College: Anxiety on the Big Campus
It is the first week of Fall classes here in Athens at the University of Georgia, and if you are one of the many new students for whom this will be your very first time away from home or away from a smaller college setting, you may be finding this exciting and a bit overwhelming. Navigating the intricacies of cultivating a social life as a new student within the sprawling expanse of a large university campus presents a distinct set of mental health challenges. This undertaking, while exciting, can induce a range of emotions that impact your well-being.
So imagine you’re a fresh-faced new student stepping onto a sprawling college campus, feeling like a little fish in a gigantic ocean. You’re so excited about the freedom, the new experiences, and maybe even the classes. The flip side of this wild ride cannot be over looked though: the mental health rollercoaster that comes with trying to build your social life at a massive university. There are people everywhere, over 37,0000 of them actually on this campus, and it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. That feeling of being a small fish certainly seems very real and it can seem daunting. Suddenly, you’re faced with this challenge of making friends, forming connections, and finding your squad amidst a sea of unfamiliar faces. Cue the anxiety train…
And speaking of anxiety, let’s talk about the pressure to be social It’s like you’re expected to move around effortlessly, from one social event to another, making friends left and right. But guess what? Not everyone’s built like that, and that’s perfectly okay. Yet, this pressure can lead to major stress. You might start doubting yourself, wondering if there’s something wrong with you because you’re not becoming best friends with the entire campus within a week. It takes time, and it’s totally normal to feel a bit out of place at first. We can all start down the road of playing that comparison game. You’re scrolling through your social media feeds, seeing people posting about their newfound college buddies, epic parties, and Insta-worthy adventures. Meanwhile, you’re sitting in your dorm room wondering if you should’ve brought more snacks or something. It’s like a never-ending cycle of the fear of missing out and self-doubt. Your brain starts telling you that everyone’s having the time of their lives while you’re stuck in a social desert. The reality is that social media is a highlight reel, and you’re just seeing the highly edited versions. Everyone has their off days.
Now, let’s talk about rejection. You work to finally put yourself out there, attend events, try to strike up conversations, and sadly not everyone’s going to reciprocate. Rejection hurts, no doubt about it. It can make you feel like you’re not good enough, and you start telling yourself the story that you are somehow lacking. The truth is that rejection is a part of life, and it doesn’t define your worth. Not everyone is going to like us all the time. The truth is that much of the time people don’t get to know us well enough to know who we are authentically anyway, so their surface opinion of us can’t be a true reflection of who we are anyway. And after all, finding friends can be like applying for jobs; you’ll get a few “thanks, but no thanks” before you land that dream job. So, don’t let rejection knock the wind out of your sails. Dust yourself off and keep sailing.
It may be hard to imagine how with so many people you might end up feeling so lonely, but loneliness is a real thing here. It can creep up on you when you least expect it. You might find yourself surrounded by people, yet still feel incredibly alone. Maybe it’s because you haven’t found your people yet, or maybe it’s just one of those days. Either way, it’s essential to acknowledge your feelings and not brush them under the rug. Loneliness is a valid emotion, and reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness. We all long for a sense of connection somehow, and it can help just to get out and say “hi” to a human at times when we feel that way.
When you do start connecting with people, whether it’s through a shared class, a club, or bonding over a love for quirky socks or some other shared interest, it’s a wonderful thing. Those moments of genuine connection can light up your entire college experience. Suddenly, the campus doesn’t feel so huge anymore. You’ve got buddies to grab lunch with, someone to vent to about whatever life is throwing at you, and a crew to explore the town with on weekends. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your college social life won’t be either. It’s a journey with ups and downs, twists, and turns. It’s okay to take it slowly. Don’t let the challenges define your college experience. Join the clubs, volunteer for things, find the activities in your dorm, see what’s happening in town that interests you. Athens has a lot to offer. If you find that you are struggling, reach out for some help from a skilled and caring counselor to help you. Welcome! We are glad to have you here!