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I’m really, really shy and not so good at making friends. I just don’t know what to talk about with other people I guess, which wasn’t a problem in high school when I had the same group of friends since elementary. Now, though, none of my old friends are here, and I’m totally lost as to where to start getting new ones. Everyone else seems to have this ease about talking to others that I just don’t have, and I’d really like not to spend my entire time here alone watching everyone else have a great time. Is there anything that you think can help me get over my shyness and complete inability to make friends?
The very first thing I’d like to do is ask you what you’re interested in or passionate about. Do you paint? Do you love movies? Are you an absolute book snob? Does political talk make you giddy? Narrowing down your interests makes it easier to think about what groups you might like to get involved with on campus. Getting involved in an organized group is a great way to make friends, as well as a more structured way to meet people. Meeting others in a group setting also puts less pressure on you to figure out what to say to people. You’re all there for a common purpose that you’re interested in, so just talk about that.
Outside of organized groups, I’d say to not overthink what to say to potential friends, and (as terribly cliche as it sounds) just be yourself. It may be hard to make yourself feel at ease with new people, and you may feel pressured to say things or act in ways that are uncharacteristic to you, but it’s so, so, so much better if you don’t. Accept you for who you are, shyness and all, and know that everyone else will, too. This sounds like a menial thing, but I promise it’s not. People take notice when you’re self-assured.
One last tidbit: make it a point to meet one new person every day. They don’t have to become your best friend, but it will make it easier to meet and befriend people as time goes on. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone just once a day will make you feel more confident, more assured, and ultimately more at ease with going out and making friends. So, to that person sitting next to you in lecture hall, or the guy behind the cashier at Starbucks, or even your professor, say hello and introduce yourself! You never know who might be your next friend.
Everyone (even my professors) have been saying that classes here are super fast-paced and really tough. The first week hasn’t been so bad so far, but it is just the first week, and I’m still worried based on what everyone’s saying. Any tips on staying afloat here?
Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management. Time management.
I can’t stress it enough. While it is important at every school to be on top of how you spend your time, it’s doubly important here due to the quick pace of the quarter system. If you don’t already have one, invest in a planner to keep track of classes, extracurriculars and study time. On that note, do schedule study time and stick to it like you would any commitment. It is all too easy in college to put off studying in lieu of hanging out or taking that extra nap, and here, not giving enough time to studying is one of the quickest ways to fall behind.
Get a study group going if you work best with others. If you don’t, find a quiet space where you can go and study. The library’s full of them, as is Penn’s bookstore. Find a few people in each of your classes so that you’re always up to date if you have to miss a class and need notes, or if you have a question that you don’t want to take to your professor just yet. Set deadlines for yourself to keep yourself on schedule in classes (i.e., Finish chapters 2 through 4 by this weekend) and stick to them. Look over assignments when they are given and not just before they’re due: even though that paper may be due in week 5, it can’t hurt to start researching background for it now.
Another really good thing to do is to go to either your professor or your TA’s office hours. Beyond being a good way to meet the people/person teaching you, it’s an excellent way to get personal clarification on things you may have issues with, as well as a way to get firsthand advice about success in the class from the best source to get it from. Find out how much time per week they feel should be invested into study time for the class, how students in the past have done on certain aspects of the material, and even talk to them about your progress in the class. It can be a great way to open up future research opportunities, as well, to boot.
In all, managing your time, finding a way to study that works best for you and getting in touch with your professors are all very helpful in ensuring success here.