Finding Your Community in College

By Horacio Romero Castillo

Hello BeWell Readers,

Whether you end up going to college 4 hours away or 40 minutes away, finding a supportive community at school is important. College brings along many responsibilities, experiences and challenges that will push your limits to the max. In my case, I did not have an older sibling or parent to phone as a “life-line” to help me with advice. So, I had to improvise.  Here are three ways that I found support on campus. Maybe this can help you when you go away to college

One of the first things I did before even starting classes  was to sign up for an outdoor trip sponsored by my college, to get to know other incoming freshman. I was skeptical to the idea because I had never been an “outdoors-y” type of person. Going hiking and kayaking for a few days with strangers was a bit nerve-racking! But the trip allowed me to make friends in my class year and more importantly, connected me with two upperclassmen who were trip leaders. They became great resources to me once classes started. They were the first people I reached out to when I didn’t know how to sign up for classes or wanted to learn more about specific professors. While not all colleges offer outdoor trips, make sure to look for similar experiences at orientation events. Take advantage of upperclassmen who volunteer to help. Get their email or contact information in case you have questions later on. Remember, they are there to offer you the “wisdom” they have acquired….just like me 🙂

My second piece of advice would be to join one extra-curricular activity or group! I wouldn’t suggest joining more than two. Classes will give you plenty of work to keep busy. But having time to learn something new or practice an activity you love, will help you meet people and make friends. After my first quarter in college, I decided to join the daily newspaper. I had been a writer for my high school newspaper, but wanted to try something different. I interviewed to be a part of the newspaper’s operations team and was offered a spot. I loved learning all about the business side of a newspaper’s production. As a bonus, the newspaper staff was a new network of people that I could reach out to if I needed anything. The newspaper’s office space on campus was great for studying when spots ran out at the library, and the staff often had get-togethers that were fun to attend.

A third way I found support at college was by getting involved with the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies (LALACS) community. LALACS had their own house on campus. Student leaders of the organization planned dinners, discussion groups, movie nights, concerts, and even parties. Because I identified with the Latin-American community, I made an effort to attend social gatherings at the house. LALACS introduced me to other students at college who had similar backgrounds and experiences. It was comforting to know that there were others like me! Getting involved led me to apply for a job at the Latino Student Advising office, where I interned for the College Dean who was charge of advocating for the Latino Community.

These three networks helped me more than you can imagine. Many of the people I met through these experiences are still friends of mine today! There are plenty of ways to find your support on campus. You don’t have to go hiking, join the newspaper, or find the “Latino” house on campus. But remember to connect with upperclassman, try something new, and find people who will be there for you.