free, easy way to do this is to take a Myers-Briggs type test. Knowing which type you are will help you determine your own social needs and style of interacting with others and it may also help you avoid some of the mental drama that comes with feeling like you’re “different”, “boring” or “lame”.

I’m an introvert. As a general rule, introverts need time alone to recharge their energy levels, whereas extroverts get their energy through interacting with other people (learn more here). Being introverted does not mean you don’t like spending time with other people. It simply means that (in general), you will need less social interaction than extroverts do, and more time alone. Knowing this up front can make your transition into university a lot easier, since universities (especially university residences) are environments more suited to extroverts. When I went away to university I didn’t realize I was introverted, so I didn’t respect my own needs and I burned myself out trying to do everything and interact with people all the time.

Know your needs.

Once you know which type you are, you can more easily figure out what your social needs are. Obviously you will naturally veer towards certain types of friendships and levels of social interaction, but again, trying to figure out your needs can be reassuring and can help you sidestep mental drama. Ask yourself questions like: Do you want a large group of people you can call if you need to vent or are you happier with just two close friends? What does your ideal Friday night look like? 

Finding the answers to these kinds of questions often involves trial and error, but having even some idea of what you want or need can help you direct your friend-finding energies more efficiently. It’s also important not to be ashamed or feel guilty about what your own personal needs really are.

Beware of your assumptions.

Notice how I keep mentioning mental drama? That’s because I consider it a huge part of what makes the first year at university so difficult for so many of us. I define mental drama as the pain, self-judgment and guilt that can come up for us when we realize that our likes, dislikes, habits and personalities might fall outside of what’s considered “normal” for people our age.

Please know that normal is a myth. What’s considered “normal” isn’t in any way wrong or bad, but just know that it does not apply to all people, or even to most people. We’re told that most “normal” university-age kids are constantly partying, drinking, having casual sex, staying up til 3AM, and doing drugs. Some are, and some aren’t. Some do some of the above, sometimes, and a lot of people have wildly different interests than those listed above. University is typically much bigger than high school, so there is usually more room for variety and diversity. The point is, you aren’t alone, whoever you are or whatever you choose to do. You might be in a minority, and it might take you longer to find your tribe, but I promise, you’re not alone. The most important thing is to not be ashamed of who you are and what you like.

It’s also important to remember: everyone just wants to fit in, and sometimes people go along with what they think is the status quo just to try and be accepted by others. So while sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one who thinks that a pub crawl starting at 9AM on a Wednesday is a bad idea, if you don’t go along with it, you’ll probably find there are a bunch of others extremely relieved to find out that they weren’t the only ones to think so either. Those just might be your people.

DSC_0047

Push your own boundaries. 

Ha! I tricked you. I told you to figure out who you are and what you want, and now I’m going to tell you that you should ignore that knowledge (or at least push it to the back of your mind) and try new things, get outside of your comfort zone, and hang out with people you don’t think are your “type”.

The reason I recommend this course of action is because when we head off to university, we’re usually still young. We know a lot of things about ourselves, but we don’t know everything. My favourite writer, Cheryl Strayed, says this better than me:

You are so goddamned young. Which means that about eight of the ten things you have decided about yourself will over time prove to be false. The other two things will prove to be so true that you’ll look back in twenty years and howl. 

So try things that don’t necessarily feel totally natural. You think you’re more of a “pizza-night-in” kind of person, and you probably are, but sometimes we label ourselves because we’re too scared to try new things. Of course I don’t recommend living your life just trying to fit in or be “normal”, but it’s also very important to question your fears and your own beliefs about yourself. University is a great time to experiment and re-invent ourselves. And we can define ourselves as a multitude of things! We can be book nerds who sometimes love going out dancing, for example. We get to write the rules about how we live our lives. So yes, absolutely be true to yourself, but first do a little exploring to figure out exactly who that self really is.

Follow your interests. 

The very best way (the only way, really) to find your tribe is to be yourself. Express your true opinions, spend your time the way you really like, do the activities that make you most happy, listen to the music you actually enjoy, and go to the events that fire you up. Be your introverted or extroverted self. This is the best, easiest way to find like-minded people who you will actually click with. It seems simple and cliché, but it’s really and truly the truth.

A great way to do this is to join clubs or groups that share your passions and interests. That way, you get to meet up with a group of people on a regular basis, some of whom you’re bound to connect with and want to spend more time with. And if not, there’s nothing stopping you from dropping out and joining a different club. Disclaimer: I was really afraid of joining things my first year of university, so I understand how hard it can be to make yourself go to these events and put yourself out there. But I also know now how rewarding it can be. 

Be the initiator.

If you’re introverted, it might feel unnatural for you to step into this role, and it may cause you some anxiety, but I think it’s very important to fake it til you make it, and sometimes pretend to be more outgoing than you really are. Reach out to people! Get their numbers and ask them on a study date, or invite them along to plans you have with another friend of yours. Plan the events you want to go to, and invite people that you think might share your interests. If that event is a make-your-own-pizza party, then you and I are kindred spirits, and there are more like us out there, I promise!

***

If I had to condense this very long article into two lines it would be these:

  1. You’re not boring or lame. There are some wonderful people out there that want to hang out with you and who like to do the things you like to do.
  2. Be yourself, life has a way of hooking you up with the people you need most.

I am very well aware that might not be the advice you wanted to hear, but I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet. Just be brave, be yourself, try your best, and have fun. Best of luck!

If you have any more questions on this or any other topic, let me know in the comments. And if you have anything else to add to answer Ruby’s question, please leave a comment as well.

The Pomodoro Technique: Stop Procrastinating Today

Academia is gearing up for its final blow: exam season. And as it approaches, so too comes with it heaps of assignments, essays of the 20 page variety, and entire textbooks to read. We have lots of work to do, which means, the time between now and summer will be very poorly spent. That’s because we university students, in general, are extremely proficient procrastinators. Visit any library these days and you’ll be greeted by a familiar sight: students wasting time. Based on observation alone, the typical “study day” for the average student follows the same general pattern:

Arrive ? Unpack bag ? Go on Facebook for half an hour ? Open textbook to the right page ? Read 2 pages/do 1 problem ? Check Blackberry ? Read 2 pages ? Go to the bathroom ? Check email ? Check Facebook ? etc, etc.

It’s astounding how long we say we spend “studying” when, if we’re honest with ourselves, the majority of that time is spent just plain fooling around. Of course, I can’t speak for the entire population of students – surely, some are exceptionally productive – but my impression (from countless hours logged a la bibliotheque) is that procrastination is rampant on university campuses. Rampant, I say!

Why is this so? In my experience, it’s because I tend to dread my work. It’s so much more fun and rewarding to participate in instant gratification tasks: checking social media portals, for one, is a favourite. Thinking about a daunting, time-consuming project that threatens to take over your life for the next few days is depressing. So we end up putting it off until we can’t possibly do so any longer. Until it’s due tomorrow. And then, just like that, our sleep has been sacrificed to make up for our time management errors.

What to Bring to Your Dorm Room

[This post is the last in my Back to School Series]

So you’re going off to University. You must be terrified. Holy moly! Even as I was packing my bags this year, I was remembering my sheer terror as I packed them last year. Luckily, for me that has passed, but maybe you’re still feeling that way? All I can say is: it’s going to be okay! And read this if you want more encouragement. :)

As my last post in my very fun-to-write back to school series, I’m talking about what to bring.

Dorm Room Necessities

 

My dorm room!
My dorm room!

 

Besides the obvious – school supplies, bedding, books and knicknacks – there are tons of things that fill the average dorm room. Food, snacks, and beer abound, along with dirty laundry and stacks of paper. Depending on the size of your room, it could be neater (small space = higher organization!), but nonetheless, most dorm rooms are crammed full of lots of goodies. Now, I know you’ve been scouring the articles online about what else you might need, and you’ve probably heard it all. In case you haven’t though, here are a few awesome lists of what to bring: very comprehensive!

But maybe you’ve read it all before, and want my personal opinion on the subject. The verdict: for rez, you don’t need that much stuff!! I know how exciting it is to be moving away, and I know you want to take everything with you (I sure did..). But remember, you’ll be moving home for the summer most likely, so pack light! I had way, way too much stuff when I moved home! So besides the absolute essentials and a few homey touches, here are my picks for enjoyable dorm living:

 

Journal

 

On a notebook, far, far away
Image by midnightglory via Flickr

 

For me, one of the most indispensable items to have in your toolkit. Even if you can’t manage to journal every day about your crazy adventures, it’s still incredibly useful for when you feel sad or scared or just plain frustrated! I swear by my journal, and always pick ones that are bright and happy. You could also use a sombre Moleskine to record all your seriously serious thoughts.. :)

Plate, cup and cutlery


Because who knows when you’ll be munching on some real Thanksgiving dinner or lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce or a full Hanukkah feast? (Yes, all of which occurred my first year, along with countless brownies, cookies, muffins and other munchies.) Always be prepared! Who knows when the opportunity for food will come along?

 

Sleeping Bag

 

 

A person in a sleeping bag
Image via Wikipedia

 

Very useful! Bring with you when you visit friends, or when they visit you! Also can be used for extra warmth if you live somewhere ridiculously cold.

Earplugs

 

iPod Earplugs
Image by wmbreedveld via Flickr

 

So important! Who knows when the guy directly above you will blast Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin until two in the morning, while bouncing a tennis ball against his wall. Oh wait, I know when he’ll do that! Every stinking night. Avoid the drama and use earplugs. Use them when an ultimate frisbee tournament goes on for a month, every night, until midnight. Use them when you’re at the library for total peace. Love earplugs. Totally a necessity.

 

Flat plastic storage boxes

 

31 January 2007 (2): Stacking Boxes
Image by Ulleskelf via Flickr

 

These are perfect when you have a small space. They fit so neatly under any dorm bed and can act as your little pantry/pharmacy for the year. I kept extra kleenex boxes, contact solution, extra lightbulbs, and way more tucked into those handy little spaces. Great use of space, especially when you don’t have much!

Extra floor lamp

 

IKEA Lamp
Image by Matzelchen via Flickr

 

Ooh. So indispensable for me first year. When it gets dark at 5 in the winter, I get thoroughly depressed, especially if all the lighting I have is an overhead light and a desk lamp. Not feeling it. I favour tall floor lamps, cheap at Ikea that can stand in one corner of your room and cast a loving glow over the whole space. Lovely. :)

 

Rug

 

Afghanmatta.jpg
Image via Wikipedia

 

My rugs kept my feet warm, my room colourful and my floors cleaner. Love rugs. Yay rugs!

 

Your musical instrument

 

 

DanElectro & Kay Guitars - Ottawa 01 08
Image by Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

 

I found that playing my guitar was a huge stress-reliever last year. anytime I felt overwhelmed, I could just reach into the corner of my room and strum away. I also play the piano, and nearer to the end of the year I started playing the pianos downstairs in our rez. If you don’t play an instrument, sorry! But I really recommend bringing yours if you do have one.

Related Articles

.

How exciting!

Isn’t it fabulous to move into a new place and start making it your own?! I love that feeling of settling in somewhere so much, of laying all your things our and getting organized and making everything look absolutely gorgeous! I’m moving into my very first apartment tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited to make it wonderfully mine. I’ll keep you posted on that front!

What do you think about my picks for comfy dorm living? What changed your life when you were living in a tiny room? Let me know!

Good luck with the transition my loves!

xoxo,


20 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting University

I’m sure many of you are gearing up to hit your first year of University, and are scared out of your minds.

I don’t blame you: I sure was, about this time last year. As the eldest child, I was the first in my family to go away to school, and I didn’t get much pertinent info from my older university-grad cousins. So I was pretty stressed. It’s not as if high school really prepares you all that well for the real deal, what with your teachers waxing poetic about what school was like ‘back in their day’ and emphasizing their own personal note-taking methods (not realizing, of course, that your style of note-taking comes with lots and lots of trial and error). So you suddenly end up in the summer before the rest of your life, your head full of mumbo jumbo and feeling pretty freggin’ nervous.

Of course, you could be one of those ‘fearless’ types. Or you could be, like friends of mine, absolutely dying to get away from high school and their families. Either way, I hope that these lessons I learned in my first year are helpful to you.

What I Wish I’d Known

School pride!

1. It’s impossible to not make friends. Honestly. It is. As soon as you get there, you’ll be bombarded with people and events, all set up for you to meet new people. You’ll be running around introducing yourself, asking where people are from and what they’re studying. And that’s just the first couple days! Then comes frosh (aka nonstop socializing), then classes, then labs/conferences. You’ll start to bond with your floor, start to go out with certain people and have different experiences.  You’ll start to make great friendships. You’ll gravitate towards certain people, spend more time with others, and sooner or later you’ll end up with people you refer to as friends! Easy peasy. So don’t worry, you’ll definitely make friends. But you won’t immediately find close friendships. That’s hard to accept, especially for people like me who had a great support system in high school. But close friendships take time! Take it slow, trust your instincts, and eventually lots of great friendships will start to blossom.

You'll make awesome friends..:)

2. You’re already interesting. Don’t worry so much about whether or not you’ll be perceived as ‘cool’. Don’t try to change yourself before university! What makes us different makes us interesting. Be yourself, as hard as that can sometimes be, and people will love you for who you are. Honest.

3. You’ll probably cry a lot. Sorry. It’s kinda true. The reasons are different for everyone: maybe (like me) you’ll burst into tears over your calculus textbook practically every time you try to study, or maybe you’ll suffer a bad long-distance relationship breakup, or maybe you’ll be sad you’re not making close friends faster, or maybe you’ll be homesick, or maybe any number of things. Don’t think that you’re the only one crying. YOU AREN’T. When I became close to a few girls on my floor after a few months, they told me that they’d thought I’d had it all figured out during those first few months (when actually I was falling apart) and that they’d been crying a lot too (even though I thought they’d been fine!). Point is: you’re not alone. Everyone feels sad, everyone wants to be reached out to. So if you knock on a door every once and a while, you might find some great friends way faster! :)

4. The school part is just another step up. You know how Grade 12 was harder than Grade 11 (hello! calculus?) and Grade 11 was harder than Grade 10? Well guess what. Grade First Year University is harder than Grade 12. It’s another step up. But no, it’s not impossible. The trickiest part about first year is learning how to learn at a university level (your note-taking method, time-management) while balancing a social life, it’s not the material itself. Of course, I’m not saying that it’s easy! Learning how to learn is very tricky, the workload can seem overwhelming, sometimes the teaching methods make you want to cry (see #3!) but, it’s manageable. As long as you figure out how to balance school and fun, and put your mind to it, you’ll succeed. The ones who fail are the ones who can’t balance, and tip the scales towards fun. The scales have to be even!

My study space..

5. You should indulge your personality type. Try to think about whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert – look at the definitions here to figure it out for yourself. In my opinion, it’s important to be conscious of the distinction, because when you hit university, you’re in an extrovert’s world. Constant socializing, all day and all night, during meals, classes, partying, etc. Especially in a dorm! For introverts (or people who are half and half!) it’s important to find ways to take time for yourself before you become drained. You see, extroverts get lots of energy from social interactions, whereas introverts harvest energy in alone time. So if you’re an introvert (as I partially am), it’s okay to get away from it all and spend time by yourself. Find a quiet place if you don’t have a single room, go for a walk, go explore on your own, write in a journal. Make sure you replenish that energy so that you still have the motivation to socialize some of the time.

I love walking up the mountain to get away

6. Going home is not the answer. I know that sometimes you might be hurting. You want your mama. Not a big deal, we’re all there sometimes. But in your first year, it’s crucial that you don’t go home every weekend. You might be terrified to put yourself out there and socialize, but people want to be friends with you. They’ll embrace you with open arms! I promise. But if you don’t make any effort and go home at every occasion, you’ll be missing out on an important chance to find friends, and find yourself. You can’t be your own person if you never let go of home and the security it provides. University is the time to forge out forward and discover yourself and others. *However, if what you’re feeling is more than social fear, and you feel extremely depressed (lack of appetite, insomnia, or thoughts of suicide {a better analysis here} then it may be a great idea to reach out to your family, and take a short break from school or seek therapy.* Just this year, a boy on one of my friend’s dorm floors committed suicide while at school. It was a tragedy. The pressures of university are great, try not to be afraid to reach out to a floor fellow, family member or friend for help or someone to talk to.

7. You may dislike a few people. Or more than a few. You’ll run into several types of people at university, from all walks of life and backgrounds. It’s safe to assume you won’t get along with many of them. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just gravitate towards people who make you feel happy and everything will work out. Sometimes, jerks will ingratiate themselves into your life, as my friend (whose roommate was dating an asshole) found out. In those instances, the most you can do is try to ignore them, set boundaries with the roommate, and grit your teeth until they go away. Don’t indulge them. Try not to spend time with them.

8. A single bed fits two. Trust me and my friends.

9. You’ll probably want a quiet place. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’ll need some time alone every once in a while. Whether to make private phone calls, cry, reflect, or study, you should have somewhere to yourself. This is not easy to find. I was lucky to have a single room, but the walls are thin, so I found solace outside, in libraries, and in my closet. Ha! Try and find somewhere to yourself, it’s hard to be around people when you want to be alone.

10. If alcohol is God, then drinking is the bible, but you can choose how religious you want to be. Make no mistake, a ton of drinking occurs at university. Any university. Mostly, it is good times, it’s fun! But everyone’s different. Not everyone reads the bible every single day: most read from it once or twice a week. Likewise, some people go out/drink more than others. At university, if you wanted to, you could find people going out to a bar any night of the week (Mondays are definitely not off limits, the weekend starts on Thursday). The question is, do you want to? It’s up to you to decide. Remember that without balance, you will fail in all aspects of your life.

My friend Morgan

11. “Routine is despair’s sly assassin.” What a fantastic quote, right? And it’s true. Whether it be a sleep schedule, a weekly timeslot for the gym, specific times of days for meals: routines are so important. Your health when at school is of the utmost importance: how will you study, party and socialize if you’re exhausted or sick? You won’t. Trust me, you don’t wanna be sick at school. Routines are also good for stress relief. For example, if you have a plan or schedule for exam studying, the whole ordeal will be less overwhelming. Routine kills despair. Remember this, young grasshoppers!

12. Expanding your comfort zone is hard, but necessary. Nobody said it would be easy! Or maybe they did, but they lied. Going away to school is probably one of the worst, hardest, and best experiences you will ever have. Sure, it’s the best years of your life, but it’s some of the hardest too. You’re busy trying to get good grades, learn how to live on your own, make great friends, figure out who you are, etc, etc, and all the while, your comfort zone that you lived happily inside all through high school is rapidly spreading, maybe faster than you want it to. But it’s important to push yourself, be scared, do new things. It’ll be terrifying and hard, but you won’t regret it – or you will, but it will be a life lesson.

At the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

13. Not everyone has lost their virginity! So for goodness sake don’t go rush out this summer and lose it just so that you won’t be the only one left. Trust me, you won’t be the only one left. I’ve met tons of people this year, some were virgins, some weren’t. The point is, the question only ever comes up when you’re already becoming very close friends, and at that point they won’t suddenly drop you if you’re a virgin. Yeesh, look what television and movies will do to people these days!

14. University students are constantly comparing themselves to each other. You do it, I do it. Everyone does it. You always want to know where you stand, whether it be in classes, how much you exercise, how much you party, etc. It’s important to remember that this is a natural thing, this is how people figure out where they fit in to things. Sometimes it can be annoying, especially if people are aggressive about it (in some of my classes, people would constantly ask about grades because they were desperate to be on top) but I always love to remember this quote from The Sunscreen Song: “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

15. Don’t try and find a roommate for next year within your first month. Honestly, you have time, I swear. Besides, your friend group may change drastically between October and March. Your living situation is a complicated affair, and it will probably have many changes, additions or substitutions before being finalized. So for goodness sake don’t get yourself caught up in a plan for next year in late September: chances are you’ll meet someone else you want to room with! In your first few months, try not to get all stressed about living sitches, focus on school and friends. The rest will fall into place. I promise!

16. Calling your Mom is quite acceptable. People will not mock you for it. Everyone’s doing it. Some people less than others, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. But you probably already knew that. Here I was, thinking that when I got to school, I’d be tormented for calling my mom so much. What can I say? We’re friends.

17. People will respect your choices. People will accept you whether or not you drink, whether or not you smoke, whether or not you do drugs, whether or not you party. They probably won’t accept you (or not too many of them at least) if you never socialize, but any other lifestyle choice will be fine. Honestly! I had friends who didn’t drink, I had friends who were borderline alcoholics (kidding), people who had various study habits, various partying habits.. In the end, the people you’ll end up being friends with will accept your lifestyle choices. Basically, your attitude is everything. If you’re having a great time and being friendly, people won’t care what you’re doing! Here’s a great article from College Fashion about not drinking at school, if you want more information.

18. There is so much exploring to do! You’re living/studying in a brand new city, full of people, events, restaurants, sights, shopping, etc. Don’t miss out on it! Don’t be afraid to escape the University Bubble a couple times during your first year. It makes it so much more fun! Visit a friend at their school, go out for dinner off campus, visit a museum or local attraction, play outside. There is tons to do, tons to explore. Try to get away from the studying, stress, and clubs every once in a while and get to know your city!

Save a horse, ride a bull

19. Get to know your school. Try and get the most out of your fine establishment! Learn as much as you can about the school itself. My campus, for example, has a sex store, a bar, several tunnels (very handy for Montreal winters), an all night hotline (call for any information you could ever want, from jokes to pickup lines to how late the pizza place is open), tons of awesome libraries (yep, I’m a giant nerd), and lots of amazing theatre throughout the year. My friends have similar perks at their schools, or different ones. Explore, ask around, find out all the goodies your school has to offer.

I love my triceratops

20. Don’t worry so much. Everything will work out just fine. It really will. You’ll survive first year, whether or not you worry, so try not to! It’ll be a topsy turvy, crazy ride, with lots of surprises and new experiences. Try and make the most of each of them, and don’t stress so much. I know personally that this is easier said than done, but I’m trying to worry less and live more!

My birthday party!

Conclusion

Going away to university can be the scariest and most fun experience in your whole life. I know that. You know that. I hope that you can get something out of these lessons I learned during my first year, but if you don’t – you’ll learn them yourself your first year! Good luck my loves.

Oh hey: you first year survivers, anything to add? What did you learn this year? Let me know and I’ll add it into this post.

xoxo, S.

Scroll to Top