Participate on purpose: Building strong relationships on campus
I attend the University of Central Florida, one of the largest higher education institutions in the nation with over 70,000 students. It can be easy to feel lost or like you’re just a number at a university this size. The easiest way to avoid this is to get involved or to participate on purpose. I like this phrase because it shows that involvement can be much more than you think if you just put your mind to it. Other than joining a typical club or organization, there are tons of simple ways to build and grow relationships on campus that you may not have thought of.
The most simple and obvious way to grow relationships on campus is to get involved. This can include joining clubs, organizations, or finding a niche. Involvement brings such a strong sense of self-belonging and community. Personally, I couldn’t imagine going through college without getting involved in at least one thing. I joined the Marching Knights and became a College of Business ambassador. I’ve met most of my closest friends within these two organizations – organizations that turned into families.
Involvement doesn’t always have to be campus led and can be student initiated with those who share common interests. For example, I ended up creating a small group that plays volleyball on campus every week. Sometimes, others nearby may ask to join in which allows for an opportunity to meet new friends. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, just a gathering for people to meet.
Step outside of your comfort zone
This technique of relationship building is most definitely the hardest, but in my opinion, the most rewarding. I want to specifically focus on how to use this diverse method to meet and talk with new people. This can include introducing yourself to a classmate that you’ve never spoken to before or even purposely inviting others to join an activity that you’re engaged in.
Of course, this can be challenging; many overthink it and let their minds get clouded with doubts, such as “what do I say to this person?” or “what if they don’t want to talk to me?” This happened to me as a freshman. During the first few weeks, everyone in the dining hall sat alone because they were brand new and didn’t know anyone. When these doubts clouded my mind, I reminded myself that most other students here are experiencing the same thing. They all wanted to make friends but didn’t want to risk rejection. I initiated a conversation with the guy in line behind me and asked to sit with him afterwards. He was delighted by my request, and we both made a new friend – all because I stepped out of my comfort zone.
Keep your head up
When walking or biking around campus, I always see friends and acquaintances. Usually when I attempt to speak or wave, they don’t notice me because they are staring at their phones or have their headphones blasting. I purposefully differentiate myself from “the campus zombies” and walk with my head up, making myself approachable. It makes a huge difference – priming a way to strengthen relationships. I encourage other college students to also keep their heads up while migrating across campus – it creates an opportunity to “catch up” with your peers.
I’ve asked a few people what they do on their phones while walking and I was shocked by the responses. Many feel socially uncomfortable if they aren’t doing what everyone else is doing, so they just swipe left and right on the home screen or even type random letters in their notes. If this sounds like you, it’s totally fine to not do what everyone else is doing. Keeping your head up makes you stand out and gives you the opportunity to socialize with others, overall strengthening relationships.
I hope you now realize that building strong relationships on campus can be much easier than you might have originally thought. Just by making some small adjustments and by participating on purpose, you can have a more meaningful and impactful college experience.