A guide to adjusting to new worlds and new drama

Megan Abel, Contributing Writer

Why are relationships, friendships and rooming-ships so hard? Why is dealing with people so hard? People always tell me freshman year is the hardest year of college, and they were mostly right about junior year of high school, so why would they be wrong this time?

Between all the new people and campus, established cliques, classes and everything else that’s different from home, it is more than a little terrifying to try and navigate it all on our own. I think that’s part of the reason a lot of us are close with people from Discover Week and on our floors—if we get along, that is. Throughout this process, I have picked up a few things from my own relationships and from talking to upperclassmen that may help make these adjustments easier:


Being friendly (or at least cordial)

I know it is hard to be nice to people that you do not like. It hurts a little to put on a fake smile, give a wave and say “Hi” when they blow you off, ignore you or treat you like gum on the bottom of your shoe—but sometimes, it’s important to try to be okay being in the same room as people.

I’m sure that most of you can relate with not wanting to be in the same room as a person you don’t like. But remaining calm, taking a deep breath and even taking yourself out of the situation can help. Even though it’s the bare minimum, it’s still important to maintain cordial relationships. Burning bridges just makes everything worse.

If someone is not putting in any effort to be genuinely cordial, either by being outright rude or fakely nice—and I’m not sure which of these things is worse—it’s still good to treat them with respect. This applies even if you cannot stomach being friendly with someone who refuses to make eye contact with you. While it can hurt to be around or deal with these people, being the bigger person gives you the moral high ground at the very least.

As the Golden Rule States, “Treat others how you wish to be treated.”


Learning to read “people”

Reading someone’s body language, use of eye contact, tone variations and facial expressions are important when having a conversation with someone—whether online or in person. For instance, I had a no-video Zoom interview where I had no idea how the interviewer was reacting, so I rambled because I was nervous. Not being able to see the interviewer personally solidified the idea that facial expressions and body language are important factors when reading people.

If you can read people, you can interpret how the person is feeling based on their responses and expressions. You can tell whether they like what you are saying.

Meanwhile, body language can tell you where you stand with friends, loved ones and strangers. It can let you know when someone wants to get out of a situation, or when they want to stay in it.

Practicing with friends is a great step to learn and can help you improve your relationships, teaching you to become a better speaker, teacher and presenter. Good communication and people skills can get you far in life, help you climb a corporate ladder and help you excel at interviews, speeches and more.

Based on what you see and interpret from someone else, you can learn to respond easily and correctly to calm down, support them or help them in general.


Navigating pre-existing groups and friendships

When you are new to a group, it can be easy to see lines of tension between people even when they cannot see it themselves. Being able to read between those lines, not ask too many questions and balance between groups is no easy task. This is especially applicable especially when you are part of clubs that you plan to be part of for years.

Navigating these relationships and trying to remain separate from the drama is hard. Remaining unbiased when dealing with people can be tricky, even if you do not know the problems that created the rift.

Personally, I take it on a case-by-case study as different situations may require different reactions. In general, I try to get a basic understanding of what caused the issue from both sides and avoid that when dealing with each of the people involved.

Disclaimer: People do not always react to the same things in the same way. Treat each person as an individual; do not assume that just because one person reacted one way that another person will react in the same way.


“Relationship” relationships

Romantic relationships are difficult. Why is it so hard to learn where you stand? Why do they act the way they do? What are they thinking? What is too far or not far enough? Should I text them now or has it been too long? All the questions going through your head when you go on a date, ask someone out or want to talk to someone who is just so far out of your league add up quickly, whether you know them from class, a club, your housing or in passing.

The best advice I can give you is to just ask them out. Make it seem like something small: help with studying, go to Dunkin’ for coffee or someplace on Euclid. Alternatively, you can ask them to a higher-stakes dinner date, a fun event like a movie or skating, or even an escape room—but maybe that’s a little bold for a first date. The worst thing that can happen when you ask is that they say no. I know how scary that can be, but at least you won’t have to agonize over whether or not they will turn you down—you already know the answer. If they say no, you can move on and learn from it—but if they say yes, who knows what’s in store.

This advice can seem cheesy, but overall, it is best practice to be open and honest, clear in your intentions and to not lead someone on. Tell them what you want so there are no questions or missed signals.

Overall, for anyone who had the brain power to make it through this article, I hope this helps you navigate life and school from this point on.