Mondays at Clyde’s, Tuesdays at Recess, Wednesdays at The Strip, Thursdays at Pots, happy hour on Fridays, Saturdays at The Strip again, and Sundays for recovery. This is the typical “going out” schedule for a normal week at my school, Florida State University. In addition to its stellar academic and athletic programs and beautiful campus, I attend a school notoriously known for being a “party school.” To be frank, though, I hate going out. Because of this, I knew when I came to FSU that I may have to try a little bit harder to “find my people,” but I never expected it to be so challenging.
I learned pretty quickly that a prerequisite for many friendships at FSU is a common interest in going out. However, as an introvert, the “going out” scene feels frightening and triggering for me. Social anxiety has always been a part of my life, and I realized when I got to college that my anxiety is exacerbated by going out. The crowds, constant socializing, and fast-paced environment are overwhelming. Prior to college, anyone ever talked about when referencing “the college experience” was going out and partying. So, when I got to FSU, I wanted to fit in and be a part of it. However, I learned rather quickly that the stereotypical definition of the college experience just wasn’t for me.
First, I tried to introduce myself in Facebook groups, hang out with people from high school, and I even followed new people on social media — but nothing seemed to be working when it came to finding community. As a double freshman, if you will, my first year of college was a peak year for COVID-19, which didn’t make meeting people any easier. Dealing with social anxiety, online classes, and a pandemic while trying to make friends felt like doing your hair right before it’s about to rain — it never quite works out the way you intend. I felt isolated at times, and would often think, “Am I really getting the full ‘college experience’ if I don’t go out?” Suddenly, I felt like I had to change who I was in order to fit in. Deep down, I knew I would eventually find “my people,” but in the day-to-day, it felt like I was stuck in a constant cycle of being let down, not accepted (at least, that’s what it felt like), and loneliness. In fact, there were countless days spent in my dorm where I felt like an outsider looking in.
Social anxiety can feel like an uphill battle, especially when you’re trying to find friends in a new setting. At the beginning, whenever I did make the leap to go out, I simply didn’t have a good time; instead of chatting with new friends or dancing, I was more concerned about not getting trampled in a crowd or worrying if people knew I felt out of place. On some nights, my social battery was already drained from the pure anxiety I had before the night began. Some college students may look forward to happy hours and pregames on the weekends, but I gravitate more toward downtime and quality time with friends.
Since starting college, there have been times when I really didn’t think I was going to graduate college with any type of social life, and for a time, I thought not going out would be the downfall of my existence at FSU. However, I also knew early on that I’d have to challenge myself. So, I signed up for the Her Campus chapter at my university and I’m happy to say I’ve found “my people” — girls who understand me. Finally, I feel validated knowing that there are others who share my thoughts. Throughout my time as a college student, I’ve also found peace in the time alone. Instead of being sad that I don’t have plans, I now take the time to do things I love.
For example, I’ve found that I love trying new things in my college town, from visiting coffee shops to finding the best photoshoot locations. I’ve found that I love nights in watching The Bachelor while perfecting my dream charcuterie board. I’ve found that I love exploring my passions of writing and reading and setting myself up for the future. I love time alone to reflect on myself and gather my thoughts, and I’ve found that I am not the only one who prefers to stay in rather than go out. Over time, I’ve learned that having a “happy” college experience doesn’t necessarily mean hanging out with people or leaving your house every day. Your college experience is about finding yourself.
Yes, I go to a party school, but I also go to a school with great academics, a stunning campus, a unique town, and amazing people. Going out is fun every once in a while, but it’s not on my schedule for everyday life, and that is completely fine. At the end of the day, your college experience is all about finding what makes you happy. If that’s going out with your friends, then so be it. If that’s reading a book at a local coffee shop, or relaxing all day in your bed, then so be it.
I’m now nearing the second semester of my sophomore year, and I’m here to remind you: The school you attend does not have to be your personality. The college experience extends far beyond just going out; it’s about the memories you make, the people you meet, and the knowledge you gain along the way. Personally, I’m still defining my college experience and navigating where I belong. And while it’s been a bumpy ride at times, I’m thankful for the ups and downs. If you also feel lost along the journey, you are not alone. Trust me, there is something out there for everyone.
Your school might be a “party” school, but it is also your school. What you choose to do with your time there should not be frowned upon or shamed.