I both wanted to avoid and counsel these newbies, run away from them and their loud, overwhelming welcome events, but also to them so that I might assuage their fears and provide them with advice and a bit of pragmatic hope.
Instead of approaching strangers in the quad, I decided to write a blog post on the matter, with a few pointed bullets of wisdom:
- Friends will come, with time
Contrary to popular belief (or at least my belief), you don't arrive in your dorm, fall leaves dripping from the trees outside your window, and find your soul mates, platonic or romantic, all living on your floor. It is true that many people become close with their neighbors, but just as many people don't make a meaningful connection with people in their immediate proximity. Instead, people find friends in sports or other extracurricular activities. I found mine through my student newspaper; my friend found his through pre-med study groups. People with similar interests, the people you will really connect with, are not always easy to find.
- Don't shelter yourself
College is about new experiences and challenges, and that will probably require some new and challenging people. While it is important to have like-minded friends to rely on, you will not grow if you shield yourself from people who are different from you. Part of a college education is experiencing diversity -- not necessarily racial or ethnic diversity, though that can play an important part, but diversity of experience. People need to befriend and learn from others with different heritages and traditions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political ideologies. Homogeneity breeds boredom, complacency, and even prejudice.
- Be vulnerable
You are not the only one struggling. Everyone around you feels overtaxed, lonely, and sad. Don't keep this to yourself, but share it openly with others whenever appropriate, productive opportunities arise. Your residential adviser is there for you, so are your friends, and even your professors. Ask for their guidance and use their words to help you take action.