Life at UT-Austin is wonderful and exciting for so many reasons the large, thriving campus; being surrounded by people from all over the country and the world; and being in a diverse and vibrant city. But some of those same factors can make being at UT rather overwhelming, and students may struggle to make new friends and develop a sense of connectedness to the campus. This is a very natural, common adjustment faced by many students, and not just freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students alike may struggle to feel a sense of belonging.
Making friends can feel particularly challenging for students with unique situations or identities, such as veterans returning to school following military service, international students, nontraditional-aged students, and those experiencing significant changes in their sense of self. Introverts are also more likely to have a hard time, especially at a school as gigantic as UT. No matter what your situation is, if you've felt concerned about your success with establishing friendships, know that you are not alone.
Brainstorm about what has helped you make friends in the past. Maybe you met all your old best friends in your faith community; perhaps finding a similar context in the UT-Austin area will be an important step for creating ties in your new environment. Think about your values and interests (like creative writing). Do some research on student organizations and other groups and activities centered on those topics. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Okay, you've taken steps to put yourself in a new situation with new people. Now what? Approaching a stranger and attempting to strike up a conversation from thin air can take just as much bravery as getting yourself to an unfamiliar event in the first place. Try some of these ideas for initiating that first interaction with someone new. Don't worry about trying all of these in one conversation; rather, choose one or two techniques to practice the next time you're getting to know someone:
A couple other things to think about
The first thing to ask yourself here is whether there is someone with whom you want to establish a closer friendship. Is she nice, interesting, and fun to be around? Can you be yourself around him? Does there seem to be a sense of mutual liking between the two of you? If the answer to these types of questions is "yes," then you might consider investing the time and energy it takes to cultivate that connection and try building a more personal relationship. It can be helpful to start by thinking about the people you already know and consider which relationships seem worth nurturing.
Naturally, spending time talking and engaging in activities together is an important ingredient to taking an "acquaintance" to the next level of friendship. This can be really hard to do, especially for busy college students living in a large university and town. Consider making a commitment to yourself to reach out to acquaintances/friends on an ongoing basis in a way that works for both of you. Call with an invitation to lunch or a cultural event on campus. Send a text just to say "hi," to share a piece of good news, or to exclaim how crazy last nights episode of Walking Dead was. Something to keep the connection alive.
Though you're encouraged to "keep it light" when first interacting with a new potential friend, a big part of what helps deepen relationships over time is eventually sharing some of the more personal aspects of your life, such as dislikes, fears, and personal struggles. Still, taking it slow with this kind of sharing and balancing it with more positive topics is important to avoid scaring people off by being a "Negative Nancy" or coming on too strong too soon with really intense or overly personal self-disclosure. Start small, and do your best to read the other person's comfort with it. You may find that they provide comforting words and share something similarly personal with you in a way that brings you closer together. Or you may pick up on signs of discomfort, in which case it may be best to hold off on further self-revealing statements, at least for a little while.
Don't give up! Not all your efforts at making friends will work, but Don't let a rejection or failed attempt at conversation deter you from continuing to try. If you feel you could use some outside support with your friend-making efforts, consider joining a personal process group or the Making Connections group, which are frequently offered at CMHC: http://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/groups.html.
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