Dear Alice,

I'm having a tough time as a first year student. My classes aren't too difficult, I'm not very homesick, and I don't miss my parents too much. That's all okay. The problem is that I'm lonely. I have reached out to people in classes, in dining halls, everywhere! All I get in return is a brush-off. I give my phone number to people and they don't care enough to reciprocate. I sit with people during meals and never see them again. It's three weeks into the semester — have people made their friends already? I know there are people out there who are potential friends, but where are they? Are they also locking themselves up in their rooms and hiding in the library between classes and at night? I'm a nice, honest, and sincere person. I had a few very close friendships in high school and I'm not the outgoing party animal who needs a wide circle of friends to feel secure. I just need one or two close friends. People who are loyal and who need a friend as much as I need one. I just can't seem to find anyone who is as interested in me as I am in them. I'm a naturally shy and quiet person but my old friends tell me that once people get to know me, they'll really like me. I don't like parties, and I'd rather have one or two close friends than 15 acquaintances. What can I do?

Signed,
A Loner

Dear A Loner,

The first few weeks at college can be challenging as you navigate your new life. While it may feel like you’re alone in your experience, many students actually go through this same situation. This early in the game, it’s completely normal to wonder where your future friends are, and rest assured they’re out there. It might help to keep in mind that not every friend will necessarily become your best friend. After all, most friendships start out as acquaintances and a few of those may develop into close friends-for-life. Take a moment to think about your high school friendships — perhaps they developed over a longer period of time. It may take a while for you to find your crowd and warm up to the people around you — and fear not, there are things you can do to find your people! Remember, even very sociable people could be sharing your same concerns (they may simply be expert at hiding it).

In the coming weeks, you'll likely have plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with new people. You mentioned that you've already tried to connect with a few folks. Perhaps you can step up your initiative by making specific plans while you are face-to-face with someone. For instance, you can ask a classmate to be a study partner or ask a roommate if they want to hit the gym, library, dinner, a movie, etc. Your Resident Advisor (RA) might also have some good ideas for meeting people you might get along with. Since you shared that you are shy, it might help to check out any groups or social networking accounts associated with your school on your favorite social media platform, and they may even have a specific site for your class year. Liking it or becoming a member might make it easier to connect with people if you feel flustered while chatting in person.

No need to be a party animal to find a friend either; there are many other ways to connect on campus. What are your interests? Joining a club or interest group can provide just enough structure to meet people easily without feeling awkward. Many campuses have tons of student groups on campus, and new members are always welcome. You can even go to a few different meetings (check bulletin boards, activity fairs, your school's website, etc.) to try some groups on for size. Continue going to the ones where you feel comfortable and engaged — where you sense a common interest with the other members.

If you’re feeling frustrated by your large number of acquaintances and lack of life-long pals at this time, just remember that patience is key. True friendships take time to develop. You never know — that acquaintance from down the hall might turn out to be a valuable friend in the future. If you’re feeling down or lonely, you can always seek support from your high school friends and family. Or, you could mention your frustration to another first year — who knows, maybe they are feeling the same way! Be persistent, give it time, and true friendships will come your way.

Alice!

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