One of the the best things about college is that everyone is new. Aside from the few people who might have trickled along from your high school, strange faces are the new normal. I see a brand new face every single day when I take the time to stop and look at my surroundings. When arriving at Case Western Reserve University, this idea completely frightened me. Coming from a high school where only one other person came to Cleveland means that thousands of people are new to me. This is not unique to my experience. Thousands of CWRU first-year students come to North Residential Village in mid-August feeling the same way. This is where Orientation Week comes in and saves the day.
For seven days, we are compacted into a group and are forced to memorize names and faces. Icebreakers after icebreakers are introduced and, soon after, are collectively hated. It is through this unanimous dislike towards silly bonding activities that the group actually begins to bond. Small friendships begin to form out of mere proximity.
Switch over to the dining hall, and these small relationships begin to stand in line together and to invite other people to sit with them. As strange as it may seem to ask a stranger to sit down with you, the fact of the matter is that all of us were strangers to each other. So, in some way, none of us were. We all had this in common.
Why is it that after orientation week, we close ourselves off? During those seven days, the normal thing to do is to smile at a random person and to ask them their name. Now, just five weeks later, we stare blankly at the salad bar, shove vegetables on our plates and run to our table where the comfort of our friends awaits. Friends, I must say, that are still as mysterious to us as the next person. I mean, come on. We only met them five weeks ago.
We are still in the first couple of months of college. We should not be closed off to the idea of inviting new people into our lives as we would have been during orientation week. No one should feel as though they do not have any friends.
There is a guy I see almost every day. His headphones are in, and he walks alone. He was in my orientation group. I recently discovered his name through innocent inquiry, yet still some barrier prevents me from walking up to him, reintroducing myself and establishing a friendship. I am not sure what this barrier is. Is it simply because it is not orientation week and the vibe of exciting unfamiliarity has vanished?
At this point, no first-year student should be eating alone at Leutner. The day will come when we have all found our way on this campus, but that day should not be today. We need to fight the urge to hole up in our friend group. The time is now to spark up a conversation with someone who seems to be a bit lonely. And even if they want to be left alone, at least you tried, right?
Get out there and make some more friends. Orientation isn’t over.
Courtney is a first-year student majoring in psychology. And maybe sociology. And maybe cognitive science. One of her talents includes not being able to decide what she wants to do in life.