The Pacific Index

Let’s Talk About…Belonging

The Counseling Center

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Labor Day is over and the familiar grind of schoolwork is starting again. Maybe you recently completed Voyages, maybe you went home for the weekend or maybe you are still living off the high of an awesome summer trip. Many of you are likely still adjusting to the newness of this school year.

You may have new roommates, new classes, new friends or new professors. Maybe your old friends, old roommates and old professors have changed since you were last together. It can be easy to get lost in all the new expectations, both socially and academically.

No matter where you are in your college journey, finding a sense of belonging can be a challenge. It can be reassuring to know most college students experience these challenges, even if they do not show it to the outside world. It is normal to feel lonely sometimes. It is normal to feel unsure of yourself.

It is also normal to feel homesick. Your late teens and early twenties are a time to explore your identity and many people go through significant changes. Returning to college later in your life can also stirrup many questions. College is not only about academic learning, it is about becoming the kind of person you want to be. And sometimes that journey is difficult.

Here are some suggestions to try out when things get tough: Get to know yourself. Are you someone who enjoys being in energetic environments or do you prefer reading in coffee shops? Does hanging out with others energize you or tire you out? How much alone time do you need to feel like yourself? When do you feel most like the person you want to be?

Knowing yourself and your own needs can help you regulate when things get hard later in the semester. If you need a night off from studying, take it. If you need to sleep instead of going out with friends, do it. It is totally okay to do what you need to do to be able to take care of yourself. Make some good friends.

Some of us need only one or two close friends, while others of us like to hang out with multiple groups. You do you! Find people with whom you can be authentic. Ask your lab partner to get coffee with you. Get some pizza and watch a movie with people in your building.

See if anyone you know likes to do things you are into, such as hiking, painting or yoga and invite them to do it with you. Give yourself a break. Be compassionate with yourself when things do not go as planned. Maybe you have not become best friends with your roommate,or your classes are harder than you thought. Setbacks are normal and so are disappointments.

Take some time to take care of yourself. Participate in something you know you love. Reconnect with old friends. Call your parents. When you feel ready, try some new avenues. Maybe join a club or try something like meetup.com to meet new people with shared interests. Try new things.

One of the great things about college is the opportunity to try new activities and meet people who are different from you. Let yourself be open to new experiences and be curious about the world around you. How will you know you do not like something if you have never tried it? How will you know you cannot get along with someone if you have not spent time with them? Find new things that interest you.

Who knows, you might find something you are passionate about. Ultimately, balancing the ups and downs of college life boils down to learning when to open yourself up and when to take a break. Wherever you are in your journey it is okay. Own it. Do what you need to do to be the best person you can be.

If you find that balancing expectations and self-care is getting too difficult, or that you are struggling to manage on your own, stop by the Counseling Center and set up an appointment,or utilize campus resources. We are here for you.

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Let’s Talk About…Belonging