With Boston University being a private institution, many of us experienced the overwhelming feeling of not knowing anyone when we first stepped onto campus. The majority of BU students come from a different state or country, and even students from within Massachusetts are going to school with few familiar faces.
What’s even more daunting than the prospect of not knowing anyone when you arrive at college is the idea that no one knows you. To think of the cinema-esque notion that one can be a “nobody” seems harsh, but when you go to college, it’s true. You are a nobody; that is, until you make yourself somebody.
When I committed to BU, the thought that I could become “whoever I wanted to be” was a scary one. I didn’t think it was even possible. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any friends, but the way my community seemed to box me into a specific category had altered my social self-perception.
In high school, I felt that my presence in the classroom—the reserved, academically inquisitive type—was generalized into my entire identity by those around me.
It didn’t matter that I played varsity flag football and JV soccer, or that I was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, all while working part-time at a restaurant. Despite being a dynamic person, as we all are, my characterization seemed to remain static.
Of course, my own insecurity could have added to this as well. I struggled with social anxiety during my early high school years, and the fear of putting myself out there may have isolated me further. My lack of eye contact may have contributed to an unapproachability that I didn’t shake off until my junior and senior years.
I didn’t think that I could be viewed as anything other than some combination of Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls and Allison Reynolds from The Breakfast Club, an academic and, apparently, a “basket case.” At certain times, I found myself intentionally dumbing down or engaging in activities contrary to my interests in an attempt to seem more outgoing and less smart.
When I began to work through my anxiety during the pandemic, I found myself opening up more to my friends. This developing comfort with them and with myself led me to realize that I am not defined by what other people think; I am defined by who I am.
I stopped letting boxes, imposed by those around me or by myself, limit the person I presented to the world. My circle of friends grew, I became closer with my teammates, and I worked more efficiently with others.
That being said, going to college came with the stereotype that I had the opportunity to “reinvent myself.” Doubts crept in about whether I would once again feel characterized by one aspect of my identity.
Since arriving at BU, I have learned that this is far from the case.
Here, I have found myself getting involved in a wide variety of organizations and clubs. The best part: not one of them has become the cornerstone of my identity here.
I’m inspired by the established upperclassmen around me; for example, one of the producers of the BUTV show I’m working on also models for a school magazine and performs in BU’s improv troupe, Liquid Fun.
I have opened up to the world at BU in ways I never have before. In my first-year writing class, I wrote a poem about my past struggles with anxiety. I’ve passionately ranted about niche Internet controversies at a BUTV pitch meeting. I even auditioned for some of the a cappella groups on campus. I didn’t get a callback, but I just felt like living my Pitch Perfect fantasy for a day, something I never would have dreamed of doing back home.
The idea that no one here knows me means that I can unapologetically be myself in every new room that I enter. I’m excited to be able to channel various aspects of my identity into several different communities within BU.
So when you come to college and get the idea that you’re going to “reinvent yourself,” drop it. Just be yourself. It may seem scary at first to put yourself out there, talk to new people, and join new things that spark your interest, but it will be so rewarding in the end.