Finding My Place as a First Year

Among the typical anxieties about beginning college is one that seems to rise above all the rest—Is this really the right place for me? This complex and bothersome sentiment is often accompanied by other equally vexing concerns about starting a new life as a college student: Will I make friends? Will I be homesick? Will the work be too much? Will I be happy?

Some of my closest high school friends worried for months over the potential of not fitting in or struggling to succeed at their new school. I, on the other hand, had no such fears. I was unbelievably excited about my future at Rochester. I already had a handful of friends I’d met during a weekend visit and I was absolutely certain that I would not only be able to handle the work load but would thrive in the classroom.

But when I arrived on campus to begin my first year of college, things didn’t exactly go according to plan—finding “my place” and “my people” took a bit more effort and time than I’d imagined. This was in large part due to the fact that I didn’t follow the typical freshman social trajectory.

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Most (though certainly not all) freshmen start off their first year of college by bonding with their hall. Brought together by the shared experiences of orientation and the convenience of socializing with the people that live in the immediate vicinity of one’s room, many students see the hall as their primary friend group. Parties are attended together, group dinners happen on a weekly if not daily basis, and one never runs out of people to study with. How long things stay this way varies from group to group but I know plenty of people (now about to become seniors) that still count their freshman hall-mates among their closest friends. But for me, while my freshman hall was full of perfectly nice people, I just didn’t have much in common with them and I knew almost immediately that I would need to do a bit more searching to find people I really connected with.

And so I spent the next few months doing just that. I tried out four or five different halls, relying on the connections I’d made during my high school visit and orientation week. I ended up with pockets of friends all over campus, but found more often than not I was the one seeking them out rather than the other way around. What’s more, while I genuinely liked several of the people on each of the halls I spent time with, I never felt like I truly connected with any of the full groups as a whole. Ultimately, I had to face the reality that my friend group (whenever if finally came together) couldn’t just be a random group of individuals who’d been thrown together by fate and Res Life.

And when my friend group did eventually begin to solidify around the end of the fall semester, it consisted of individuals from all different halls and dorms. My circle of close friends included people I worked with at the Campus Times, other prospective anthropology and English majors I’d met in class, as well as a number of friends I’d made early on (who just needed a bit more time than I did to recognize the advantages of branching out). In the end, all it took was some patience and a consistent willingness to put myself out there.

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Since that first semester, my friend group has grown considerably. People that were only acquaintances my freshman year have turned into some of my closest friends and I even have a decent number of friends that I only met in the past year or so. As I’ve noted in past posts, the Campus Times office and the Anthropology Department have become my second homes, full of people with whom I can laugh late into the night as well as have intellectually stimulating conversations about social justice.

While my first semester in college was certainly a bit rougher than I’d hoped for, I can confidently say I’ve found both my place and my people at Rochester. And honestly, the wait was more than worth it.

About the author

Jamie Rudd

I'm a member of the Class of 2017 majoring in English and anthropology. Originally from a small town in Oregon, I'm currently the Community Service Chair of the Students Helping Honduras service group and presentation editor of the Campus Times newspaper.

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