If you are at all like I was during your first week of college, you probably feel anxious about meeting so many people so quickly during orientation — particularly your hallmates. Right now, they’re complete strangers with different views, habits and temperaments. But be open and kind to them, and you’ll go a long way toward building a home for yourself.
The first week will be awkward, and that’s okay. Most of your hallmates aren’t used to being away from home, and nobody knows what version of themselves they should present. Remember you are all new and desperate to make a group friends, and that can influence actions. You’ll likely witness some of your hallmates saying and doing incredibly stupid things. Resist the urge to judge them too quickly.
Once the frenzy of orientation ends, take the time to get to know your hallmates. Get dinner with them; go to sporting events with them (yes, the College does have sports teams). Sometimes, the best way to socialize with your hall is to bring your work into the lounge and chat with whoever is there. Similarly, leave your door open as often as possible; when your neighbors walk by, say hello. Letting others see you, if only for a little while, is essential to building trust with your hallmates and getting to know them overall.
But don’t feel pressured to do everything your hall is doing. If everyone is going to a frat party, and you want to spend the night in, do that. At the same time, don’t just burrow into your room; those nights when your hall is seemingly empty are ripe with opportunity. Explore your building and you may find pajama clad students watching Wes Anderson films, playing Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart or talking politics and philosophy. Passing by open doors can lead to unexpected conversations — even lasting friendships.
As your orientation aides will tell you, your freshman hall will be a tightly knit community, more so than any of your future halls. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone in your hall, or that you need to like everyone. You probably won’t. Everyone will start to show their true colors after the first few weeks, and that will give you a clear idea of who could be your next best friend or the person you only see on your way to your room. Let friendships develop naturally and don’t try to force anything. Above all, be honest and treat your neighbors with respect; it’s the way you would want them to treat you.
At its best, your freshman hall can be an effective support system — in the beginning as clueless, frantic and enthusiastic peers — and later as experienced college students with many of the same aspirations and woes. For many, the comfort and safety that hallmates provide is indispensable.
It’s important to acknowledge that some freshmen don’t connect with their hallmates through no fault of their own. For those students, it’s worth it to seek friends elsewhere in your building, if it’s big enough; having friends nearby, even in other halls, can help fight off homesickness and enrich your college life.
That said, during the first month of freshman year, you’ll probably feel limited to the people in close proximity to you. Whether or not you fall in love with your hall, remember that most people at the College are not in your dorm. If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s to branch out; find people who share your interests and care about the things you care about. Give yourself space to find a niche outside your hall, be it with a student publication, Greek organization, club or a political or religious group.
The relationships you build at the College will define your time here, but freshman hallmates can be great friends – whether you keep them for only this year or continue to stay connected with them throughout your life. Smile and be enthusiastic; having a friend just a door away is worth more than you think.
Email Matt Camarda at firstname.lastname@example.org