Whether you are a freshman moving into your dorm, a senior living on your own, or a transfer student getting adjusted to a new school’s structure, being away from home can be a unique, exciting moment in your life. Yet, it can also be stressful or, at times, lonely. It is a new experience for some college students to make new friends and explore a new community independently. Many college students go through a period where they realize they can start over but do not know how to start or feel awkward exploring a new environment. Here are some lessons I’ve learned on making new friends and creating your new home away from home.
Moving out of the house away from one’s parents may seem like the highlight of college, but no one prepares you for feeling homesick or feeling like a stranger in a new community. This was the case for me coming from Michigan, moving to Oxford, Ohio, and later transferring to Florida A&M University located in Tallahassee, Florida. I went from a virtual space during my first and second years to an in-person experience, so getting involved on campus was challenging. It felt like everyone had a head start because they had already been there. One of the ways I overcame this was accepting guidance from faculty, joining on-campus and off-campus organizations, and connecting with local businesses where I could meet people in the same situation as me but who came from different backgrounds.
A great way to get connected is to get involved with events on campus. Most will have back-to-school events to kick off the new semester. If you prefer to leave campus, get involved in the community. Some towns may seem small, but sometimes less is more because there is beauty in simplicity. Here is a list of things to do that may spark ideas to explore the community around you.
- Local theater
- Festivals / carnivals
- Community/botanical gardens
- Flea markets & local markets
- Local sports teams involvement
- Car shows, museums & local competitions
These are just a few general ideas of what you could explore. I recommend getting familiar with the behavior of the city you are in. Is it a quiet town or a city that never sleeps? Finding where a town is in terms of characteristics will help you find your space and maybe even create one of your own.
Creating a Space for Memories
Whether you’re in a dorm or apartment, decorate your room or space until you can’t anymore. Hang pictures and leave space for new memories you will make. If there’s a Pinterest post you have always loved…recreate it! Make your space yours. If you have symbols of home, showcase them in your room and allow it to be a place of comfort when feelings of homesickness arise.
Bringing Home Traditions
Finally, it is okay to take home with you. One of the best experiences about living away from home is meeting peers who have their own traditions and coming together to explore those traditions. Just because a city does not partake in activities you experienced back home does not mean they are unwilling. It is important to celebrate where you come from and be introduced to others from different backgrounds. Create an event on campus related to something you did in your hometown or create new traditions with your friends. As you move through your college career, remember that home can be wherever you want it to be if you make it yours.
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