Tips for Mastering the First Anxious Weeks of College
Imagine for a moment that your stomach is churning, the floor swelling toward you, and your palms sweating. You are standing in a crowded dining hall, deciding where to sit. After a full day crammed with orientation and magnanimous professors staring at you for a few hours, you are exhausted and overwhelmed.
Now imagine your happy place because that is a lot and far too realistic even for me.
But, speaking as a fellow student who struggles daily with social anxiety—to a crippling degree sometimes—I can honestly say that you will be just fine. Those people glancing up at you trying to find a seat are not judging you, nor will their gaze make you evaporate.
This moment in time, too, shall pass, and the world will not end. That said, your stress is real, and I have felt it.
My first day of college went swimmingly. But, despite all my preparation and planning—and no matter how early I arrived for orientation and classes—I didn’t feel prepared for the week.
Then there was the semester of social interactions, which can feel like a nightmare to someone with social anxiety. I had no real friends until my second year; thus, my first year was a lonely, difficult life.
However, I have been incredibly blessed to have such kind, gracious professors and small classes in which I am not merely a number. Even in the larger classes, you are seen and known at Briercrest.
Tips for Surviving Your First Few Weeks at Briercrest: Lessons I Learned from My First Year
Spark a conversation in line-ups.
Even if it feels like you shouldn’t butt in, you can start conversations while waiting in line. For example, if someone is in line at your local coffee house searching the menu, why not ask them what their favourite go-to drink is?
Not only will you have the opportunity to try a new drink, but you will also gain the chance to continue a conversation and maybe gain a friend.
Later in the week, you might see this person in the hall, in a class, or on the field for the Week of Welcome events, and already you know one person in a crowd of many.
Meet and greet with your roommate and the hall.
I didn’t have a roommate in my first year since it was during the infamous 2020. However, I think it would have been fun, and I would have likely had a much easier time making friends.
My suggestion to all—and from all my now-friends who did have roommates—is to spend some time in your room with your roommate, getting to know each other.
From their favourite music to how they do their sleep routine, not only will it streamline your living situation, but you will also get to know another person on campus. Go for dinner with your roommate and ask them classic get-to-know-you questions (feel free to Google conversation starters) that leave open-ended streams for conversation to flow.
Go to the optional events.
With your predetermined schedule in mind, attend the various events designed to break the ice between you and fellow first-year students/upper-level students.
And have fun! I know this time of the year is stressful for first-year students, but after spending the last 13 years in school, you deserve to take it in. Savour every moment while you laugh hard and long. Movie nights on the lawn, Welcome Fairs, BBQs, game nights, trivia nights, Pool Parties, and more.
Take every opportunity to meet people while doing fun things, even if it feels scary. Make sure you take care of yourself and rely on the coping strategies that comfort you. However, I strongly urge you to have fun! You are young, and this is your chance to spread your wings and have fun without the pressures of high school drama.
Take time to decompress.
Make sure you have time to decompress at the end of the day. When you experience social anxiety, like I do, it is important to have some alone time. Take an hour to do your sleep hygiene and whatever it is that grounds and calms you (maybe a bath and a cup of tea or a good book).
Remember, this is a brand-new season of life, and you get to leave behind the high school drama. Not all people will have grown out of high school mentality, but if you choose to leave it behind, you get to reinvent and rediscover yourself in this season of independence. Away from your parents and old friends who grew up with you, you get to undergo the process of unearthing who you are and who you want to be. Enjoy it.
Everyone’s experience will be unique and different, but I hope these skills will see you through the first week and many more.
Resources at Briercrest to help you cope with the first few weeks: