After a year and a half of isolation, the prospect of in-person classes was exciting and a little worrying at the same time. The last time I actually met someone new in person was in February of 2020, which was a lifetime ago. The comfort of the Zoom window is no longer, and having to do something other than stare at each other suddenly became a stark reality. Honestly, I was a little nervous. I had stayed mostly at home for the entirety of the lockdown since I have some immunocompromised family members and I didn’t want to risk anything and only saw my friends every once in a while. I had suddenly jumped from second to fourth year and was still in the “building connections” phase of university as I was reaching its end.
Stepping onto campus, I knew it was only up to me to make up for time lost, and I did my best to make sure I made up for lost time. Of course there was a lot of learning and re-learning to do, so I’ll share some tips with you if you find yourself in the same situation.
I know it’s cliche, but that is because it lays the foundation for the rest of the other pieces of advice. It takes a different amount of time for people to figure out who they are, some faster than others, and it's a journey only you can take for yourself. Without knowing yourself well, how do you expect to get to know others better? Go enjoy your hobbies, stay active, study what you love, take time to relax by yourself, join that club you had an eye on, find a job that you enjoy, all of these small things add up to the mosaic that is you. I found that when you focus on bettering yourself and your goals, other things seem to fall into place.
Another deceptively simple instruction, but it’s something I’ve struggled within my life. Putting yourself out there is hard because talking to new people is scary. Some have learned to do this in stride, but for many others, it takes a lot to be able to take that first step. As much as it may suck, the only way to get better at it is to just do it. If you feel like you aren’t quite there yet, then you can always practice by taking smaller steps, such as having a friendly conversation with the person taking your order at Starbucks, asking for directions when you’re lost, or within your lab tutorial group. If you slowly build yourself up in these situations, you’ll have the confidence to tackle reaching out to that one person or group you always wanted to talk to.
As with any time one puts themselves out there, there’s bound to be people that you don’t necessarily click with or a situation that didn’t play out the same way you had thought it would. That’s okay! One thing that is very hard to learn about life is that it is alright to make mistakes, so long as you learn from it. Don’t put so much stress on yourself if you feel like things didn’t work out. After all, everyone is just as keen to find who they connect with as much as you are.
One of the easiest ways I found to put into practice the points above was learning to see that everything in life is just a series of victories, even when it may not seem that way. Let’s say you finally spoke to that one person in class you always wanted to chat with, but weren’t able to hit it off in conversation. Within that situation, you gathered the courage to talk to the person and put yourself out there to begin the conversation, so you’re in a better place than you were prior even if it didn’t end up working out.
Knowing you can do that, it should be easier to go up to the next person and strike up a conversation with them. The short of it is, focus on what you were able to do rather than what you weren’t and you will always come out feeling like a winner. This could also carry within the professional part of your life, as the confidence to keep going through rejection is important for anyone applying to high-demand jobs or going through rounds of interviews.
This one’s more like a footnote rather than a tip, but it’s also a super important piece of building a happy social life. While you may see some close life-long friends and compare them to the people around you, the reality is that most friendships are people getting close for a certain period of time. This means that sometimes a friend you make for a year could have just as strong a bond as someone who you’ve known your entire life. Even if you don’t think your friendship with someone will last long, enjoy the moments you have together as those will be the memories you remember over the times spent meeting people.
For those going into the second in-person semester at SFU, and for all incoming students entering university in a world vastly changed by the pandemic, keeping in mind these tips will help make university an enjoyable and fun experience.