Hard as it is to believe, it's been four years since I started college! I still remember those first few days of orientation like they were just a few weeks ago. During orientation and the early weeks of my first semester, I was excited, inspired, and totally overwhelmed. Nonetheless, I had a great time and got a great start to my college years. Today I'm sharing a few tips on how to make the most of your first week at college, and sharing a bit about my own orientation experience!
1. Be open
One thing that I was looking forward to about college was that it was a chance to start fresh. I was able to choose who I wanted to be, and that meant putting my best foot forward when it came to how I treated and interacted with others. During your first week of college, everyone around you will be nervous and eager to make friends, so do your best to come from a place of kindness and openness. You never know who could become your new best friend (or your lab partner)!
2. Say “yes” to new experiences
My orientation week was packed with activities, from hikes to beach days to parties! While I didn't have the energy to say yes to every event (and, in fact, taking some “me time” during orientation week is part of what helped me stay happy and well-rested!), I did my best to step out of my comfort zone. I signed up for an orientation trip, went to parties and dances, and did a couple unusual things too, like going to a Shabbat service and a Mormon meeting (I'm neither Jewish nor Mormon), just to try it.
Putting myself in these new situations helped me open up, meet new people, and feel more engaged with my campus. That was the best thing I could have done during my first week of college, and I can't recommend it more! Put yourself in new situations and try new things. Make memories that will last. At the same time…
3. Don't say “yes” to everything
It's good to try things outside of your comfort zone, but at the same time, don't say yes to anything you're not comfortable with, especially when it comes to things that concern your body or your feeling of safety. If you want to explore things that you haven't before coming to college, then that's great! But remember that you have several years on this campus to learn and grow and try anything you want. It doesn't have to happen right now. You're allowed to take your time.
And I'm sure you've heard it before, but I'll say it again because it's true and it's important: if you don't want to drink, you don't need to drink. If you don't want to try something that someone next to you is trying, you don't need to try it. And if you don't want to have sex even if someone is pressuring you to do so, you do not need to have sex. Never negotiate your comfort, safety, or values because of someone else. Period.
4. Explore your campus
In my first few days of college, one of my roommates and I went out to explore our campus. It was a great way to prepare for finding our classes later, but it was also just lovely to get to know our college and find some spots that we liked. So, don't just do what's on the orientation agenda — also take some time to explore campus with a new friend or classmate.
5. Explore your surroundings
If your college is in a small town or a big city (or near one!), get off of campus in the first few weeks to explore. Early on in my first year, I went into Boston with a friend to get a drastic haircut and go thrift shopping. It was really fun, but it also made me feel more comfortable about leaving campus, and it let me get to know the city a bit better. Take some time on a slow weekend to explore your surroundings off-campus. It'll be useful for a time when you need to get away, want to try something new, or just want to find a decent cup of coffee!
6. Connect with your roommates
On our first night of college, our RA gave my two roommates and me a short questionnaire to get to know each other better. Some questions were useful (“When do you like to get up?”), while others were funny or serious (“What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Who has had the biggest impact on you?”). The questionnaire was a great way to feel more connected to the people I'd be sharing a room with for the rest of the year, and it also made me feel less alone on my first night away from home.
When you come to college, make sure to take some time to be with your roommate(s) and get to know them better. Go out for coffee or ice cream, or do a quick grocery haul to stock up on midnight snacks together. Ask questions. Listen! This is a person you'll be sharing a lot of space with in the coming months. You want to make sure that the two of you get along, or, at least, can live with each other.
7. Host something in your room
One of my favorite memories from early in college was the “midnight tea circle” I hosted in our dorm room at the end of Orientation. I invited everyone I met and let them bring friends, and we ended up laughing and having a great time. It was a great way to introduce myself to new people and make our room a “hang out spot,” and the tea circle even turned into a semester-long weekly tradition!
Point being: don't just rely on the orientation program or on others to make things happen. If you want a party, a Harry Potter night, or a museum outing, make it happen! Invite people, host, and plan. It will give you some great memories and a reputation as a welcoming and fun person.