Building Social Skills on Campus
Attending post-secondary can sometimes be an isolating experience —especially if you are a student at a large institution. As a student at the University of Toronto, I can certainly relate. The St. George campus is so large that, for much of my first year, I felt as if I knew no one on campus. It was difficult for me to reach out to others due to the stressful atmosphere, as well as the sheer size of my classes. Because I was commuting to school, furthermore, I also did not benefit from making friends in my residence.
Now, a year later, I find that—although the odd bit of loneliness plagues me from time to time—I do not find the experience quite so isolating. Every post-secondary experience takes time to get adjusted to, and hopefully with practice, you will learn how to meet people and reach out to others on campus. Below are some of the experiences and strategies that I found useful for building social skills on campus.
Join clubs or extra-curriculars to meet people with interests in common. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get involved outside the classroom: not only is it a great way to pursue your interests and de-stress, but it can help you broaden your social networks. Though individuals are usually united by a common interest, they come from all sorts of backgrounds and programs of study. You may find you have a lot in common with your peers, and you may learn a lot from them as well.
Tip: Choose a club that involves a lot of face-to-face interaction, such as regular meetings or events.
It can be intimidating sometimes to try to meet others on your own. If you have one or two willing friends on campus, however, try to go to events together, with the intention of meeting others as well. For example, you can go to a networking event with a friend, but make a point to branch out and talk to others throughout the night on your own as well. This may help you strike up the courage you need to take that first step.
Tip: You and your friend can support one another—but don’t use one another as crutches. The whole point of the exercise is so that you can talk to others!
Finally, socialization can happen anywhere—try to make going to class a social experience. Before or after class, strike up a conversation with your fellow students. You can also use study groups as a way to meet others in your class, while getting some productive work done. This also has the added benefit of having a support system within the classroom if you need it. It is invaluable to have a note-taker when you are home sick, or to have a partner to study with for the final.
Tip: You don’t always have to talk about the course material: get to know your classmates as people as well as students.