Dealing With the Anxiety-Inducing Experience That Is College

College, especially during this time of living in a pandemic, is a strange place. As a freshman, there’s this great task put on your shoulders of having to find how you fit into the vast community.

Before I moved into college, I had a completely different piece in mind (even just saying the word “piece” makes me feel professional but, I am very much not so). I wanted to write about LGBT+ representation in animation, which I still want to do, but I am feeling quiet sidetracked at the moment. So yeah, almost three weeks ago I moved into college.

College, especially during this time of living in a pandemic, is a strange place. As a freshman, there’s this great task put on your shoulders of having to find how you fit into the vast community. On top of that, you have to figure out where to go all the time (which I am terrible at). Once move-in starts, there’s pretty much this scramble to meet people. You get to meet your roommate, the people in your dorm hall, the people in your classes, and people in sports or clubs that you begin to be a part of.

As someone with social anxiety, this is kind of my nightmare. Being thrown into a new place and having to make awkward small talk all the time are not the things I would choose to do for fun. Honestly, I’d rather watch Life is Strange 2 gameplays, or listen to the entire Wallows discography alone on the quad, than talk to people 24/7.  

About a week or so before move-in, I would overthink anything and everything about what my college experience was going to be like. I made up the worst possible scenarios: hating life on campus, not being able to make friends or talk to anyone, not enjoying my classes, etc.

Now, I can say that my experience here so far is fine, it’s just really hard to meet people; especially those who I have things in common with. If I push myself, I’m able to have nice small talk with someone on the soccer team for a bit (fun fact, I play college soccer), but it is always the typical “oh the weather is nice today” type of conversation. 

Also, you know, there’s a pandemic, which makes it even more difficult to meet people. Restrictions like not being able to go in other dorms besides your own, cutting down on in person club meetings, and staying six feet apart during in-person classes make sense, but it makes it even harder to meet people outside your classes or dorm hall. 

Also, it limits what you can actually do with friends and clubs. Pretty much all people do is eat meals together outside or walk around in groups. And, even though I found a potential friend, all we can really do is talk outside for hours as there’s nowhere else to go. The one club I’ve been actively attending is my college’s GSA, which had to transfer fully online because outside meetings in person could potentially out people who are not ready to come out. So, we’ve been meeting on Zoom which makes it hard for everyone to participate in a normal conversation, and in general it doesn’t feel like I actually met these people.

Not to mention, there’s obviously a noticeable shortage of events going on. With the events that do happen, people mainly stay in their friend groups. Although, I can confidently say that my favorite on campus activities are movie showings. Last weekend I went to a viewing of Parasite and it was really great to see that movie again on a bigger screen. I know in reality that seeing a lot of movies isn’t going to increase my chances of making friends, but it is something nice to fill time.

So, how am I doing? Uh… interesting. In general, being in a space with a lot of people isn’t great for my anxiety. Anywhere I walk I feel like people are watching or judging me so I play that fun game of “I am looking at my phone like I have a very important text discussion”. But, in times like these, talking to my friend has really helped. For example, if I’m feeling really anxious walking back to my dorm, I’ll just give her a call and talk things through. If anyone out there is going through a similar experience right now, call and FaceTime your friends! They miss you too and want to talk! I promise you!

Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to give yourself a break. I constantly feel like I am getting on myself for every little mistake or awkward tendency, so it’s really important to take breaks. For me, this always takes the form of watching a show I like or maybe even ranting to my roommate about how Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker angers me on a daily basis. 

Lastly, if you have a therapist or someone to rant to don’t be afraid to reach out to them. It’s a great way to let off steam and understand why you may be feeling a certain way.

Overall, if anyone out there is going through a similar experience as me, just know that you’re not alone. Also, go to a lot of movie showings if that’s your thing it is honestly such a stress reliever.

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