When I was dropped off at college, I knew next to no one. I was the only person from my graduating class going to the University of Connecticut and none of my friends were even in the state. I was five hours from home and completely and utterly alone. Frankly, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
However, it was absolutely terrifying at first. For the entirety of my high school career, I was used to being surrounded by the same characters and their predictable personality traits. I did all of my activities with my friends. I did not necessarily attend because I liked the activities, but because I liked the people.
Then, I ended up here — without my people and, consequently, without the activities that I had convinced myself I liked. I thought I liked participating in student government, for example, but it really just felt like a chore. I quickly realized that without the pressures of my peers, I lacked interests of my own. While this realization was somewhat alarming, it was also freeing; for the first time in a long time, I could decide exactly who I wanted to be.
Over the first few weeks, I spent my time collecting information about clubs, guest lecturers and activities. I packed my planner with events and meetings that sounded fascinating. Then, I realized that signing up for these events meant that I had to go there…alone. Let me tell you, it was scary as hell.
I walked into my first meeting at The Daily Campus the wrong way. I went in through the wrong door and wandered through the building until I ended up in the right place. I sat down and my heart was beating out of my chest. Half of it was from the embarrassment of having to wander through the building and the other half was excitement. It is safe to say that I enjoyed the first meeting. It helped me uncover a passion for journalism that I did not know I had.
When I saw my name on the top of my first article, it was an incredibly rewarding feeling. I proudly shared my article with my family and friends and enjoyed responding to their feedback. They, too, could tell that I had finally found a pursuit that was fulfilling, an experience that I have never had before. Instead of feeling like work, my extracurriculars felt like an energizing force in my life.
Doing things alone is hard, especially in a society fixated on social media and which overvalues connectedness. When I have to attend an event alone, I remind myself that college is a place built to challenge your comfort zone. Everyone else on campus is also looking to find their purpose and place in the world. At some point, they were just as unsure as I am. When I move past that fear and commit myself to being involved, I find people who are equally as passionate as I am and I feel so much less alone.
Even if you are further into your journey at UConn or if many people from your high school ended up here with you, you can still choose to discover new individual passions. Doing this does not mean ditching your friend group. In addition to opening up a new social circle around your interests, it gives you a new way to interact with your existing friends and makes you a richer person overall.
So, what I am really trying to tell you is that if you are a student, you need to take advantage of the fact that you may be alone for the first time. You do not have the pressure of your parents or your childhood friends telling you who you are or what you should be interested in, forcing you to fit into a mold. You can use this time to find what really matters to you and what you could talk about for hours.
Reinvent yourself. Join a sport you’ve never played. Get coffee by yourself. Maybe even join The Daily Campus. Do a ton of stuff that scares you. It might be lonely or nerve-wracking, but it is a whole lot better than leaving your true passion and purpose untouched.