Community—Finding Your Floaties

There was one thing at the forefront of my mind as the first semester approached.

Friends.

Who will they be? What will they be like? What will life with them look like?

If you’re like me, community is your lifeline. Trying to do life without it is like being four years old in the wave pool without your floaties. It’s exhausting, and it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning.

As I was preparing to come to JBU, I worried about community. The more I thought about it, the more building a community from scratch seemed daunting.

I can tell you now that a community of friends probably won’t come swinging out of the trees the minute you walk on campus (although it seems some groups form that way. Good for them). Building a community takes time and effort. It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you aren’t prepared.

Before you begin swimming in the sea of potential pals, here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Know what really matters to you. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be friends? The truth is, some of us click better than others. That’s OK. It’s important to understand what really matters to you personally when trying to form friendships. Think about your past friend groups. What was something that brought you together? For example, I like to go on adventures. The people I connect best with are often the hikers, campers, and drive-around-town-at-2am-ers. What is important to you in your friendships?

2. Your community may look different than you expect.

Once you’ve thought of one or two unifying characteristics that are really important to you, it’s time to clear out your other expectations. Select all and delete. This includes how your friends will dress, what their majors will be, or what hobbies they will have. The truth is, these things are secondary to what really brings you together. In the end, your community may look way different than you expect. So, have fun and keep your eyes open.

3. Don’t be afraid to lead.

I get it. Leading is scary, especially in a new place with new people. That is why you should take the reins. Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader. If not, see this as an opportunity. More often than not, your peers are just as eager to find friends as you are. Make the first move. Lead. You will be surprised at how many people are ready to follow.

4. Give. Give. Give. 

This is hard, especially when you feel like you aren’t getting anything in return. You will only get as much out of your community as you are willing to give. Giving means giving your time, energy, and attention (all precious thing in college) generously. It also means not being afraid to be vulnerable with others. Share your story. People will likely be inspired to do the same.

5. Take the opportunities you’re given.

The first week of college life, you’re pumped. Going to campus events is easy. Then classes start. And work study starts. And you’re invited to things left and right. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and to want to watch Netflix in your bed. Don’t. Go to that pancake night. Go hammocking under the stars with complete strangers. You never know who you might meet.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the possibilities, take time to remember these things. Also, remember that you’re not alone. Be courageous. And, whatever you do, don’t settle for anything less than doing life with people you love.

About the author

Austin Grothe

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