Orientation week is, quite possibly, the single scariest time in a new college student’s life, especially if you’re shy. It’s fraught with anxiety about making friends, navigating campus and figuring out your new life as an independent woman. But have no fear! We’re here to make your life a little less stressful in the form of this nifty (and hopefully comforting) guide to orientation week, packed with advice from collegiettes about how they got through it. So take a deep breath (or three), and let us show you the way.
Surviving the first day
The first day is easily the most shocking. There are so many people, so many events, and the feeling that you are obligated to experience everything right this second. Take it slow. Start by deciding that you want to meet people and try new things. Fighting it will only make it harder to enjoy yourself on day one. You could try out California Lutheran sophomore Simone Goerlich’s strategy of deciding to step out of your comfort zone.
“The first day, I walked over to a small group of girls because a small group tends to be less intimidating than a larger group, and I introduced myself,” Simone says. “It was really easy going up to a random stranger and asking them where they are from and their major. I know it sounds cliché but realizing that everyone is just as uncomfortable as you are got me through that week.”
Remember that most people are just as nervous as you, so just say that! You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to bond with people over your mutual nervousness. Plus, other people will be happy to hear you say that you are just as anxious as they are. It will put both you and them at ease, knowing that you’re not alone in this and now you have someone you can confide in about this experience.
This is a big one. Everyone feels pressured to make friends in this new environment, but it’s okay to just mingle and get to know people during this week. A lot of people spend this week feeling homesick and lonely, which of course only makes you feel more stressed about not making friends pronto.
“Making friends the first week was super hard because all I wanted to do was call my mom to tell her everything I did,” says Brigitte Curcio, a senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin. “So I made sure that when I went to the student organization fair, I put my name down for as many clubs as I thought were interesting so I would keep busy and meet different kinds of people all over campus.”
And if you don’t make many (or any) friends during orientation week, you’re not alone. Talia Santopadre, a sophomore at Emerson College, knows what it’s like. “For my entire first semester, I only had one friend and she was my roommate, so if you don’t make any friends during orientation week, don’t get scared!” she says. “The best thing you can do to make friends is put yourself out there. Say hi to someone on campus. Needless to say, once classes start, you meet tons of people you have classes with, but everyone is in the same – or similar – place where they don’t know anyone.”
Don’t stress if you don’t make a lot of friends right off the bat. Just stay true to yourself, and everything will fall into place.
Fearing the dining hall
For whatever reason, sitting alone at the dining hall seems scary AF, but it’s actually not! It can be really nice to eat by yourself, especially if you want a hot second to catch your breath from all the socializing. But if sitting alone in the dining hall makes you uncomfortable, take Talia’s advice and read a book or surf the web on your phone or laptop for a little bit.
“No one is going to make fun of you for sitting alone, we’ve all been there,” she says. And it’s true. So many people eat alone in the dining hall that it really isn’t weird at all.
Plus, it is a great place to meet people! “When I didn’t have anyone to sit with in the dining hall, I just looked for people who were looking as awkward and uncomfortable as I was,” Brigitte says. Find some friendly faces and ask if you can sit at their table. Most of the time, other people are happy to let you join them. If you still feel uncomfortable about it, though, most campuses have a dining hall or to-go eatery that will allow you to get food and take it back to your dorm.
Depending on the size of your school’s campus, this one could seem very daunting. Trust us, it’s not bad at all!
“Don’t be afraid to ask where something is. Most upperclassmen are willing to help you out, so I wouldn’t be nervous about it. If you are concerned and don’t want potentially false information, you can always ask a faculty member,” Talia says. She also says to find your buildings and classrooms before school starts. That way, you know exactly where you’re going and how long it takes to get there.
Also remember that if you do ask for help, no one will know you’re a freshman. You absolutely don’t have to tell people that, and most of the time no one will ask. You could be literally anyone, for all they know. That and most upperclassman will be helpful and accurate in the information they give you about where certain buildings are.
The toughest things about orientation week include the mental fatigue and overwhelming feelings that come with this busy, emotionally charged week. What’s comforting, though, is that so many people feel just like you during this time. Stephanie Huynh, a sophomore at Lehigh University, says she definitely felt this way.
“One of the feelings I clearly remember from orientation was that I was exhausted,” she says. “I don’t consider myself relatively shy, but being friendly and outgoing 24/7 really drained me. My orientation included never-ending ice breakers and conversations, so I couldn’t wait to get time to myself.”
Stephanie’s not the only one who felt this way. Sophia Walker, a recent graduate of Bowdoin College, says that since she was both introverted and homeschooled, orientation week was a lot for her to take in.
“It was non-stop activities, ice breakers, meet n’ greets… you name it! I was terrified and exhausted,” she says. “I strongly encourage incoming freshman to take care of themselves! Sleep enough, take time alone if you need it. You have four years to get to know everyone; skip optional mixers if you feel you need to. You have plenty of time to make friends later. Be kind to yourself.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Everyone goes through orientation week. It’s a natural part of the college experience. And your feelings of fear, anxiety, nervousness, overwhelm and possibly even dread are all valid. Take each activity one step at a time, and don’t feel pressured to go meet people or participate in activities if you really would rather not. It’s totally not a bad thing to step outside your comfort zone, but it’s also okay to do that on your own terms. You will find your people. You will find all your classes. And you will look back on this week someday and be so proud of how far you’ve come. It’s all going to be okay, friend. *deep breath in, deep breath out*