A Late Bloomer’s Guide to Finding A Home on Campus

Hello, you beautiful, blossoming, budding begonia! You are bright, you are beautiful, and you are blooming at your own lovely, steady pace on your college campus—I see you, and I feel you! It’s never too late mingle with new bumble bees, soak up new types of pollen, and finally let your petals stretch and mingle with lush plains of uncharted greenery.

We’re all on our own separate paths and carving out individual trajectories of growth for ourselves. If you are an upperclassmen who is still searching for campus companions and outlets to invest your energy, you may have ended up here for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you’re a transfer student, maybe you’re just coming back from a semester abroad, maybe you struggle with social anxiety, maybe you haven’t found a community that feels quite like home yet, or maybe you’re just bored and ready to venture into new, exciting waters. Whatever the case may be, you’re here now, and it’s never too late to connect with new people and explore new possibilities.

It can be easy to forget how large your university truly is and how many opportunities it holds in every nook and cranny—in every room, event space, table, or bulletin board that student groups can get their hands on. Springtime is soon approaching, and that means you’re just in time for blooming season. Let’s get started!

Make small connections and branch off

Do you often run into someone from an old class or residence hall, always tell each other that you both should get lunch some time, and then never actually get lunch? We’ve all probably been there. Reaching out to acquaintances, or maybe someone entirely new, may seem like a lot of effort for an uncertain outcome. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to find a compatible best friend right away; these kinds of deep, meaningful friendships develop naturally over time. Making a small effort to follow up, make a connection, and reach out to someone is always the first step to every beautiful friendship. Make contact with even one new person, and it’s already a beautiful day full of promise.

RSVP to a Facebook event... then another one... and another one!

Facebook is a godsend for keeping tabs on all the events happening on campus today, tomorrow, two weeks from now, or even three months into the semester. When friends invite you to events, actually CHECK the notification and see what it’s all about! Even better, respond! Once you start demonstrating interest or marking your attendance for particular events, Facebook starts to suggest similar events based on your interests. The whole invasive data mining controversy is still a little troubling, but I have to admit that it’s also really handy when Mark Zuckerberg starts getting to know you so well that he can hook you with suggested events in the middle of your general newsfeed. So, get clicking!

Reach out to open organizations—no deadlines, no problem!

Many of Columbia’s student groups, organizations, publications, and performance groups require some sort of application, interview, or initiation process. Yikes! Those deadlines can be stressful and discouraging, especially when you only find out about them after they’ve come and gone with the wind. Luckily, there are just as many interest groups on campus that don’t require anything other than your beautiful face and your dedicated interest. I just waltzed into a Her Campus meeting after sending them an email at the beginning of the semester, and now I’m here! The internet is amazing!

You can find a list of Columbia’s student groups here, and you can also find related groups on Facebook in the same way that you find events. When you start liking pages for groups you’re interested in, related groups will pop up on the right-hand side of your browser. Message them to see when their next event or meeting is, or maybe even ask them to put you on their mailing list. The best way to dip your toe into new parts of campus life is to stay informed so you don’t miss out on taking any chances!

Actually speak with the people who live with you

I’m currently living in River, which is a lovely dorm with beautiful rooms and well-kept communal spaces and lounges, but it is also notorious for being on the quieter side. I enjoy quiet solitude just as much as any other introvert, but keeping to yourself when you live on a floor with 20+ other human beings starts to feel lonesome. I find that a lot of people typically won’t take the first step in starting a conversation beyond hello, but if you even do so much as ask someone what their name is, they are often more than happy to talk to you and learn more about you. Nothing brings people together like food! Share your snacks or drink some tea with your floormates, and maybe make tea time a regular thing. It’ll help make your home feel more like a home, and it’s always nice to get closer with the familiar faces who are already so physically close to you.

Be you, do you and bloom at your own pace

If you force yourself into too many uncomfortable social interactions, you will probably soon tire, lose hope, and give up. If you are gentle with yourself, stay true to your boundaries of comfort, and reach out to others on your terms and at your own pace, you will be able to maintain a much more sustainable and meaningful social life. There are a lot of beautiful flowers out there, but the one growing out of your own little patch of soil should be your priority.

Finding new friends, clubs, and spaces isn’t just part of your freshman year; it’s an ongoing process of growing and learning about yourself that permeates throughout your entire time at university. It’s never too late to bloom!